Stay On Track Outback | Tips
Stay On Track Outback, Outback Driving Tips, Road Conditions, News & More
Stay On Track Outback
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Share the road with road trains

When a road train or heavy vehicle is coming towards you, don’t panic, slow down and move as far left as possible to avoid stone damage to your windscreen. If possible, identify a safe place to stop and pull right over to give the road train the room it needs, especially on single lane roads. Be mindful of the soft edges when trying to get off the road. Road trains can be 55m long and the rear trailer can sway one (1) metre either side!

 

When a wide load is coming towards you, slow down and where possible, find a safe spot to pull off the road. Listen to UHF 40 for instructions. If you don’t have a radio, don’t panic, the pilot vehicle will signal instructions.

Take care when over-taking

‘Stay on Track Outback’ encourages those towing to think carefully prior to overtaking any vehicle.  Consideration of stopping and taking a break may be a better decision.  Enjoy the Outback….perhaps pull over, have a cuppa and then get on the road again.

 

If you do decide to overtake, allow sufficient space and make allowances for the extra length and width of your towed load. Be careful of soft, rough, steep or gravel edges and roadkill, livestock or wildlife that may impact your ability to control your vehicle.

 

Be aware of ‘wind buffeting’ which often happens when a larger vehicle passes yours in either direction – slow down to reduce the sway of your towed load.

 

Communicate by UHF your intention to overtake to a heavy vehicle or another caravan driver.

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Avoid driving at dusk or dawn

Animals are often more active at dawn, dusk or night. Be aware that the lack of light, sunrise/sunset or darkness can affect how well you see the road and associated hazards. Avoid driving during these times if possible and if you are driving, adjust your speed accordingly.

Yawning’ a sign of fatigue

Driving for long periods of time can cause fatigue. Be aware that towing is often more stressful and thus, tiring than normal driving. Be realistic about how far you can travel in a day and consider sharing the driving. Allow for meal breaks, 15 minute stops every two (2) hours, scenic detours, refuelling and toilet breaks. Driving too far in one trip will cause fatigue and seriously increase your risk of having an accident.

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Obey road and safety signs

Road and safety signs are your connection to the unfamiliar area around you. It is important to heed any warnings.

 

Remember, you may be travellling in isolated areas and emergency services and/or councils may not have been able to get to a hazard area.  Just because warning signs are not there, it may not mean it is safe to proceed (ie. flooded creeks, smoke hazards etc).  You need to use your common sense and caution to assess all situations before proceeding.

Never drive into flood waters

If it’s flooded, forget it!  Flood waters can be very dangerous.  Even shallow water can have a strong undercurrent that could sweep your vehicle away.  Damage may have been caused to the road underneath that you cannot always see.  Find an alternative route or wait for the water level to drop.

 

Creeks in the Outback can come up quickly.  You may need to adjust your itinerary to make allowances.  Don’t forget to let family/friends know if your plans change.

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Take care when towing

Towing a caravan, camper trailer or boat on outback roads can be challenging and requires a greater degree of knowledge and skill than normal driving.  The unique hazards including varying road conditions and heavy vehicles common in the Outback are confronting.

 

Ask yourself:    Have you balanced your load correctly?

Is your vehicle equipped to tow the load?

Are the towing safety chains correctly fitted and in good order?

 

Consider up-skilling with a towing course and practise before you travel (see ‘Do you really know it all?’ page).

 

Checks to carry out before and daily your trip:

 

  1. Couplings and chains are correctly fastened;
  2. Brakes, suspension and wheel bearings are operating correctly;
  3. Lights/indicators are working;
  4. Loose items are secure;
  5. Awnings are properly locked away;
  6. Tyres are in good working order and inflated to correct pressure; and
  7. Side mirrors give clear view of road behind your towed vehicle.

Research and plan your trip

Ensure you plan, prepare and research where you are going.  Ensure you have adequate supplies, means to communicate, sufficient medication, first aid kit and emergency contact details in the event of an emergency.

 

Consider taking additional driver training courses that enhance your ability and skill to operate your vehicle under any condition.

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Allow extra time for your trip

Travelling in the Outback will provide you with wonderful places to stop and explore. Allow extra time to appreciate everything the Outback has to offer as well as rest stops, refuelling and unexpected events.

Communicate by UHF radio

Communicate by UHF with truck drivers (channel 40), escort vehicles (channel 40) and other travellers.  Share information about road conditions and hazards that you have encountered.

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Keep a watchful eye for wildlife

Wildlife and livestock often cross or graze near the edge of roads.  Avoid driving at dawn, dusk or night when they are more active. They are often not deterred by the noise of the car and will wander straight out in front of you.  Don’t end your trip by jabbing the brakes suddenly or swerving to avoid colliding with wildlife.

