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Can you drive a Class A RV? Here are tips to get you started

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Many folks, on “thinking” about getting their first Class A motorhome, are a bit intimidated. After all, they’re so BIG! However do you pilot that big thing down the road? How could you ever get comfortable maneuvering so much mass? Here’s some advice from those who’ve made the big leap and now are proud pilots of those big coaches.

Getting started

Like any other RV, one of the best things to do is to find a big empty parking lot and start “getting the feel for it.” Set up safety cones (or cardboard boxes) and get the firsthand feel for turning, backing and maneuvering.

If you’ve experienced other, “smaller” RVs, then you already have a handle on moving up to the bigger coach. Just understand that acceleration is a bit slower, stopping distances are longer, and that gauging your turns is a bit different. With the longer wheelbase, the tendency of newbies is to “oversteer.” Practice moving the rig over and you may find out how little wheel movement it takes to actually move it – it just takes a little longer for the whole bus to come with you.

The rear-wheel overhang may be one of the biggest problems a Class A driver has to overcome. The distance from your rear axle out to the end of the coach makes for a much wider “tail swing.” In close quarters, like at a fuel station, it can make for a real problem. If you swing too narrow, you may find yourself hanging up the rear of your coach on the pump or other obstruction. It’s essential that you LOOK in the rearview mirror as you pull out away from an object while swinging a turn.

Have plenty of mirrors on the Class A

And on the subject of mirrors, hopefully you’ll have more than one per side on your rig. Adjust one of the right-side mirrors a bit “in” so you can spot people riding in your blind spot. Or add on a BIG convex mirror.

In the parking lot, find a straight curb you can park next to – passenger side to the curb. Look in the mirror to see your distance from the curb and get up close. Now, sitting at the wheel, look ahead and try to imagine how close you are to the edge of the lane at your right. You may find it helpful to have an assistant put a piece of tape on the bottom of your windshield at a point that lines up with your right side. By looking at the tape when on the road, you’ll have a good idea where the right side is. This is especially helpful on the road where there’s no shoulder or in a tight construction zone.

Before taking off on a long trip, try making a couple of short day trips. This will give you an opportunity to really get the feel of your rig without the pressure of time hanging over your head. Try and include different driving environments in these trips – straightaways, curves, and a little hill climbing/descending where possible.

On the road

With your position in the driver seat being a bit different than in a car, truck, or Class C motorhome, your perspective on turns is different, too. You’ll be able to run your nose ahead a little farther than you’re used to. One Class A pilot puts it this way: “Since your seat is ahead of the wheel, once your butt is past the corner, you can really crank the wheel.” Yeah, but watch that tail swing!

Lane placement is a bit different as your coach may be wider than what you’re accustomed to. This is particularly so if you’ve never driven an RV and are used to a car width. Again, keep an eye on your mirrors and see where your coach rides (hopefully) inside the white lines. When driving ahead, keeping your eye on the center of the lane ahead of you will help.

While some RVers, in an attempt to be “helpful,” suggest staying out of the far right lane on the freeway, you’ll find yourself better off in the right, except when passing. No matter how fast you drive, there’ll always be somebody who drives faster. Let ’em pass! Better to have them pass on your left than to zoom past on the right. Take a tip from the big commercial rigs. The only exception may be when there’s a huge amount of traffic merging onto the freeway, or, of course, when your lane will soon become an “exit only.” And staying to the right prevents that sinking feeling of being “stuck between two trucks.”

Take your time making a turn

When the time comes to make a turn, you may find it much easier to make a left turn than a right turn. That’s OK – just slow down and be deliberate. If you have to stop in the turn, that’s fine too. Better to hold up traffic for a minute than to forge ahead and end up with a huge body repair bill.

Pay attention to the weather. Your rig has a much bigger profile, and that’s somehow attractive to high winds. Every year on Interstate 40 in Arizona near Winslow, you’ll find reports of semi-trucks being blown over by high winds. Don’t join them. If high winds threaten, pull off the highway and wait them out.

Look ahead – way ahead. This will help you with lane placement, and you’ll find you’re a lot less tired at the end of day by not fighting the wheel. And looking ahead helps with stopping distance – and you want plenty of that. If somebody drops in ahead of you, simply back off and recreate that big buffer space.

Parking your Class A at the campground

Always use a spotter when backing up. Go SLOW and swivel your head between side mirrors and backup camera. And don’t forget: You CANNOT back up with a “toad car.” If you need to back in, unhitch and “drop” the toad first.

Yes, it takes practice to get into a “back-in” site. At first, you may be best to use pull-though sites, particularly when trying to set up camp after dark.

And if you’re in the shotgun seat

It can be a bit disconcerting to ride in the passenger seat – your perspective on lane placement can initially be nerve-wracking. You may feel that the driver has you “way off the road” and onto the shoulder. Don’t let your eyes fool you. If you can feel the rumble strips, yeah, it’s time to speak up.

Related:

Lane-savvy driving – The safe way to travel
RV Driving School

##RVDT1755

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Larry V
9 months ago

Thanks RV Travel……this article was informative, and the comments were very helpful too. But best of all, there were NO politics or mean talk either.

Joe
9 months ago

Some states require that you have a class A or B non commercial drivers license and it depends on your motorhomes weight and if towing the weight of the toad. As an example Pennsylvania requires a class B if your motorhome GVWR exceeds 26,000 lbs while towing less than 10,000 lbs. if you tow over 10,000 pounds then you need a class A license Get in an accident and you do not have the proper license you could face a fine and have issues with your insurance carrier.

Drew
9 months ago

I think you either know it or you’ll always struggle….sorry.

