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Driving an RV: Why it’s important that all adult passengers know how

It may just be a generational thing. Or a leftover from before the feminist revolution in the ’60s and ’70s thing. I’m talking about the fact that it’s usually the man who drives the RV. At least this is generally what I’ve seen during the years we’ve traveled. It would surely make RV life easier if I shared the driving responsibility, but my husband and I also defaulted to the norm. He drove our first RV and from then on, assumed that responsibility.

Things change

It very well may have continued that way until we hung up the RV keys for good. Except for our trip to Colorado. We were on our way home to Missouri—a 12-hour trip. We got an early start to our day and planned to stop after six hours of driving. About five hours into the drive my husband began to feel drowsy. It was, after all, nothing but Interstate road over mostly flat land. Because I’d practiced driving our RV prior to this trip, I suggested that I take the wheel so he could catch a few winks. Surprisingly, he agreed.

Confidence builds

Yes, at first I was a bit nervous. And no, my husband didn’t sleep much at all. But I really gained confidence in my ability to drive our fifth-wheel rig. Now I recommend that every adult that’s traveling in the RV know how to drive it. Our RV life is easier now because both my husband and I feel comfortable driving our rig.

Here’s how to get started driving an RV

Find a large, empty parking lot. (We used an abandoned shopping mall lot. It worked well because the driving and parking lines were marked. You also could ask permission to use a church parking lot mid-week or a large business parking lot during non-business hours. A high school parking lot after school hours, on the weekend, or during vacation also works well.) First, practice driving in a straight line. Stop and adjust mirrors, if necessary. Then practice making gradual curves, turning corners, and even backing up. All the while, your passenger can offer suggestions and encouragement.

Make RV life easier on the road

I practiced until I felt comfortable with how our rig handled. You can, too. Practicing your driving skills at low speeds will help you get the feel of the RV—how it corners, starts, stops, and more. You can take your time to see how the mirrors and backup camera function. After practicing at low speeds, you’re ready for highway driving. Choose a time when the roadway is the least congested or mostly free of traffic. That way you can accelerate, decelerate, stop and start (not on a freeway or interstate, of course), change lanes, and practice more of the typical driving maneuvers at normal highway speeds.

Benefits of all adults driving an RV

Knowing that either one of us can drive our rig makes RV life easier. We can extend our daily travel time, drive further, and arrive at the campground better rested, even after a full day on the road. How about you? Do both you and your travel buddy take turns driving the RV? Tell us in the comments below.

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LMH
3 months ago

Everyone should be able to drive their RVs. I can drive anything and pretty much have. The RVs have always been in either both mine an my husband’s names or just mine. I tended to drive the RV while my husband drive his truck with his cargo trailer full of his tools for work. I also plotted our trips. So when he died in 2014, I had no problem driving our RV back to the little town one of our daughters lived in. Now she RVs with me and she can also drive pretty much anything as well. She even got licensed to drive the forklift at her work before any of her male co-workers did.

Bob Weinfurt
5 months ago

I totally agree. The only issue is my girlfriend can’t even push a shopping cart without crashing it into something, so I do all the driving.

Julie
5 months ago

As full time travelers, I made it a point to learn to drive with our 5th wheel to share in the driving task. More importantly, to have the ability if it ever became necessity since you never know when illness or injury might occur. I’ve encountered several other full time couples and only one of them drives and encourage they do it, too. Honestly, it’s so much more than a shared task, it’s a safety issue. You don’t want to have to learn in a crisis situation!

Last edited 5 months ago by Julie
Barbara J
5 months ago

Thank you for this article. I have never driven our travel trailer or previous tent trailer. My husband has mentioned my learning but I keep putting it off. The suggestions in this article will really be helpful. I think I’m now brave enough to try!

Jack P
5 months ago

As a 30 yr. traveler, either in a 24 foot power boat or 25 foot Sprinter RV with a toad, I have always asked my wife to pilot/drive some of the time on every trip we take. She is quite willing to help drive, but it is also imperative someone besides me have the skill set to get us home, since we have been in some pretty remote areas, both on the water and in the RV.

Gordy B
5 months ago

Back in the late 80’s & early 90’s my wife rode with me driving semi, you name the direction and we went. On days when I needed sleep she would drive a while. She did not do city traffic or scales (no CDL) and was very good at shifting and keeping it in her own lane. She once drove from Evanston, Wyoming to just West of North Platt Scales in Nebraska while I slept. I woke up only once (2 days with little sleep) and that was going up Sherman Hill west of Cheyenne, Wyoming. She was on the radio telling another driver to “move over, I’m a coming thru” and grabbing another gear! She is 5′ 2″ and 110. She had no problems. But when I asked her to drive our Chevy diesel dually she said “NO” and don’t even think about it with a trailer! She will not drive our 3/4 ton Silverado we have now, but she loved driving that big Peterbilt with a 53′ trailer. I will never understand how the mind of a woman works! But I know that in a pinch, she can do it!

Michael Galvin, PhD
5 months ago

My wife doesn’t like the way I drive the car or the Class C, so she drives. I love it; i get to drink my coffee, watch the scenery, find the next campsite and fuel station on my phone, check emails, look up nearby sights.

John Boy
5 months ago

Ever since we started Rving in 2003 from a 24′ TT to a 35″ 5th wheel being pulled by 3500 dually and now our Jayco Seneca my wife has and wanted to share in the drive. By doing so we can drive further and safer. We live in Colorado and she has driven up and down many of the passes we go through with no issues and she’s 5’3″ and 105 lbs. LOL

Bob M
5 months ago

I have a better chance of hitting the lottery than getting my wife to drive my truck towing our travel trailer. She also drives me crazy when shes driving. Have AAA RV coverage in case something happens to me.

