By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Driving a big motorhome or pulling a travel trailer, either way, you’ll quickly find out you don’t have the zip you’re accustomed to in your “4-wheeler.” Still, it is possible to pass slow traffic provided the circumstances allow.
Commercial truck drivers are experienced in passing slow traffic, and they provide some of the best tips for RVers on passing topics. First, you’ve got to know your vehicle. When you have a long empty road ahead of you, put your rig through the paces to see just how fast it will accelerate. With an automatic transmission, slap the accelerator down to the firewall and wind up the engine. Try it on the flat, and then compare how much longer it takes you to build up speed on an upgrade situation. When you know your rig’s capabilities, you’ll be in a much better position to put it into real practice.
When passing, allow yourself plenty of room. Make sure you can see beyond where you think you’ll be returning to your lane–no curves, grades, or blind spots. When preparing to pass, start your “run up” from far behind the vehicle you’re passing, building up the necessary passing speed so you won’t have to spend a lot of time on the other side of the centerline. Don’t run up on the “passee’s” rear bumper–it’s a good way to ask for a “brake check” when the other driver slams on his brakes.
As you pull out over the centerline, turn on your high beams and leave them on until you’re safely back in your own lane. This will give a heads-up to anyone you might not have seen coming your way, allowing them to slow down to allow you to complete a safe pass.
Professional drivers often say it’s often best to simply be patient, rather than risk a pass. They say they often find the slow drivers are ones who are locals or visitors looking for a turn; in either event they’ll likely be turning off soon. If you do happen to decide to pass a semi-truck, one way to ensure a bad reputation is to pass, then slow back down once the pass is made. If you’re following a semi up a grade, it’s often best to simply put up with him–he’ll probably go faster than you once the top of the grade is reached.
Far more often you’ll be the one somebody else wants to pass. Hill climbing can be a real killer for making good time. It seems most auto drivers are far more patient with commercial truck traffic than they are with RVers, even though both are suffering the same problems. In cases like this, it becomes incumbent on us to show a courtesy where we can. Pull to the far right side of the lane to give your tailgating friends a clear view of what’s ahead of you. If there’s a safe turnout, use it.
Next time we’ll talk about making turns while pulling trailers.
If you missed our last installment on dealing with the “largeness” of an RV, you can catch up here.