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    Here are a few problems that you will encounter as you potter about Australia away from cities & towns on those long drives that eventually most of us tend to do. There are times when these things may occur even when you are still in town. It pays to remember that Australia is even now largely uninhabited. The majority of our island is still bush with good populations of things you will only see at night or in times of low light as the sun comes & goes.



    Driving for many hours a day is tiring for almost everybody. Fatigue is a big issue and driving while tired does kill people every year, hundreds of them. Eventually with practice you will recognise when you are beginning to tire and then it is much easier to take steps to counter that fatigue. Pull up, have a cuppa and walk about is normally the best way. Most problems occur with drivers who push themselves beyond what they are used to doing. Driving requires a reasonable level of concentration while ever you are behind the wheel as we all know. As with every skill or talent some people can do more than others so if you are new to long trips it is best to plan your daily travel accordingly. Go for shorter daily distances until you become more familiar with spending "all day" behind the wheel. Whatever you decide please err on the side of caution. The consequences can be devastating if you don’t.

    I think they call this a Pro-Tip - If you are already tired and for whatever reason have to keep driving please don’t eat a big meal. As your body begins the process of digesting the food, blood goes to your guts and you often will encounter drowsiness much quicker than if you had eaten just a snack or just had a drink. This applies at night more than in daylight hours.


Mick napping

Don’t do this behind the wheel while driving.
Wait until you stop, like this idiot.


Flat tyres & Tyre Pressure Monitors (TPM)

    Good old flat tyres, always a joy.....You don’t often see vehicles with flat tyres on our major highways these days but they do still happen. Normally the problem will be a run flat which is a slow leak for whatever reason. The tyre deflates very slowly and sometimes before it is noticed or "felt" the tyre will fail due to heat because it is running fast at a low pressure. Normally the tyre is destroyed during this process and the driver will almost always say "the tyre just popped for no reason". As the tyre is in bits it’s impossible to find the reason why it failed.

    The other cause will be a quick deflation, this you do notice and half the time when you do get off the road and pull up the tyre is damaged to some degree. [If you have had enough practice with this sort of thing you get pretty quick at pulling up – don’t jam on the brakes with a flat tyre, use the brakes gently.]

    There is a cure for this problem of not knowing you have a tyre in trouble. Get a set of tyre pressure monitors. You will be able to see pressure & temperature at a glance and you can set the alarm to go off as soon as the pressure drops or the temperature climbs. In these times of gadgets and accessories with marketing infused into almost everything I will say that TPM gear is a real advantage and very high on my list of things you should have on your vehicle. Bearing in mind my list of necessary gear is short, extremely short!


Flat tyre

It’s a shock to some travellers to find out that
flat tyres are just a normal part of life.


Fire & Water

    Australia is a place of contrasts and just due to its size you can drive through rain one day and a couple of days later you might see a fire. If you are planning a big trip then it pays to check the weather for that area long before you pack up & head off. Keep an eye on the temperatures and whether or not there has been any rain at all. Fire is pretty easy to find as there will be smoke, water on the other hand can be a little more sneaky. The rain may have eased off days before and the creek levels or roadways can still be flooded, keep your eyes open.

    Always test the water depth before going through unless you know the road very well.


Fire near Well 49

Around Well 49 on the Canning Stock Route in 2012.


Flooding on the Gunbarrel

Gunbarrel Highway near "Victory Downs" in 2017.


Daytime Driving

    The following are a few things to be aware of that can cause trouble while doing some miles during the day plus what we have found works to counter these issues.



Keep your eyes peeled and try not to hit anything on the road at all.
Particularly something like these buggers.


Dirt Road Etiquette

    Not that many years ago in the bush you’d pull up for a yarn even if it was just to tell the other lot how bad the road was. Sometimes you’d be there for half an hour or so, but these days you are flat out getting the other vehicle to pull up or wind their window down. Bloody terrible in remote country to have folks that won’t talk to each other, think about it. Anyway here are a few tips about being courteous in the bush. I’ll try not to get on a rant......


Get Over

    This is an old problem and very annoying when on any dirt road and the bloke coming the other way sits in the middle of the road or barely moves over and you have to go bush in response. If I’m in a good mood I figure they just don’t know how wide their vehicle is. (If you watch people drive in car parks you know what I mean.) If you don’t know where your wheels are on your vehicle here is a little tip from the transport industry. Did you ever wonder why big trucks can sit in their lane even though they often fill the lane line to line? Pretty simple, they have an aiming mark built into the truck. From the driver’s seat there will be something that lines up with the outside edge of the front tyre. I can remember that on one particular Mack truck it was the bulldog on the bonnet. You just steered to put the dog on the fog-line and the truck ran along the left fog-line on the bitumen. Pretty simple system and I do the same when I’m towing our large trailer. Part of the bullbar lines up with the fog-line when the wide trailer is on that same line of paint. You can do the same thing with your vehicle, just mark the bullbar or bonnet with a bit of coloured tape and you have your own sighting mark. If you park the vehicle alongside a gutter in town then it’s easy to get your sight mark.


Slow Down When Passing By

    When there is oncoming traffic on a big wide gravel road these days nobody seems to slow down to minimise dust and rocks showering over the other vehicle. It seems to be all about them. So do us a favour and slow down and move over when passing by. It will be appreciated, trust me.


Avoiding Truck Dust

    If there is a road train coming and the wind is moving the dust off the road, it doesn’t matter which way, the best thing to do is get off the road and let him go past. If you’re smart you’ll pull over to the upwind side then you’ll be able to miss copping all the dust and also you’ll see if there is any other traffic coming your way because the road will be clear. Not quite in the rule book but much safer than plunging through a dust cloud and hoping nobody else is coming behind that truck. If there is no wind about you’ll just have to wait for a little while, a couple of minutes at most. If you try this then make sure you get off the roadway.


Oncoming truck

The fellow in the Hilux would have been better off pulling off the other side to avoid the dust. Being on the upwind side he’ll be able to see the road better & much quicker than sitting in the dust cloud. Another trick is to call up the truck and ask if anyone is behind him.


Let faster vehicles pass by

    If you have planned wisely for your trip you shouldn’t be in a hurry. It doesn’t matter how fast you travel on the dirt there will always be someone coming up behind that is moving even quicker. Keep an eye on your mirror & if you can see them just gently pull over to the side and let them go. If they catch you by surprise they will sometimes flick their high beam on and you’ll pick them up in the mirror in your peripheral vision.


Night Driving

    Quite simply we don’t recommend it for the average traveller. The Australian outback and the rural areas of every state pose threats to the night time driver, in particular the inexperienced. Heavy rainfalls can easily put water over roads and wild wind can drop trees & limbs over roads that can be very hard to see at night. The obvious risk of hitting animals of various descriptions is very well known. If you have to do some night miles here are a few things to keep in mind.


Kangaroos & Smaller Animals on the Road

    If you are forced or choose to travel when animals may be on the road there are a few things to keep in mind. I’ll list a few things below for you to try & remember.


Big Animals on the Road

    No good news with this I’m afraid. Stay alert and do your best to see them first and not hit them. Get your passenger on the job as well. Things like cattle, horses & camels normally go over the bonnet if they are on their legs and the only thing stopping them is a windscreen & you. If they do only hit the front of the vehicle it will be like running into a brick wall.....the results are not good at all.


Hope some of that is useful.
Mick Hutton
Copyright: June 2021



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