Steve
5 months ago

My wife wanted an RV so we could take her “retirement trip” to Alaska. But she was never comfortable driving our truck when towing that first 22′ travel trailer. We bought our fifth wheel and a Ram 3/4-ton diesel truck to tow it. She could drive on Interstates, but we switched drivers before going into towns.

When we went to RV shows and dealers to shop motorhomes, we quickly decided she would never be comfortable driving a Class A. I was even intimidated at the thought of driving ~40′ of RV plus a toad. In addition, we are “travelers”, not “campers”, so rarely spend more than two nights in one spot except when snowbirding. We looked at Class B vans, but most had wet baths (a “no deal” for my wife) and were too small to host the grandkids for a weekend, much less a long RV trip. So we tried out a Class C by driving a Cruise America to the Mesa reconditioning center. That was no different than driving our big truck, so she was sold! We now have a Class C Sprinter motorhome.

John Koenig
5 months ago

I know SEVERAL people who, while on the road, suffered injuries that prevented them from safely driving their RV. Falls are a common cause of strained / sprained / broken body parts. In some of those cases, the wife knew how to safely drive their rig. In one case, the wife was untrained & unprepared to take over driving duties. Not a good situation to find yourself in. Escapees (and I believe FMCA) members have a perk whereby a TRAINED driver will respond and get your rig safely home (or to a place of safety where you can recover / heal). The member IS responsible for the costs incurred (getting to you, fuel, tolls etc) but, you and your rig will be in good hands. That alone is worth the cost of membership as far as I’m concerned.

tom
5 months ago
Reply to  John Koenig

Yes. You really do need a plan.

Pat
5 months ago

We switch off driving our class A diesel every 2 hours, or so. I back in (we have an excellent process for that that doesn’t involve yelling or crazy gestures). He puts out the blocks for the lifts and I ready the coach and deploy the slides. It works for us.

Charles Howard
5 months ago

As a man I always drive pulling our Fifth Wheel. However, unless our destination has a Pull-Through site, DW (who was raised on a farm) takes over to park (back in) the Fiver. Reasonable trade-off for us.

wanderer
5 months ago
Reply to  Charles Howard

That’s cool, but she could use an afternoon of learning how to drive highways in mountainy areas. That’s when it’s really important to have a bit of training.

travelingjw
5 months ago

First, as soon as we purchased our trailer, we signed my wife up for a driving class. We both admitted that while I had the skills to teach her, the instruction from a professional would be better. He was an awesome instructor. He took her on country roads that she admits she would have refused to drive upon had I told her to try them. She gained the confidence and knowledge she needed. She will drive when needed and it makes life much easier. I drive because I enjoy driving, she drives when she is asked; or, we just pull off for a rest if neither of us are ready at the moment. Bottom line, in an emergency she needs to be able to drive if need be.

David Ozanne
5 months ago

What I have seen lately is that more ladies are driving RV’s

wanderer
5 months ago
Reply to  David Ozanne

Yes, but nothing sadder than the senior woman who suddenly finds herself alone and HAS to give up RVing because she didn’t learn how to maneuver years before. Some people need a wake-up call.

Diane Mc
5 months ago

Been sharing the driving for the 26 yrs we’ve been RVing. We plan our days so my husband can drive the section if we have to go through/around major cities. Houston & San Antonio on our trip to FL every winter. Just don’t feel comfortable with lots of merging vehicles. We take bypasses & have documented when to start moving over, which lanes to be in, etc. Very helpful when you only make those trips twice in a year (going, coming home).

LeliaD
5 months ago
Reply to  Diane Mc

How do you find out in advance such things as on which side the interstate exit you want is? Is there a app for that or a map?

Michael Galvin, PhD
5 months ago
Reply to  LeliaD

Google maps.

Ron Lane
5 months ago

That’s all fine and dandy, but my darling wife flatly refuses to drive our 44′ DP even tho she is an excellent driver of our autos.

LeliaD
5 months ago
Reply to  Ron Lane

Find a way to convince her. Take her to a large empty parking lot and teach her or get a professional instructor. What if you had a heart attack or stroke or suddently became ill while driving? She would need to be able to grab the steering wheel and get your foot off the gas, then stop the RV, at least! She won’t have to drive all the time, but she should practice doing so frequently, in case of emergency.

Andrea
5 months ago

When we’re in a vehicle together, my husband usually does the driving, in part because he’s just not that happy a passenger. I do know how to tow our travel trailer, as I did with our popups, for safety and because I do take trips without him. On occasion, I will spell him on trips, if he’s not feeling well or something.
A friend and I will be taking a couple of ladies’ trips this year, and she will probably do a section or two of driving. She has driven my truck, I think has done one leg towing on a previous trip, and wants her own travel trailer one of these days. We just need to get her more used to towing.
What I need to do with her is not towing, but camp set-up – I have a solo routine, and a routine with my husband, but find it harder to assign tasks to her without losing place on my mental list.(I used to have a written list, so may do that again.)

wanderer
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrea

Yes, write yours down! That way she will learn to make her own checklist when she gets her own rig.

Billyb
5 months ago

HRH always tells me how to Drive!! Good Thing I turn my Ears OFF!!
However, when She Drives it is Too Funny!!
She drive’s like a “Bat Out of Hell!!”
Clearly, on a Mission. To where I do not know!
& God Forbid; somebody cuts in front of her as I notice our Speed seems to increase.
Often it just so She can Test our Horn.
Do say I just sit in the Passenger’s Seat & Smile & Laff to myself!!

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