Ln Em
9 months ago

i’m not sure if i correctly read the ” Class A pilot” remark about “your butt being past the corner so you can really crank the wheel”, but this remark badly and dangerously ignores the fact that the rear wheels of a long wheelbase vehicle will turn a more severe inside track. there is great danger then of at best running your wheels up over the curb or at worst striking something near the point of the turn

Last edited 9 months ago by Ln Em
Pat K
9 months ago

if there are two RVers traveling, make sure both feel comfortable driving the RV. Never know what’s going to happen on a trip and one may become unable to drive – has happened to us twice in the last 15 years.

George Pennington
9 months ago

In the Province of British Columbia if the Class A has air brakes you need a air brake endorsement on your license and if over a certain weight (I think it’s 10,500 lbs) you need a RV code on your license, which requires a test!

Jane
9 months ago

There are some excellent videos on YouTube. I found RVgeeks, RV Masters to be very well done and informative. I’m sure there are others. How to set your mirrors, turning, backing, tail swing, the blind spot in FRONT of the RV (some else did make a good comment on this below)…Then we went to the local school parking lot and we both practiced a LOT. Another thing we did was to turn in a tight circle in the parking lot to see just how big the smallest possible circle would be. It puts into perspective how much room you need for turning. Planning is essential. I’d advise getting a GPS for an RV. Ours can entire your parameters for two different vehicles, just make sure you have it set on the correct vehicle you are driving!

Dr..Mike
9 months ago

When my wife and I decided we were going to look for a class A, I rented a 38 foot box truck and drove. I drove in the city. I drove on the highway. I drove at night. I drove through my subdivision. I did this for five weekends. When I climbed aboard the coach we actually ended up getting, it was just a few additional feet and I was good to go.

Don
9 months ago

All good points. But let’s not forget that backing a Class A is actually way EASIER than backing a 5’er. You can ALWAYS see both sides of your Class A. Not so as soon as the 5’er starts the turn…

Bob p
9 months ago

An additional hint on driving a rig, when adjusting your mirrors adjust them to where you can’t see the side of you rig without tilting your head slightly in the direction towards the mirror. You all ready know what color the side of your rig is so there isn’t any need to see any part of your rig and it’ll give you a much better view of what’s coming up behind you. I have seen so many mirrors adjusted where half the viewing surface is looking at the side of the vehicle. A clarification of the tape on the windshield is have your assistant place the tape in your line of vision in reference to the edge of the road. One more tip drive your rig up behind a parked car until you can just barely see the point of contact of the car tires with the road through the bottom of your windshield. This will give you the necessary clearance to get around that car if it should stall and be holding up traffic, this should be about 20’ giving you plenty of turning room, remember you can’t back up.

Dan
9 months ago

One other thing to consider is the height of your vehicle, with any RV, but especially a Class A. I had to buy a sign once years ago because I misjudged its height. In spite of my careful watching, I only thought I could go underneath the sign.
As for staying in the right hand lane, that’s the law in most states for divided highways, except in urban areas. I admit that I do try to merge to the left when I’m approaching an on ramp.

Dr4Film
9 months ago

I have owned and driven a 40 foot Monaco motor-coach all over this country for the past 18 years. Many of those years I towed a 30 foot cargo trailer behind me. I have gotten myself into some pretty tight situations at times but the best thing is to NOT panic. Things I have learned is to always look for adequate ingress and egress locations before deciding to just head on into where you plan to go. I use Google Satellite Maps a LOT to preview locations. Plus three left hand turns can equal one difficult right hand turn, When in doubt don’t do it. I did get myself into a situation due to my GPS mapping having the wrong coordinates. It was a Cul-de-Sac but with the help of some local people I was able to pull into one driveway far enough to allow me to back up into an opposing driveway so I could turnaround and head back out. I am now moving up to a 42 foot Monaco coach with a tag axle. A little more extra comfort plus a more stable ride with the tag axle. Also, a two stage engine brake

Last edited 9 months ago by Dr4Film
Willie Fields
3 years ago

I drive a 40′ pusher, going on 12 years. I find when passing through larger urban areas where there are many freeway entrance ramps, I prefer the left or middle lane to avoid having to slow down or change lanes for merging traffic. When in a rural area the right lane works.

Ronald cardy
5 years ago

I am at a loss on the tape part on the right hand side windshield just where is the placement of it. We have a new to us 35 foot class A hope I have asked this in the way thanks Ronnie

Dan Carioggia
5 years ago

My wife and I did a lot of research before getting our first RV. It was a Jayco 29MV Class C motorhome. We loved that the closed up space was still large and could accommodate our dog. Our first trip was a success, but left us wanting for more. When we got back home we traded it in for a Jayco Class A Precept motorhome. The test drive was revealing. The Class A was built on a larger platform and the whole unit felt much more solid and stable. It was also easier to drive down the highway as the Class C had a tendency to wander in the lane but the Class A did not. I hope this helps if you are trying to decide between the two.

Jacques
5 years ago

I agree. The $500 each that my wife and I spent at a driving school was invaluable before we headed out on the road to live full time in our 41′ Class A diesel pusher. They tailored the course for what was relevant to us and got us ready to pass the Province of Ontario written and practical driving tests that we needed for our size of rig. They even did all the practical driving hours in our own rig. It gave us the confidence we needed to be relaxed out on the road.

Robert
5 years ago

As someone who is training to drive tractor trailers
And owns a 26′ 5th wheel. (Which is considered a small RV) its somewhat crazy to let someone just
Hop into a 40′ bus and drive. A week long course minimum should be part of the sales process IMHO.

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