American journey an eye-opening experience for Australian truck driver

By: Peter Schlenk, Photography by: Peter Schlenk

A stint driving trucks in the US gave Australian Ashley Smith an insight into the differences between both countries.

American journey an eye-opening experience for Australian truck driver
'Quite amazing': Ashley Smith had a great time driving trucks in the US.


Australia and the US have many things in common, but Ashley Smith discovered heavy vehicle regulations wasn’t one of them when he headed overseas to drive trucks for three months.

Ashley made the trip to the States on the advice of an American friend and found that the rules and regulations were very different to what he had experienced at home.

Ashley was behind the wheel of a 2013 Kenworth T660, although it’s engine only put out 425hp (313kW), coupled to a 10-speed automatic while pulling bogie trailers.

"The trailers range from 53 to 62ft. But it depends on state by state as to where you move your bogies on your trailer," Ashley says.

"In certain states you have got to have them forward, some states they are centralised while yet other states have them right back and if you have them wrongly positioned for the state you are in, big fines apply."

Ashley, who now works for Booth Transport out of Melbourne, had a few issues trying to get a handle on US road rules.

"I have never come across a four-way stop sign. Everyone stops and then by pointing, you work out who goes first," he says.

Another stop sign irregularity was the extra line about a metre before the stop sign. You are required to stop at the line and then proceed to the stop sign.

Despite these oddities, Ashley says he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

"I can’t say I will go back and do it again, but I’ve done it once. It was something I always wanted to do, so now I’ve done it and move onto the next stage."

Ashley was over in the northern hemisphere winter, which proved to be an eye-opening experience.

"They have tow trucks that can only push you over hills. They will sit on the side of the road waiting for you to come through," he says.

During his travels, Ashley also noticed significant differences between the US and Australia when it came to truck combinations, transmissions, engines and trailers.

"They are so far behind us. A heavy load over there was classified at 15 and a half tonne," he says.

"They don’t have mezzanine floors and just place the freight on the floor. They don’t even cover the floor; it was quite amazing."

Ashley believes it would take three to four North American trucks to move the same amount of freight as one B-double.

Yet it appears the US is far ahead of Australia when it comes to providing adequate heavy vehicle rest areas.

Ashley says US parking bays are "a dime a dozen" and are concreted with toilets and facilities.

"The facilities are heated and well maintained … even the truck stops shock you. The smallest truck stop I went into was down near Georgia in Atlanta and that was capable of holding 500 trucks — and that was a small one," he says.

Read Ashley Smith’s full story in the December edition of Owner//Driver.

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