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Maneuvering big RVs in tight fuel stops

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
While having a larger motorhome or towing a bigger trailer has its share of “pluses,” along with the increased length comes what for some is a “problem set.” When it’s time to fuel up your rig, getting in and out of the fuel station can become anything between a challenge and a nightmare. Swinging your rig around in a confined, tight area with plenty of “targets” you can hit can make even some experienced RVers break out in a sweat. What can you do to make fueling up easier?

Planning ahead can considerably reduce the anxiety level. If you fill up your tow rig while unhitched, that’s a great plus. Of course, on long runs you’ll no doubt have to fill while hitched up. Some thinking about the layout of the fuel station can make life easier. As an example, you’ll usually find that fuel stations where the fuel islands are parallel to the street access are easier to get in and out of. If the islands are perpendicular to the front of the building, then – unless there’s a pretty fair amount of space between the fuel islands and the building – you may have far more trouble maneuvering.

So here’s where a little advance planning can help – with technology. If you have a fair idea of your routing, use your Gas Buddy to help you find those great fuel prices, and look to see if there’s a photo of the fuel station available – in many instances there are pictures posted by users. Does the photo indicate the fuel island layout? Another techno application that can help: Google Streets and Maps. Bring up the street address of the station, then use “satellite view” and zoom down to where you can see the layout of the station. Advance planning also means fueling up before you’re at the panic level. One RVer says he fills up when he’s around 100 miles of an empty tank.

Some stations naturally lend themselves to RV-friendliness. Most Flying J truck stops have designated RV islands, designed for getting big rigs in and out with ease. It helps here, too, that these islands have both gasoline and diesel. That’s great if your motorhome motivates on diesel, while your toad car (which you forgot to fill up before hitching up) desires gasoline. If your only interest is in diesel, then fueling up on the truck island will make access and egress a breeze.

If you do find yourself at a fuel station where you’ll need to make a turn to get out of the island, it’s best to not pull in too close to the fuel island. Try and allow yourself three feet between the side of your rig and the island. That will make it easier to turn the rig without fighting tail-swing – and it’ll make accessing your basement storage (if needed) much easier. Of course, you may cause a bit of inconvenience to the folks using the next island over, so if you can, use an outside island (which makes getting out even easier). If you’re on the inside, by all means, stay with your rig while you fuel and then get thee away from the island as soon as you’ve completed fueling – makes for good “RV public relations.”

Other tricks? Some RVers suggest that if the prices are fairly close, you may be better off spending a few cents per gallon more for fuel to have the choice of easier in-and-outing.

If you find yourself in a station where the islands are perpendicular to the building and it looks just “too tight” to get out, it may be easier to back your rig out, provided you don’t have a toad behind you that prevents it.

If you use the guidebook “The Next Exit,” you’ll find stations that are RV-friendly outlined in red print. And another thought on advance planning. If you’ll be back this way, make notes on stations that are easy (or difficult) to get in and out of.

Related:

Useful RV applications of Google Earth, Part 3: Fuel stations

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Herb Dula
15 days ago

I have been filling my 36’MH and now my 40′ MH for 15 years mostly at Kroger fuel centers. Never an issue. Yes some right but was able to fuel up. Just yesterday in Waycross, Ga. $1.31 per gallon.

Larry Lee
19 days ago

I don’t buy diesel for my 40 foot motorhome at truck stops and it has nothing to do with price or discounts. Truck stops typically sell 20 percent biodiesel. And you say, ”That’s good, right?” I say, “No that’s bad” because it requires you to change the fuel and oil filters more often and there goes your savings. Check your owners manual. No truck stops for me. I use gas buddy and Google maps and am able to buy brand name fuel at a good price with easy access. Preplan the fuel stop before leaving in the morning and/or fuel up before pulling into the campground for the night. One other tip: watch out for brand name stations that sell brand name gas but have unusually low diesel price because the diesel is not brand name. Not mentioning any brands by name but it rhymes with bell. Lastly, join the brand name fuel clubs and get 5 cents per gallon off plus use a Costco executive card and get another 4 percent rebated yearly. Happy trails.

Paul
20 days ago

I use RVTripWizard with my reserve set to 40% (in my case 40 Gal). Before I start my engine for the day I look for my intended refueling stop within 50 miles +- of that reserve limit using Open Road App from TSD. That is the first stop I put in my Garmin. Sometimes it happens that the stop I have chosen is inaccessible for some reason such as construction. I have up to 250 miles still in the tank which greatly reduces stress at that point. I stop and locate my next fueling option. When I was driving a gasser I did pretty much the same thing only with a 75 gal tank and only using 7 miles/gallon (and having to actually calculate it since 10 years ago there was no RVTW).

Bill
20 days ago

Seems a lot easier to just get a smaller rig (Says the Class B driver).

Jim G.
20 days ago
Reply to  Bill

Go back and read the title to the article.

Tom
20 days ago

It’s not only tight areas around the pumps that make getting out hard, it’s also the inconsiderate drivers who park on your back bumper waiting to gas up next.

John Carroll
20 days ago

Don’t forget the roof height at the pump islands!

