Warmer weather means prime moving and vacation season for the average family. During this time, trucker drivers begin sharing the roads with other larger vehicles like campers, recreational vehicles (RVs), and U-Hauls. Most professional and non-professional drivers are responsible, respectful, and courteous until provoked. I can attest – truckers just want to make it home safely while still providing for their families. Professional drivers don’t set out on their day to make yours worse. Unfortunately, nothing hurts our bottom line more than a lack of respect when the unspoken rules of the road fall by the wayside. As a reminder of road etiquette, we came up with a few tips for non-professional drivers in larger vehicles like campers and RVs who are sharing the roadways with the big trucks this season. This is so we can make the roads not only a safer place, but also a more friendly one.
Our first tip comes from our good friend and fellow truck driver, Wendy Lawson. She suggests, “before stepping onto the roadways taking a driver’s course in handling large vehicles BEFORE you take your RV out for the first trip.” Most trucking and driving schools offer quick low cost options. Some insurance companies may offer discounts for taking one too.
Speaking of drivability, veteran trucker and Twitter friend, Mark Hall, suggests “Some of the most dangerous accidents I’ve witnessed with campers are those without stabilizers, so when you are pulling a camper, invest in the stabilizer bars! Less swaying, better drivability.”
Nothing worse than being an accident waiting to happen with faulty equipment. Truckers have to do a pre and post trip inspections before and after driving each day. This includes inspecting the braking system, tires, engine, and simple things like wiper blades and fluids. As professional drivers we can expect random inspections by any Department of Transportation officer at any time. We also have our trailers inspected by mechanics each time we go through our yard on top of the daily pre and post trips. We suggest you do the same before setting out on your RV adventures or cross country move. Also, don’t assume where you’ve rented the u-haul always has you covered. Take a quick walk around every hundred miles or so, check the tire pressure, and simply listening for unusual noises can go a long way.
Pre-tripping your vehicle can save your family a huge bill later. Trucker Wendy also told us, she “sees more ladders hanging off the roof, bikes dragging the ground, luggage flapping, tires wobbling off the axle.” Better safe than sorry by taking a quick look around before that ladder crashes through another drivers window. Ouch!
Parking in public spaces
Truckers know the struggle that finding parking brings. It’s always been an issue. With electronic logs now fully in effect, parking is a bigger concern and always top of mind when a professional truck driver attempts to plan their day. As if that is always possible ;).
Imagine working an exhausting 14 hour day and pulling up to your house and finding someone else parked in your spot. That’s what it’s like when truckers pull into a rest area or truck stop and sees a RV, camper or u-haul taking up a precious space. Especially when they can fit into a regular space. We understand if your RV just can’t fit, but don’t park a small van or u-haul in a large truck space. You might find a few flat tires in the morning.
Truck drivers can’t just park anywhere. We have a truck and trailer to maneuver. Most truck stops are full by 7pm or earlier on opposite coasts. Truck stops now offer paid spots that go for $12-15 or more for one night. That’s just not cost effective for every driver, every night they’re out. Rest areas fill up fast too. Most customers won’t let you park on their property after your pick up or deliver. Some towns don’t have truck stops within 100 mile radius because the townspeople want their goods, but not the noise they think a stop will bring. Most Walmart’s will boot your truck even if you’ve stopped for groceries and have their freight in your trailer! Besides, a grocery store shouldn’t have to be used as a truck stop anyway. No matter how large the parking lot is.
Drivers just don’t have many options for safe parking. We can’t just pull into any hotel or parking lot for the night. We can’t park on the side of the road. If we do, we will be ticketed if the state does not allow. Besides, on-ramp parking just isn’t safe for any vehicle. Truckers need their rest.
If you’re a RV, camper, or u-haul planning your trip, pay for an actual rv campground spot or park in a car spot. Or even a hotel parking lot. The average RV, camper and u-haul can fit into a regular spot. And why park at a public rest area or truck stop when you can park at a campground and convene in nature without all the smells and noisey distractions a public truck stop or rest area can bring?
Truckers are required by federal law to take a 10 hour rest break. Which brings hefty fine if we have to move or go past that clock if we can’t find a safe place to park. Sure, rest areas and truck stops are public spaces, but we sacrifice leaving our families and working hard to deliver goods to families just like yours. You are not working. You are on vacation. Please don’t take our spots.
Does it fit?
If you can’t park it, you shouldn’t be driving it. Don’t take up two spots at rest areas and truck stops. Be respectful and stay within the lines. I’m sure that RV was a great idea when you took it for a test ride. But please make sure you can park it in a straight line before parking for the night or taking a break. This goes especially for u-hauls or RVs that are hauling a car behind them. Take a moment to get it straight in your space before you end up with a missing mirror or bumper by accident. Don’t forget you need more room for your vehicle to turn. As big as a tractor trailer, you can imagine how far it has to swing out to fit into that spot. So give the truckers some room and don’t take up two or more spaces.
