An iconic 3 trailer Australian road train travels along the Plenty Hwy near Gemtree in Northern Territory, Australia

Road trains

Recently we wrote a blog about ‘American trucks’, these are usually styled with all kinds of decorations. However, the Australians also have a way of showing off: they have ‘road trains’.

What are road trains?

A road train is a truck with a lot of trailers with load behind it. The total combination of truck + trailer can be up to 53.5 meters, or even longer if driven on private property. When a road train is fully loaded it can weigh up to 200 tons.

What conditions does a truck have to meet to be a road train?

Road trains only drive in Australia, because this combination of truck + trailer is allowed there. In Europe and America the legislation is different and doesn’t allow this type of vehicles.

In Europe, for example, a truck + trailer combination may not exceed 18.75 meters in length. Europe also has LHVs (Longer Heavier Vehicles): these trucks may not exceed 25.25 meters.

In America, the legislation is slightly different than in Europe. Here it is only determined what the maximum length of the semi-trailer may be. An American truck is already 1 or 2 meters longer than a European truck because of the torpedo nose. For semi-trailers, it is laid down by law that the maximum length may be 14.63 meters. However, there are exceptions in some states.

In Australia, a truck is only called a road train when two or more trailers/semi-trailers are coupled behind the truck by means of dollies. As mentioned before, this combination may be up to 53.5 meters long on public roads, but on private property there is no limit to the length.

The origins of road trains

The interior of Australia is mainly desert. Most cities are located on the coast. Here, cargo can be transported from city to city by ships. This used to be the most common way of transporting goods in Australia, however this usually took a long time and a lot of fuel was wasted.

That’s why sometimes there was no other choice but to transport goods like cattle, grains, fuels, building materials and ore inland. Until 1930 this was done via camels, after which motorized vehicles were used.

Not much later Kurt Johannson came up with the idea of a road train. He lived in Alice Springs, a small town in the middle of Australia’s desert landscape. Kurt used an American army truck that was used during the Second World War to transport tanks, and was left behind after the war by the Americans. After that, he built some trailers to transport cattle. He called his vehicle ‘Bertha’ and drove it through the interior of Australia.

How many hours per day do drivers usually spend on the road with a road train?

This of course differs per driver and per cargo being transported. That is why we take the Australian Maxime Taylor as an example. A few years ago Volvo interviewed this trucker, 52 years old at that time.

Maxime drives through the interior of Australia in temperatures of 48 degrees. She makes long days from 12 to 13 hours. When she suffers from a flat tyre or other unfavourable conditions, then a ride can take up to 17 hours. In addition, when the wet season arrives in Australia, she sometimes has to wait for days before she can continue driving due to flooding.

So road trains are beastly long trucks. Driving one of them is quite a challenge, not only because of their length but also because of the weather and road conditions in Australia. Unfortunately, no road trains can be found on TrucksNL. However, there are enough beautiful tractor units and (semi) trailers to be found to create the perfect transport combination for you.