Peeve: Salvage Drivers

For 50 weeks now I have been driving 200 kilometres to work and 200 kilometres back. I go down on a Tuesday morning and come back Thursday evening. The road I travel is called a highway but just so my American readers don’t get the wrong idea, here in Western Australia a highway does not mean two or three lanes in both directions. In fact in this case it means one lane each way with numerous town zones of 60 or 80 kph (35 or 50 mph) along the way and about every 20 kilometres or so there is an overtaking lane so you can get past any slow moving traffic that you might be banked up behind.

One often gets caught up behind caravans, trucks, long-loads, wide-loads, and horse floats. There seems to be a lot of people into horses along this highway as almost every trip, going and coming, I seem to end up with a few horse floats I have to get past.

But my biggest peeve is what I call the “salvage driver”. This is the driver that drives with their left hand tyres over the solid white line on the left that marks the salvage zone. In America this would obviously be the other way around—salvage drivers there would drive with their right hand tyres over the salvage line. Assuming you have solid white salvage lines marked on your roads.

There are a number of things about salvage drivers:

  1. They seem to think that because they are driving partially ‘off’ the marked road with their left hand tyres partially over the salvage line that it is perfectly okay for them to travel about 8 to 12 kph under the speed limit. So in the 110 kph (65 mph) zones they will be doing about 101-ish and will often absent-mindedly (sic) drop back to maybe 95 kph. Then realise they have fallen back a bit and then zoom back up to 101.

  2. By driving in the salvage they throw up bits of sticks and the odd stone—especially if they are towing a trailer or caravan or something because this will often swing off the salvage and onto the gravel or dirt alongside the road. This makes it a little dangerous to travel close enough to them to attempt to overtake them when the opportunity arises.

    So instead of sitting the regulation two seconds behind them you sort of need to drop back to four seconds behind, or take the chance of another stone chip in the windscreen (I already have five very good ones) or a smashed headlight (I already have a smashed fog light but it still lights up). When you are four seconds back it becomes challenging to overtake them when the opportunity arises; and I drive a turbo-assisted 2.5 litre Subaru Forester—which is a surprisingly quick little unit.

  3. I think that by driving over the salvage they think that they are leaving you room to overtake. Hence the logic behind why they can dawdle along at 8 to 12 kph under the highway cruise speed. But you can’t! Overtaking them still requires the same amount of clear space ahead for oncoming traffic and you still have to cross over to the other side of the road.

    In the case of a solid no-overtaking middle line you still can’t overtake them without ‘breaking’ the solid line.

  4. By driving over the salvage line they are breaking the law. In Western Australia it is a bookable traffic offence to drive over the salvage line without a good reason, such as mechanical issues with the vehicle, or you are pulling over, or you have a permit to move farm equipment from one part of your property to another and you need to use public roads to do this, or you are riding a push bike.

There are reasons that ‘they’ don’t want traffic zooming along over the marked salvage. The edges of the bitumen are most prone to damage. Just like if you laid a rug down on the lawn, people moving around on the edges end up lifting and moving the rug and pulling it up. Staying well into the rug means less ‘damage’ to the edges.

The pressure and stresses on a bitumen road are considerable. Imagine a 50 tonne truck hammering along at 100 kph or two tonne car at 110 kph. Then consider a thousand or so of these each day. Keeping them well away from the fragile edges is one way to extend road life and lower the maintenance overhead.

One of the roads I use getting to work is narrow and has no salvage. When passing oncoming traffic it is necessary to drive on the very edge of the road. And while this road is not part of the highway and has much less traffic using it the edges of the road are a mess. The bitumen has lifted and broken off and there are holes and divots all along it.

Not that is really applies in this little story but the salvage area is approved for bicycle riders—not much chance they are going to cause any edge damaged to the bitumen.