An Illawarra truckie has spoken out in defence of his industry after the Mercury published terrifying footage of a rogue driver’s antics on Mount Ousley. Tony Reh on Friday offered to take a reporter on a run up and down the mountain and the Mercury’s DOMINIC GEIGER volunteered. His account of the trip offers food for thought.
For someone who’s never been in a truck, the road looks a lot narrower and more intimidating two metres up in the cab of a truck with a super dog trailer (a second trailer connected behind the first) attached.
But for Tony Reh, getting behind the wheel is the ‘‘relaxing’’ part, and it’s what he experiences as he drives up and down Mount Ousley each day that can make life tough.
His vehicle has a gross weight of 63 tonnes – a figure he stresses as he begins to discuss some of the wild behaviour he sees on the road every day.
‘‘Cars jump in front of you, slam their brakes on, and you’re just trying to maintain speed,’’ he says.
‘‘It makes my job very stressful when it shouldn’t be.
‘‘If only car drivers had a little bit more understanding of the sheer weight and the things we’ve got to do to avoid accidents.’’
Within 15 minutes of leaving Wollongong, we encounter our first instance of bad driving behaviour.
A P-plater in a small hatchback zips around the outside of Mr Reh’s massive truck, before cutting him off in the left-hand lane, only to slam the brakes on.
Mr Reh is forced to react – dropping his speed from the limit of 100km/h suddenly to less than 90km/h.
He explains slowing such a massive vehicle is a lot more complicated than simply pressing the brakes. ‘‘We come up and down that mountain every day and our main priority is to keep our brakes cold,’’ he says. ‘‘When accidents... happen we can use our brakes in an emergency.’’
During the next hour, we witness at least three other examples of poor driving behaviour perpetrated by small vehicle drivers. In one instance on Appin Road, a vehicle attempts to overtake another using the oncoming lane, merging into the lane adjacent to us.
Mr Reh points out that if there had have been a car behind us, and it had attempted to overtake at that moment, there would have been a major collision.
During the drive, Mr Reh is keen to defend his colleagues.
He says like any industry, there are bad apples and good apples.
‘‘We’re not all cowboys,’’ he says. ‘‘There are decent blokes out there, decent truck drivers trying to do the right thing.’’
If you are using our iPhone app, you can view the footage in the video tab.