In Texas, semi-trucks can be no longer than 59 feet, including the trailer. In many motorists’ minds, this is plenty long enough. As a state with some of the heaviest truck traffic in the country, Texas highways are already dominated by huge 18-wheelers. Now imagine a semi-truck that’s up to 175 feet long. It may sound ridiculous, but it is reality in Australia.
Known as road trains, these supersized semis are actually banned in many parts of Australia. In the Outback, however, they are frequently used to cross sparsely populated terrain to deliver freight to the more densely populated urban areas along the coast.
Prior to the vehicle age, people who wanted to ship goods across the Australian continent did so on camelback or by sailing along the coast. However, this was a costly and time-consuming process. With a road train, semis can haul freight across thousands of miles within a few days instead of the weeks it would take to ship by water.
American semi-trucks typically weigh up to 40 tons and have a maximum length of 80 feet depending on the state. In Australia, road trains can be up to 175 feet long—and length is unlimited for road trains that travel private roads, such as those found in large mining operations. A fully loaded road train can weigh up to 220 tons.
Furthermore, road train drivers can remain at the wheel for up to 21 hours straight. The Australian Road Train Association—an industry advocacy organization—recommends road train drivers restrict their driving time to 14 hours at a stretch.