Driving on our Outback Roads can have its moments. While out and about on a recent trip to a remote part of the Carnarvon Range, Craig snapped these photos through the windscreen (while safely stopped at the side of the road). The sight of a road train approaching at speed on a dirt road and hitting a patch of bulldust is something to behold… and be very wary of!
When you enter that dust cloud, visibility drops to zero. You can’t see the road and any hazards like potholes, cattle grids and the like and you can’t see any traffic following the truck. Even if a vehicle has its’ lights on, it will be very close before you see it!
If you like to get off the beaten track, the best thing you can do when driving our Outback roads if confronted with a similar situation is to slow down and pull well off to the side of the road where it is safe to do so. Let the truck pass, switch your lights on and wait until the dust settles or blows away before moving on. Be very, very careful about pulling back onto the road – don’t do it until you can see clearly. Sometimes road trains travel in twos and threes so if you venture off too early in the dust another truck might be looming not too far behind. Give these big vehicles plenty of respect – a fully laden cattle truck can weigh between 80 and 120 tonnes. That’s not going to stop in a hurry!
Another common situation is catching up with a slower vehicle travelling in the same direction. This might be a road train, a smaller truck or another four-wheel drive. Trying to overtake in a zero-visibility dust cloud is a really bad idea. For smaller vehicle you may be able to get close enough to flash your lights to alert the driver ahead. Watch and wait – the driver may slow down and pull over to let you safely past. Don’t rush this!
For large vehicles, particularly when the dust cloud is blowing back along the road, you have little hope of approaching near enough to be seen. If your vehicle is fitted with a UHF radio you can try contacting the driver ahead on Channel 40. Be courteous and you may be able to arrange a passing opportunity with the driver ahead. Otherwise, you will just have to be patient and wait for a stretch of sealed road before you can pass. If you know you still have a long stretch of dusty road ahead, consider taking a break. Boil the billy, stretch the legs and do a little birdwatching or sight-seeing. You’re on holidays – there’s no rush!
So take your time on our Outback roads and keep safe while on your adventure.