Roadside rest areas are very helpful and convenient. They are usually equipped with various facilities such as toilets, shelters, picnic tables and others. Cool, right? However, there’s been a long-existent concern about their misuse, thereby contributing to road fatalities especially on truckies. So to avoid this, I’ve put out some pointers on how all road users can get along and happily share rest areas.
Simply put, RVs and trucks can effectively share roadside rest areas if both are in the right place and within time limits. Road signs of rest areas in Australia already give a hint of whether they’re for trucks or RVs or cars or a combination of these. Further, shareable rest areas have separate zones for each vehicle type, and time limits vary for every specific rest area.
The promotion for roadside resting
Driver fatigue is one of the top 5 causes of road accidents in Australia. It is even ranked higher than driver intoxication. Because of this, efforts are continuously being made to solve this – and one avenue is the allotment of roadside rest areas.
While no driver is completely immune to sleepiness, the most vulnerable are our heavy vehicle drivers because:
- It takes more effort to drive long rigs and maintain them on the road,
- They have to travel large distances, making their trips longer compared to other drivers, and
- The road is practically their workplace, so they’re there all the time.
For those reasons, the Department created roadside rest areas for the primary purpose of easing drivers’ fatigue, giving them a place to rest to safely continue on their journey. More importantly, the law mandates heavy vehicle drivers to manage their fatigue through sufficient rest, with logbook records as proof. They need to meet certain amounts of rest depending on their duty.
Nevertheless, concerns regarding the misuse of rest areas continue to rise. And fatalities actually do happen as a result of such misuse. That is why, as road users, we must help ourselves and our peers are informed of the dos and don’ts in occupying rest areas.
The impact of misusing roadside rest areas
Any simple act of disobeying rules in using roadside rest areas can make you a contributor to Australia’s record of road fatalities via the Fatal Five. Here’s how:
1. Using a rest area that’s not designated for your vehicle
Road signs of rest areas are almost a clear indication of which one you should go to. In case you get confused as to these signs, here’s a brief recap:
|Rest area, generally for all vehicles|
|Motorists, except for heavy vehicle drivers, can stop by and rest|
|Only heavy vehicle drivers can stop by and rest. Motorists can pull over too but only for emergency purposes.|
The above signage samples may have additional information such as:
- How much further to drive to arrive at that rest area
- Which direction to turn
- If camping is allowed
- Time limits
Using others’ space could seem harmless, but it actually could cause someone else’s life (most likely heavy vehicle drivers).
See, heavy vehicle rest areas are distanced further apart compared to rest areas for other vehicles. Now if a tired truck driver arrives at his designated rest area only to find out that it is full, he will have to drive at least another 50km to get to the next one. In this case, there is not enough guarantee that the driver will be able to safely reach that next stop.
A driver who has been awake for 17 hours has a driving ability similar to that of a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05, and after 21 hours, similar to a BAC of 0.151 (>3x the legal limit).
Rest areas are allocated per vehicle type to fairly cater to each user’s need. Sure, there is a recognised lack in the number of rest areas, but we can at least help each other out by respecting each other’s space.
2. Staying for too long
The local government unit actually has the say on how long road users can use a particular rest area. While some rest areas allow overnight stays, this sometimes misleads people that they can set up camp for an extended period of time. That is not necessarily the case.
Indeed, the number of rest areas for RVs seem to be lacking especially nowadays due to the rising demand for local travels. Still, the fact lies that one main cause of rest area congestion is overstaying. So now is the time to make good use of your mobile phone’s alarm.
While some consider pitching a tent as part of easing one’s fatigue, note that:
- The primary purpose of rest areas is to ease the drivers’ fatigue and then move on through the journey safely.
- The recommended rest period is at least 15 minutes only for every 2-hour drive.
- Some rest areas explicitly state that it is illegal to camp there
Again, refer to the table of rest area rules to check general regulations on camping in rest areas.
In fact, a campsite can be a hazard to heavy vehicle drivers because manoeuvring can be more difficult. This applies particularly to shared rest areas, and on rest areas with only one point for entry and exit. So please at least consider pitching your tent where it can’t be a hindrance to vehicle traffic.
4. Parking haphazardly
While shared rest areas have already separate zones for each type of vehicle, some drivers continue to ignore these instructions. On the other hand, there are informal rest areas with no indications of where certain vehicles should park, so drivers tend to just choose random spaces. In either case, just be aware that heavy vehicles need sufficient space to manoeuvre.
If you’re a motorist, caravanner or RVer, remember that parking too close to heavy vehicles only puts you at risk because:
- Heavy vehicles, when closely passing lighter vehicles, can cause the latter to sway due to the gush of wind they create; and
- Heavy vehicles usually enter/exit rest areas during the night. And when they do, they naturally create noise which of course you would not want in the midst of peaceful rest.
- Heavy vehicles require a greater turning circle and if hauling trailers even more still. If parked too close to a heavy vehicle within their swept path, you can block them in or they could damage your vehicle.
The approach to a pleasant co-existence
There has been a campaign named Co-exist to mutually educate all road users on the importance of properly using rest areas and on its impact on their safety.
But legality-wise, here’s a summary of each state’s regulations on rest areas:
|GENERALLY ALLOWED MAX. STAY PERIOD||CAMPING REGULATION*||LINK TO REST AREA MAP / LIST||PENALTY FOR REST AREA VIOLATIONS|
|ACT||–||–||–||3 penalty points**|
|NT||24 hours||Not recommended||NT map||–|
|QLD||20 hours, unless otherwise stated.||Prohibited in rest areas, but allowed in some Driver Reviver sites||QLD list
Driver Reviver map
|$266 to $2669
(20 penalty points per violation)
|SA||24 hours||Not recommended||SA map||$403|
|TAS||48 hours||Not recommended||TAS list
TAS 48-h sites
New rest areas
|VIC||–||Not recommended||VicRoads map||$165**|
|WA||24 hours||Not recommended||Main Roads map||$100**|
– No mention or no data available
* In areas where camping is not recommended, due courtesy is still highly encouraged.
** For disobeying road access sign or police/traffic officer. Visit the relevant state website for other violations.
*** Penalty for violating the following trial restrictions in the Yelgun and Arrawarra rest areas:
- Light vehicles and RVs are allowed to park up to 4 hours only
- The spaces for heavy vehicles are restricted for vehicles with a GVM of more than 12 tonnes
“Camping” means pitching a tent outside your vehicle. Using your RV or caravan is okay as long as you do your shower, washing, toilet, cooking, and sleeping inside your cabin – and you do not dispose of grey or black water where facilities for these aren’t provided.
What can I do?
No life is more valuable than the other, so we must all do our part in keeping each other safe. Here are the best practices you can do:
|MOTORISTS / RVers / CARAVANNERS||HEAVY VEHICLE DRIVERS|
|Plan your trip.
Use the maps referenced previously.
Avoid the peak rest periods of heavy vehicle drivers.
|Other drivers are likely to be unaware of your legal rest and why it is mandated. A li’l polite explanation will surely be enough to make ‘em understand.|
|Consider other places to stop by such as:
||The other side has concerns too. Might as well listen to them and come up with ways to effectively share space.|
|Educate yourself on the do’s, don’ts, how’s and why’s.|
|Have a co-driver to swap with you now and then.|
|Keep your vehicle well ventilated so that you won’t be drowsy.|
|Using your UHF, communicate with other drivers whether it’s safe to pass by.|
|Just be disciplined and considerate. It goes a long way.|
Find out if you can park your caravan or motorhome in the street here