As a commercial truck driver, you may come to dread RV season, the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the inexperienced RV crowd takes to the road for summer vacations. While any individual RV you come across on the road may or may not be a hazard, here are some tips to avoid trouble during this time of year.
First, assume that people don’t know what they are doing. With that assumption, it is far less likely you will be surprised by something a nearby RV driver does. To be fair, it is an accurate assumption as many RVs are rentals driven by people with no experience driving anything larger than a compact car. This way you will be better prepared if something does happen and you can better position yourself to prevent catastrophe.
Making The Roads Safe During RV Season
Commercial truck drivers have an opportunity to make the road a safer place by driving with an attitude of mutual respect. Although it can easy to feel like the king of the road, you can use the power of your size to block traffic strategically to give an RV time to exit a busy gas station or make room for a vehicle to squeeze in at a lane closure. Though you may be focused on making miles, driving this way allows you to lead by example and efficiently, and sometimes these seemingly small gestures can make a big difference.
On the other hand, there are a few avoidable situations which can cause problems. One of the most potentially catastrophic is passing on the right. Many RVs, or vehicles towing RV trailers, are not equipped with good mirrors. This means many RV drivers are operating with huge blind spots, particularly on the right-hand side. By passing on the right, you are entering the area where you are most likely to be hit during a lane change. Large commercial trucks also have a suction effect on the RV they are passing. If the driver of the RV does not see the commercial truck on the right-hand side, they cannot prepare to compensate for that suction effect. This could draw them into the truck and cause an accident. This is particularly true for travel trailer style RVs or novice RV drivers who have no experience dealing with this issue or who have not installed the proper hitch set-ups to minimize it.
Along those same lines, try to avoid boxing RVs in. This is when two trucks are passing at the same time, one on each side. This can create a dangerous sway inducing situation, particularly with travel trailers, while leaving the RV driver with little to no room for corrective action. If possible, move over to pass on the left. Alternatively, if there is a 4th lane available use it to give the RV that extra lane of cushion space.
Many new RVers have difficulty judging distance when passing. If an RV passes your truck and remains in the left lane signaling, they plan to merge in front of you but don’t they are probably not sure they are far enough ahead to safely merge. If they are, a quick headlight flash can signal to them that it’s safe.
If you want to avoid RVs altogether, or at least as much as possible, you can travel at off hours. Most RV travelers will be on road between about 7am and 7pm. In fact, many try to be at their destination and set-up for dinner, which typically means getting off the road by 4pm. That leaves the later evening and nighttime hours relatively RV free. Many, long-term truck drivers will consistently travel late at night or during the early morning to avoid RVs, along with the worst of traffic congestion, construction, and other issues. Of course, it is not always possible depending on where the load is going and when. Still, in tourist areas, it is possible to save hours of travel time by staying off the road during peak hours.
Dealing with the masses of RVs on the roads during peak season can be challenging for a commercial truck driver. With many of those RVers lacking experience, it can also lead to dangerous situations. With patience, courtesy and possible modification to your driving schedule, many of these issues can be avoided.