How have road trains defined Australia's highways?

Road trains have continued to remain a unique feature on Australia's highways, with the sight of the impossibly long vehicles etched into the memories of all who have seen them. 

In a world where downsizing is becoming the norm, these trucks are bucking the trend, adding trailer after trailer to haul cargo through long trips into the outback. It looks like they're set to stay as well, as WA looks to refine the regulations that fleet managers will need to be aware of. 

How long is too long?

Like most regulations in Australia, laws governing road trains differ from state to state. Some in WA, for example, can be up to 27.5 metres, while Queensland offers permits for vehicles that stretch all the way up to a whopping 47.5 metres. 

These giants of the transport industry come with a cost however, putting a demand on the country's infrastructure. There are only so many roads that can handle nearly 50 metres of truck and trailer, as well as the weight this entails. 

This is the dilemma facing the WA government at the moment, with a major transport route drastically cutting into efficiency due to current regulations. As it stands, trucks can only travel down Roelands Hill if they measure 27.5 metres or less. 

While this seems like it should be enough, it's common for trucks in the region to extend to 36.5 metres once they start adding extra trailers. Currently, these longer road trains are having to stop and detach the excess trailer that then needs to be transported separately, creating an extra step for fleet software to manage.  

The issue has prompted a review by the state government, which may lead to an upgrade of the roads at Roelands Hill. 

"We're hoping we can offer major efficiencies and productivity gains for the industry without compromising road safety," said Transport Minister Dean Nalder. 

How can you keep safe around road trains?

Although they are a standard feature on Australia's highways, road trains can be intimidating to other drivers thanks to their extreme size and weight. It's important to be cautious when approaching or overtaking them to keep the roads safe for all users. 

Care is definitely needed when encountering them on open roads, but there is also a number of things to consider when driving near them in cities. It's important to never cut off a road train when it is braking as they need much more room to stop than a normal car. 

They should also never be overtaken while they are turning, as multiple heavy trailers necessitates a much wider turning radius that can take up more space than expected.