The lure of seeing beautiful landscapes and meeting interesting people is a magnet that pulls everyday people from their comfort zone and out on the open road. Upwards of 10 million road-tripping Americans own an RV, and the number continues to grow. If you plan to join the ranks of these happy travelers, it’s important for first-time RV drivers to have the skills to navigate the highways and byways safely.
That’s why Southwest Truck Driver Training offers RV training for people operating large vehicles, including Class A motorhomes, campers and Fifth Wheels, among others. We believe that safety is job one and hope these RV driving tips make your travels a little safer and more rewarding,
Differences Motorhome Drivers Should Know
There are significant differences that, unfortunately, trip up too many first-time RV drivers. The most common issues tend to be the size and limited driving agility of motorhomes and campers. In a personal car, van or SUV, drivers can deftly move through traffic and change lanes. Motorhome drivers quickly discover that lane changes, turns and complete stops require different skill sets. Consider the sheer size of these RVs compared to the vehicle you drive to the supermarket.
- Class A Motorhomes
Ranked among the larger RVs, Class A motorhomes are designed to function as a complete home away from home. They usually include a living room, kitchen, bathroom and high-set cockpit to navigate the vehicle. Running upwards of 45 feet long and 10 feet tall, these vehicles are built with commercial chassis similar to 18-wheelers in many cases.
- Class B Motorhomes
This class of vehicle is generally a step down in size from the Class A and are designed to accommodate 2-3 people comfortably. Many run up to 20 feet long, 9 feet tall and can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. Some people compare these RVs to the family SUV until they discover the maneuverability is vastly different.
- Class C Motorhomes
Often running 20-40 feet long and 10 feet high, this type of motorhome is usually identified by the sleep space located above the cab. These family-travel rigs often prompt owners to utilize towing capacities as high as 3,6000 pounds to pull another vehicle on trips. Operating a rig in this fashion is an entirely different universe from a four-door sedan.
- Travel Trailers
Towed by hitches by trucks and powerful SUVs, many travel trailers reach lengths of 33 feet. Negotiation parking and backing into tight spaces requires a similar driving skill set used by truck driving professionals.
- Fifth Wheels
Another travel option that runs upwards of 40 feet, the mounting to a heavy-duty pickup truck can make operations challenging. Traveling congested highways and slim back roads can be particularly challenging when pulling a Fifth Wheel travel trailer.
It’s easy to envision the substantial differences between driving these vehicles and the everyday car, truck or SUV. Keep in mind that other drivers can make critical mistakes due to inattention, distraction or aggressive behavior. It’s up to you to get the unique skills necessary to effectively operate an RV in less-than-optimal conditions, and motorhome driving training delivers.
RV Driving Tips to Remember
First time RV drivers would be wise to move forward with the philosophy that experience is not the best teacher when it comes to operating one of the rigs mentioned above. RV safety and driving skills are best honed by taking an RV training course under the supervision of experienced instructors. When you make a mistake at an RV training facility, you can practice until you get it right. When mishaps occur on the open road, the result is generally unpleasant. These are RV driving tips that are worth considering.
Know Your Tail Swing
When you make a turn, the coach behind the vehicle’s pivot point tends to move in the opposite direction. Many RVs have a tail swing of 15-30 inches. Some of the newer RV chassis allow for sharper turns and may have a wider tail swing. Being mindful of this factor can help avoid damage
Maintain Safe Distance
People driving personal vehicles often find themselves relatively close to the car in front of them. Although generally not a safe practice, today’s cars, trucks, and SUVs enjoy quick braking systems. Motorhome drivers do not have the same luxury of being able to stop in a dime. Maintaining a safe distance of at least 400-500 feet can help avoid a collision.
Braking Skills Matter
A large, fully loaded motorhome can reach a total weight of close to 7,000 pounds. In many ways, the braking techniques required of first-time RV drivers are equivalent to professional truckers. Before making even a test run of your new RV, it’s essential to get trained to stop at various rates of speed.
Keep Right Whenever Possible
There are a variety of reasons that RV safety mandates keeping to the right lane. You are handling a large, bulky and lumbering vehicle with limited maneuvering capabilities. The last thing you want is to have to make unnecessary lane changes. Another reason is that an easily accessible right lane allows you to pull over in the event of a breakdown or emergency. Keeping right tends to be safe and less stressful than other lanes.
Know Your RV’s Limits
You have purchased a vehicle that exceeds the size, height and weight limits of ordinary automobiles. As you travel to new places, it’s imperative that you account for things such as low bridges, tight parking lots, narrow back roads, dirt roads and potholes, among others. Operating a big rig comes with physical limitations you need to remember.
Use Your Weather App
Inclement weather can be a more significant impediment for motorhome drivers than others. That’s because snow and rain can make roads slick and reduce your ability to stop in a critical situation. These and other conditions also reduce visibility. A savvy driver who practices thoughtful RV safety knows when to pull over and wait out a storm.
Take an RV Training or Refresher Course
For first-time RV drivers, a training course is an absolute must. New motorhome drivers are about to embark on a wonderful travel experience. But that experience comes with a heightened need to understand safety protocols and have the necessary practice behind the wheel of a large vehicle. For those who have been planning a vacation or road trip while the Fifth Wheel sits on your property, it may be a good idea to take a refresher course and spark your muscle memory.
At the end of the day, you can get your practice in with an experienced RV instructor or through human error out on the road. If you are a new RV owner or are considering updating your skills, contact Southwest Truck Driver Training about our RV Driving Training course and make safety job one for you and your loved ones.