 

If you cannot avoid a collision, aim to hit as square as possible in the middle-front of your vehicle where it is designed to take impact.  This may cause damage however, swerving will increase your chance of a more serious crash.

 

Be mindful of the magnificent wedgetail eagles that may be nearby (often feeding on roadkill) as they are very stubborn and only move when they decide too!  When they do, they take off low and slow often towards your windscreen.  Reduce your speed and allow them time to move.

Observe varying speed limits

Speed limits are the upper allowable limit on a road.  It is imperative that drivers drive at a speed relative to their ability and vehicle/trailer combination.

 

Speeding impairs a driver’s ability to stop safely or react to avoid hazards.

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Undulating roads are common

Road conditions and quality can vary greatly in the outback with hazards like soft edges,  undulating surfaces, potholes and areas involving road works.  Surfaces can change quickly from bitumen to gravel, dirt, sand or mud.  Road surfaces will affect how your vehicle and van handles the road.

 

Take heed of the following tips:

  • Do not over steer or brake hard, especially on gravel or dirt roads.
  • Roads can narrow from dual lane to single lane – adjust driving accordingly.
  • Put your head lights on to be seen in the dusty conditions.
  • Ensure your tyres are suitable for the terrain.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.

 

Overall, drive to the conditions, reduce your speed if necessary and avoid swerving or excess heavy braking.

 

Liaise with service station attendants, caravan park staff, police or locals for up to date road conditions. You can also use our links to the Traffic and Travel Information Website (ph: 13 19 40) or the Bureau of Meteorology.

Tell someone where you are going

Notify someone of your intended itinerary and keep in regular contact with them.  Carry a road map and if you change your plans, make sure that you let your contacts know.  Make sure your contacts know what to do if you do not check in as planned!

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Be prepared for an emergency

Ensure you have adequate supplies, means to communicate, sufficient medication, first aid kit and emergency contact details in the event of an emergency.  Be aware that mobile phone coverage is not always available so have alternate means of communicating your position.  Consider purchasing a satellite phone, UHF radio and/or a distress radio beacon (ie. PLB, EPIRB).

 

In the event of a crash, injury, shattered windscreen or break down – STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE, call for assistance and ensure vehicle is visible. Be aware of your surroundings and take note of land marks to give an accurate location.  Drink plenty of water, seek shade but stay with your vehicle – it is your best chance of being located.

Alcohol and driving’ don’t mix

One of the biggest risk factors for road crashes in Queensland is drink driving.  Listed as one of the ‘fatal 5’, being over the limit has and will continue to kill people.  When you drive, you need to concentrate, be able to make correct judgements and react to situations as they arise.  A blood alcohol concentration diminishes these.

 

If you are even a little over the limit, you are twice as likely to crash!

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Carry sufficient supplies

The Outback is a vast and remote landscape. Distances between towns can be great and if you breakdown, it is imperative that you have supplies to ensure your survival.

 

The following list contains the ‘basics’ you should carry at all times:

 

  • Water (20L Emergency & 4L/Person/Day)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Tool Kit
  • Two spare wheels/tyres
  • Tow rope
  • Shovel
  • Maps
  • Compass or GPS
  • Tarpaulin
  • Fridge/cooler
  • Matches/lighter
  • IMPORTANTLY:
  • Communication equipment— mobile phones may not work outback. Consider a UHF radio, satellite phone or distress radio beacon (ie. Personal Locator Beacon).
  • Medication – be aware some medications may not be available in rural and remote towns. Chemists are not always open so do not leave it to the last minute to refill your script/s.  Ensure you have scripts to cover your trip, pack enough medication to last and keep them out of sight.

 

In the event of a crash, injury, shattered windscreen or break down – STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE, call for assistance and ensure vehicle is visible. Be aware of your surroundings and take note of land marks to give an accurate location.  Drink plenty of water, seek shade but stay with your vehicle – it is your best chance of being located.

Kangaroos cause carnage

Kangaroos and other animals can cross the road suddenly and cause significant damage. Always keep an eye out and be prepared to slow down. Do not brake suddenly or swerve as this may cause your vehicle to get out of control.

 

If you cannot avoid a collision, aim to hit as square as possible in the middle-front of your vehicle where it is designed to take impact.  This may cause damage however, swerving will increase your chance of a more serious crash.

 

Keep an eye out for ‘road kill’! Dead animals are common on our roads – do not swerve and slow down to go around if possible. Remember that tyres may puncture if you drive over the bones.

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