Donald N Wright
20 days ago

Some of us use gasoline, not diesel. I wish truck stops had a lane for us, with 87, 89, & 92 octane pumps available.

Lisa Adcox
20 days ago

We found a couple in New Mexico and TX who had lanes like that. Also a couple that had no attendants with huge areas to get in and out.

RallyAce
20 days ago

I use the price vs ease of access method. If the gas is a nickel a gallon more, 55 gallons is only an additional $2.75 a tank more. Now I decide if the degree of difficulty is worth the cost of a two cups of coffee.

Phil Atterbery
20 days ago

Another factor that makes maneuvering a 60ft of rig out of a tight station easier is your ablity to move in reverse.

Marc Cloutier
20 days ago

If your pulling with a diesel or driving a diesel pusher, get yourself a TSD logistics fleet fuel card. You get their discount, often .15-.30c/gallon! And you get to use commercial truck lanes so no worries about maneuvering. I tow a 40 foot 5th and stick to using truck stops when I have to fuel while hitched.

Gayle V.
20 days ago
Reply to  Marc Cloutier

Ditto, same here.

Bob p
20 days ago

Of course there is another option… learn to drive your rig by taking it to a vacant school parking lot on the weekend and practice practice practice. Now that you’ve bought your monstrous toy learn how to use it. You will enjoy it much more when you KNOW how to master it. Truck drivers don’t magically know how to maneuver their rigs, it takes years to do what they do everyday, and since you don’t do what they do everyday you need to practice. If you only take your rig out several times a year that’s all the more reason to refresh yourself before getting into a tight situation. Have a good day.

wanderer
20 days ago
Reply to  Bob p

I had a small trailer, not a ‘monstrous rig’, and had great difficulty in most of the newer stations where there is little turning space in front of crowded perpendicular pumps. Because I use gas, I did not have access to the giant lots truck drivers use at the diesel pumps.

I spent many, many hours learning to drive and back up. I did not have a lot of talent for it, despite much practice. Some of us are not going to be truckers after practice in countless parking lots. Also, many RV rigs literally cannot back up when towing a toad. If you were a pro, or have talent, or grew up towing a fishing boat around, I guess you can look down on the rest of us if you like, but it’s not helpful.

Bob p
19 days ago
Reply to  wanderer

Anyone can learn to drive their rig, when I was in training to drive semis, there was a young lady in training also. She had never driven anything larger than her Saturn car, she graduated in the same class as I. It’s all in your attitude and the training you get. There are plenty of YouTube videos that give pointers on backing, parking, etc. This AM I watched an RVer leave the park I’m in, he was pulling a midsized 5th wheel probably 35’. A friend was walking along side him guiding him as he had no clue. He was cutting corners the whole 9 yards, he was driving like he didn’t realize he had a trailer behind him. He is a hazard on the road to himself and everyone else.

Don
20 days ago

If your rig needs Diesel, then the easiest (and by far cheapest) way to fuel up is by getting a commercial truckers card from TSD Logistics and always use the truck lanes. Their status as a large fleet truck operator gets them very favorable discounts from many truck stops. And they will make you part of the “fleet” and eligible for those same discounts. All it costs you is 10% of the savings returned to TSD as your fee, and you must link your card to a checking account, as the cost will be debited from that account within a day or two of fueling.
If it sounds good to you (and it should – it saves me hundreds on every long trip) just go here: https://www.tsdlogistics.com/services/fuel-program/. Tell ’em Don Hutchins sent you and I’ll get a small credit for your joining the program.
This is THE way for diesel users to save a bunch of money! 🙂

Dr4Film
20 days ago

I use mostly truck fueling stations. Other times when I choose to use a regular station I will only use those that have the pumps parallel to the road and building or has a separate diesel fueling pumps away from all of the car fueling pumps.

Bill Braniff
20 days ago

I recently purchased a 38 foot fifth wheel. The problem I found was the price of diesel fuel using regular stations, versus truck stops. Truck stops are on the whole up to 20 cents a gallon more or even more in some areas than regular stations. If you can map out regular stations to take your rig do it. On a long trip which I usually take 2000 plus miles it will pay you to do some research.

Marc Cloutier
20 days ago
Reply to  Bill Braniff

TSD Logistics offers commercial fleet fuel cards to RV diesel consumers with their fleet discount included.

Tommy Molnar
20 days ago
Reply to  Bill Braniff

Truck stops are usually my last resort, because as you say, Bill, there are no deals to be had at them. Wherever we stop I try to get the last pump in line so I can swing wide (provided there’s room for that), and usually just pull out on that same side.

steve
20 days ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

I pay much less than advertised at truck stops with the TSD card. Read what Marc said.

Bob p
19 days ago
Reply to  Bill Braniff

Truck stops routinely give trucking companies good discounts to have their company drivers only fuel at certain brand truck stops. If you don’t join TSD then you’re lining the truck stops pockets with gold. Yes their prices are higher but they selling to a captive client, they don’t have to compete. If you’re driving an 80,000 lb 70’ long semi you can’t shop for the best price.