Get in a truck and drive around town and it immediately becomes obvious many road users have no idea how to act around semi-trailers, according to the City of Greater Bendigo’s Trevor Budge.
That was one of the observations made by those involved in a 2017 council review of freight in Bendigo, when they jumped in passenger seats and watched other motorists swerve in front of trucks and fail to respect how hard it was to brake when, say, towing 40 tons on unfamiliar urban roads.
Bendigo’s council has just secured partial funding for a pilot program to educate motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and the freight industry about using roads more safely.
“A lot of this is about trialing various ways to engage the community and the trucking industry to understand what everyone needs to be much more aware of,” Mr Budge said.
The #GetTruckWise trial could, for example, see virtual reality simulators rolled out to show young people what it is like for trucks to brake for cars and bicycles.
The program will be partially funded by the council and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and run in partnership with the Australian Trucking Association, the TAC and the Bendigo Tech School.
Mr Budge said if the trial was deemed a success and more funding secured a series of ideas could be used nationally.
Programs like this are also timely because the council is reconsidering how freight uses local roads in the fallout from its failed Marong Business Park bid, he said.
“One of the things behind developing a new major industrial estate was to get something that took a lot of the freight traffic out of the centre of Bendigo, and off some of the other roads it is currently forced to use.”
Long-held plans for Marong were abandoned in July after planning minister Richard Wynne sensationally rejected the council’s bid to compulsorily acquire farmland in the area.
The council is still considering long-term options to move freight away from Bendigo’s urban areas.
“This (#GetTruckWise) funding is going to help us in that issue of getting a much better understanding around freight and how we minimise conflict, and minimise accidents, near misses and so-on,” Mr Budge said.