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TOPIC: RV Driving Tips

INSTUCTOR: Bob Gummersall

[Ed Note: While this presentation was done some years ago, the considerations outlined remain useful and valid.]

Moderated forum. Advocate for RV safety. Instructor received his Class B CDL [commecial drivers license] by signing up for substitute school bus driver. Delivered Blue Bird buses from Georgia.

Tips for Safe Driving:

1. Do a personal attitude checkup. Don't drive if you have a bad attitude -- or if your copilot has same. Worst accidents when you're preoccupied, angry, etc.

2. Daily checklist: oil, coolant, hydrolic fluid. Tire pressure. Look for leaking. De-park -- pick up jack pads, jacks up, TV antenna, doors. Lights, turn signals, etc. Start engine, walk around look and listen w/engine running. Parking brake (in gear w/some pressure). Shouldn't move an inch. Test electric brakes on trailer by manually applying brake. Power steering -- crank wheel over each way and listen for unusual noise

3. Take a break at the end of each two hours' of driving. Find a rest stop and walk around. Engine still running, so do a walkaround. Sense heat and note smells.

4. Safe & Legal.-- No state is giving citations for persons w/wrong license. Know your own RV's weight. Engineers are forced to rate things at their top capacity. So really you need to build in your own safety rating by going only to 90% of rating. Salesman will often sell you an RV which is at the ragged limit of weight capacity. Problem is not acceleration, but rather stopping or maneuvering under unusual circumstances.

Need for RV drivers licenses. Should opt for this now before gov't does it. RV training classes now more available. We all need corrective activity. Continuing education should be a part of the RV driver's objective.

Hints on how to do things better:

1. Starting: Go to straight flat quiet road. Do some maximum starts. This tells you what the maximum your rig can do to merge safely. You may find you need more clear space before you attempt to merge.

2. Stopping: Do a panic stop. Same lonely road. Do two in a row, as you need to know what your rig will do with brakes already heated up. By knowing what your rig can and cannot do, you can avoid situations which you can't handle.

3. Turning....High speed lane change. Try it, slowly at first, on a deserted road.

4. Backing up. Try not to do so. Know the turning radius -- again by practice. If you must, do it w/the two party system. Practice communicating! Use finite signs. If solo, stop & go look. Always leave enough space in front of you as front turning space.

5. Freeway driving. Safest is the speed of traffic, rather than posted. If traffic is greater than posted, go w/the flow. You can avoid this freeway phenomenon by driving the blue lines. Pick time of day if you must go through LAX type places. Don't drive at peak traffic times. Practice high speed lane change, as heavy rigs can turn easier than you can stop them.

6. Mountain Driving. Truckers rule is come down the mountain same gear, same speed as you did coming up. Try to keep from using service brakes. Modulate w/trransmission first . This may require downshift as you top the hill.. You can always speed up versus can't always shift down. You don't want to get service brakes hot. Hydroulic brakes -- okay too push slightly, let off. Pulse at low frequency. If air brakes, apply once, leave them depressed at a rate of speed you want to maintain. Don't pump air brakes!

7. Practice driving in "the rut" -- an unpaved shoulder -- with the right front tire. Practice at slow speed. Rut will pull steering wheel right..jerk. As you increase speed, jerk gets stronger. Do NOT turn left. Objective is to steer it straight - avoid jackknife.