Fuel time not break time
Pull forward in diesel islands after fueling or park it and go inside. Nothing irks a trucker more than waiting 20 minutes for you to fuel up, only to wait another 30 minutes while you go inside for snacks. Please pull forward so they can fuel and get back to work. Or use the diesel pumps on the car side.
Wendy gave us another tip we didn’t think of, “when stopping at the truck stop, don’t park diagonally across the driveway that’s exiting the fuel lanes blocking everyone while you wait for your party to come back out.” It takes a few extra minutes to park in space and go inside. Again, truckers are fighting a clock, every second counts.
Driving – move it or lose it
My husband always says, get on the freeway like you mean it! Traffic on the freeway has the right of way. “There is no law that requires a driver occupying the right lane on the freeway to move over, slow down or take any other action to let a merging vehicle on the freeway.” If you’re faster than a semi truck, merge onto the freeway and step on it. Don’t act like a deer caught in headlights and brake check a truck or slam on your brakes mid-merge so they can pass you because you’re scared of our size. It may seem like we’re trying to ruin your day, or cut you off, but I can assure you, we’re just trying to get out of your way. Even in an RV or camper, you can usually get up to highway speed much faster than a truck. If a truck slows to let you in, step on it. If a truck keeps going because they can’t stop, don’t road rage them. They didn’t cut you off or not let you in on purpose.
Some states require trucks to stay in the right lane, some don’t allow us in the left and some do. Some states limit our speeds to 55mph, some don’t. Some companies govern trucks anywhere from 62-72mph. And some don’t have governed speeds and can blow your doors off.
It’s your fault for not knowing the rules of the road, not the trucker for being in your way. Your camper, RV or u-haul should be up to highway speed by the end of the entrance ramp while getting on the freeway. If you’re not able, take a side road.
Riding the left lane. It’s common practice and law on US highways is that the left lane is reserved for passing and faster moving traffic. Don’t get into the left lane and go 25 miles per hour and most certainly not up a hill. Don’t get into the left lane to ride it several exits if you can’t pull your camper faster than a semi truck or car. Also, don’t ride the middle lane going 50. The left and middle lanes of a highway are for passing and moving. So use them properly.
Speaking of hills, my husbands, biggest pet peeve is one most of us know, but we still see it happen all the time. Out of nowhere an RV or camper jumps out in front of the truck from the left lane into the right lane to quickly pass another vehicle on a downhill then slows down in front of a semi truck. If a truck is fully loaded, and a vehicle jumps in front on a downhill and slows down, that truck can’t stop as fast as your RV or u-haul can. Step on it, pass, and give a truck room. Extra room. If you can’t, then stay behind us.
We have a good family friend that has been a police officer for over 20 years. Officer Mike Belvians, told us a few tips for highway safety, “Slow down and move over for accidents, workers, emergency and law enforcement. And let the big trucks over too! If a big truck has a turn signal on, and you see flashing lights, that means let them over. Now. It’s takes a few seconds out of your day to be a nice person. The truck and trailer force passing can do more damage to a bystander on the freeway than a smaller vehicle. Don’t speed up so they can’t get over, just let them over and move on with your day.” He also said, “always keep the shoulders clear and don’t ride them to get off a ramp or next exit faster in emergencies and non-emergencies.” How can an emergency vehicle get by and save lives if you’re on the shoulder trying to get off?
Speaking of moving over, stay in your lane while moving. Don’t occupy two lanes on the road or highway. Again, if you can’t maneuver while passing or driving, you don’t need to be driving a vehicle that large. Another tip from our driver friend, Wendy Lawson, she suggests “Stay in your lane by watching what the rear of your vehicle does with all that you’re towing! And don’t forget you need more room for your vehicle to turn and stop. “
A few Basics
Don’t bright me dude. This goes for all vehicles. And my personal tip for RV and camper life folks. It’s dark. You flash your brights at me to come back over. You think it’s okay because other drivers do it to each other. It’s not. And now, we can’t see your vehicle because you’ve blinded us by that flash of bright light. Trust me, any experienced driver is knowledgeable on space management and doesn’t need your bright lights helping them find their way back over or know it’s okay to pass you at night. If you must do this, dim your lights, don’t bright me dude.
Turn on your headlights in the rain. If the wipers are on, your headlights should be too. No headlights, we can’t always see your vehicle in bad weather, no matter your size. Don’t road rage a trucker for coming into your lane because you don’t have your headlights on. It’s your fault for not following the rules of the road.
Not following the rules of the road can mean life or death. Luckily, most of the tips mentioned here are an easy fix if we all take a moment to be mindful that we’re all sharing the road. Not to mention, being mindful of the ladies and gentlemen that make their living on our public roadways is just good karma. So before you start out on your next adventure, study up on rules of the road, take your time, and respect others that share our public highways. Truckers leave their families so you can have all the things you work so hard for. Truckers move America.
Do you have any tips or personal pet peeves for RV, campers, or u-haul renters for driving around big trucks? Share them with us in the comments!