Ignorance justified, so follow distance changes cut


<font color=red><b>LAW CHANGES:</b></font> Most wouldn't know following distance changes on some roads. So NTC will scrap the rule

By Brad Gardner | September 15, 2009

Most truck drivers wouldn't even know the legal following distance changes in road train areas - until they are fined for breaching it. So regulators will scrap the rule in a move welcomed by the industry.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) has backed a push from the trucking industry to amend Road Rule 127, which stipulates the minimum distance vehicles of 7.5m or longer must travel from one another.

Under the rule, a long vehicle travelling in a road train area must maintain a distance of 200m with another long vehicle, with the restriction reducing to 60m in other areas.

But the NTC wants to clarify the rule so only road trains are bound by the 200m restriction and all other long vehicles are free to maintain a distance of 60m.

Representative groups such as NatRoad say those who do not drive road trains are oblivious to the rule and there are no signs outlining designated road train areas, leading to fines for unintentional breaches.

The NTC agrees, saying drivers of semi-trailers, B-doubles, heavy rigids and larger vehicles are aware of the 60m rule, but "they would generally not know that this distance changes once in a road train area, let alone being aware they were actually in a road train area".

"Drivers of these types [road trains] of vehicles hold a special class of licence and undergo appropriate training and are fully aware of the parts of Australia’s road network upon which they can travel," the NTC writes in its Australian Road Rules Amendment 2009 – Draft Regulatory Impact Statement.

"However, other drivers have no need to know the requirements of travel for road train drivers and as such would not generally know where the road train areas started or finished."

NatRoad Chief Executive Bernie Belacic praised the NTC and says the current rule is "ridiculous" because there is no reason why a driver of a semi-trailer, for example, should be aware of or bound by a road train restriction.

"This clarification can’t happen soon enough," Belacic says. "It is a small amendment but it is an issue where drivers are getting picked on unfairly."

Road Rule 127 was originally introduced to give road trains a safe stopping distance and allow other motorists enough room to overtake them, while protecting infrastructure by preventing multiple vehicles accessing a bridge at the same time.

CHANGES TO PORTABLE WARNING TRIANGLES
The NTC also wants to introduce changes to portable warning triangles which are used to alert other drivers within 200m of a stricken vehicle or if a load has fallen from a truck.

"In such circumstances the driver is required to position a portable warning triangle between 50m and 150m, in front of and behind the vehicle or fallen load, and place a triangle at the side of it," the NTC says of Road Rule 227.

The Commission has proposed the sight distance be extended to 300m and for triangles to be placed between 200m to 250m on roads with a speed limit of 80km/h or more.

The NTC says the range of 50m to 150m is insufficient because it does not give drivers of large vehicles such as B-doubles enough time to react if they are travelling at their maximum allowable speed.

Network guidelines - 135m for a B-double stopping from a speed of 70km/h and 238m from 100km/h - mean the placement of warning triangles currently is "not consistent".

Under the current rule, a B-double travelling at 100km/h will still be going 47km/h when it gets within 200m of a stricken vehicle.

The proposed changes to the triangles and Road Rule 127 were developed following the outcome of a meeting of the NTC’s maintenance group. The package suggests amending 24 road rules on the basis they remain current and flexible.

Australian road rules were implemented nationally in 1999 and were based on state and territory law. The NTC says the introduction of the rules eliminated differences and left only a small number of local variations in place.

You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook