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DRIVING a car on one of Melbourne's freeways or ring roads can feel a bit like paddling a canoe between container ships. It is not for the faint-hearted or the claustrophobic.
The overlords here are enormous trucks, seemingly the size of a block of flats as they rumble past almost close enough to touch.
While the 1970s film might have been entitled The Cars that Ate Paris, a contemporary sequel might be entitled The Trucks that Ate Melbourne.
Most intense heavy haulage activity seems to be on the constantly under repair Monash Freeway or the Western Ring Road. These roads link Melbourne's industrial south-east with the industrial west and then on to the Hume which links all of it to Sydney.
Driving on these roads can be quite hair-raising.
Take the driver of a small car, yesterday afternoon doing something as stupid as travelling the Western Ring Road at less than the speed limit.
It was not immediately apparent when he first became aware of the radiator that would have completely filled his rear vision mirror. It belonged to a Kenworth prime mover towing a 36-wheeled 60-tonne B double which sat about two metres from the car's rear. It was like watching a shark with an enormous mouth pursuing a tiny fish. The car driver appeared totally oblivious to the bully just behind his rear bumper. Finally the truckie pulled into another lane to roar past.
As for speed limits, some trucks seem to have a very flexible interpretation, or at least they know the location of the road safety cameras and just seem to pull away from any vehicle trying to keep to those limits. And on the camera-infested Ring Road their size often obscures the variable speed signs making it even easier for the unwary to be booked.
But there is one truck-sharing experience that can only be enjoyed by the most masochistic - the tunnels.
The 2007 Burnley Tunnel crash, where a careless truck driver caused a fiery collision that killed three men has been well documented. In March this year the truckie, David Kalwig of Hoppers Crossing, was sentenced to five years' jail for dangerous driving causing death.
These days the tunnels have signs warning drivers to avoid lane changes, but being sandwiched in the centre lane between two of these huge beasts can be a nerve-racking experience.
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