Whether you are a seasoned RV adventurer or are just now breaking in a new RV, it is incredibly important to know the fundamentals of driving your rig. RVs come in a multitude of shapes and sizes, so the first step to successful RV driving is familiarity with your vehicle’s dimensions! As you may already know, motorhomes are separated into specific classes and are often distinguished by their length. With variations as wide as the difference between a 24-foot, class B motorhome and a 44-foot class A, it’s obvious that good driving technique ranges greatly from vehicle to vehicle. So, where do we start? First and foremost, always adjust your mirrors before leaving for any destination, whether it is a state away or just down the driveway. A third of all accidents happen from behind the vehicle, so it is important to get as much visibility back there as possible!
When it comes to familiarizing yourself with your RV, I can think of no better option than to take the RV to an empty public parking lot. If possible, purchase a few safety cones, or even a tub of chalk, to simulate a practice track. On this track, it is a good idea to practice making tight turns, parallel parking, and communicating with your spotter. Though practicing on a track is not the same as hitting the open road, practice will ingrain these movements into your muscle memory. When you do need to execute one of these maneuvers, you will be happy that the movements will not feel so foreign!
Learning how to make tight turns can be frustrating especially if you are not used to driving a larger vehicle. Turning radii can vary from motorhome to motorhome so it is crucial to identify where the pivot point is on your vehicle. A pivot point is the fixed point on a vehicle at which it will begin to rotate. So where exactly is the pivot point on your vehicle? While practicing, lock the steering wheel in a turning position and take note of where exactly your vehicle starts to turn. This spot is very important as it will indicate how much further you need to move in order to initiate a turn safely. However, knowing the pivot point of your vehicle is only the first step in learning how to make a turn safely. Drivers must also become familiar with the distance a vehicle must move forward in order to initiate a turn. The Family Motor Coach Association calls this distance the “turn offset” of a vehicle. But how do you find your vehicle’s turn offset? A good rule to follow would be to always move forward until any obstacles are behind the pivot point. That way, the vehicle will move forward and will pivot as soon as any obstacles are cleared.
Lastly, a huge issue to be weary of when driving an RV is height and common height limitations. Tunnels and bridges must post the height restrictions of every overpass, so it is your responsibility to know exactly how tall your RV is, and what the safe limitation for you to drive through is. If an overpass seems too small for your vehicle, it is always best practice to find a detour—guessing can be costly and dangerous!
While the rules of RV driving may sound complicated, I assure you that things will make more sense once you are behind the wheel. As with anything in life, practice makes perfect, and familiarizing yourself with your rig will make driving that much easier. Let us know what you think and share your favorite tips and driving stories in the comments below!