We’ve all seen the drivers that make everyone look bad. They change lanes with poor (or no!) signals, cut into the ‘safe space’ between you and another vehicle or drift from one lane to another on the interstate. Safe RV driving starts with the purchase of a rig and, short of a CDL license course, the only way to learn to drive one is by doing it. However, do it safely!
If you’re new to RV ownership or if you have upgraded size, or are pulling a trailer for the first time go to a large empty parking lot for a test drive. Weight is a major factor with a fully loaded rig and you must be prepared for differences in how it corners as you are moving. Remember safe operation is starting, stopping and turning safely.
Proper use and adjustment of mirrors helps reduce blind spots. Learn to navigate with cones and non-threatening obstacles. If you practice with this you can move an orange cone – you can’t move a tree! It helps you to make a mistake and correct it – and make fewer mistakes when it counts!
Many RVs travel overweight due to it being a rolling home as well as ‘hidden’ weight of fuel and water storage tanks. Remember the height difference not only for clearance on overpasses, trees and other obstructions but also heed those wind warnings! These two things account for many accidents.
Few RV parks haven’t heard “oh I can’t back this up!” prompting fellow drivers to comment “if you can’t drive it backwards you shouldn’t drive it forwards!” It does take practice and care especially in parks and parking lots where it is too easy for children or pets to get behind you.
Often when turning off the roadway there are dips going into driveways. Remember the long wheelbase on a rig and approach driveways at an angle to avoid damage to the rig.
Pay attention to weather signs and road conditions and if you travel in areas the weather varies invest in a thermometer that reads the outdoor temperature. This allows for safe monitoring of temperatures that allows extra caution for ice, especially black ice. Black ice is dangerous in a car but in a larger rig it can be deadly with a large rig. In mountain country pay special attention to brakes and use a lower gear to absorb some of the strain, Use a “runaway truck” ramp if the brakes fail.
A friend has a pre-drive check before taking off that takes a few minutes but can save lives and money. Walk around the rig, checking tires both on the rig as well as trailer if pulling one and make sure there is no fluid under the rig. Check the trailer hitch, chains and lights to make sure they are securely on. If you are leaving after a break check to make sure your antenna is down…it’s surprising how easy it is to forget that and drive off! Make sure that all water, sewer and power lines are disconnected and jacks pulled up to prevent damage to equipment.
Regularly checking oil, transmission and fluid levels lets you know what is ‘normal’ for your vehicle as well as catching small issues before they become big ones.
Take regular rest breaks and drive defensively. Learn to handle your rig safely in all conditions and learn when it’s safer to park it than keep going. Be safe out there!