Learning to Drive

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Joenew61

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Mar 8, 2021
Posts
54
Location
Connecticut
We are soon to be first time buyers. After a lot of online research, and a visit to the Hershey show last week, I am pretty sure a large super C is the right rig for us. I am around a year away from retirement (early 60s) and we intend to use it primarily for cross country trips with my wife and I, two dogs, and the occasional guests.

My question is how best to get comfortable with driving a rig that size when the only land vehicles I have ever driven have been cars and SUV's? We have been boaters for 20 years, and when we bought our first boat we also went big, and I just jumped in the deep end, but as other boaters know, as long as you are focused, attentive, and prepared, the only part of the journey where there is any real prior experience or training required is the one minute you spend docking, especially when the winds are blowing and the currents are strong! :)

But I imagine there is a lot more to understanding how to drive a 40' rig with a tow vehicle attached that can't be learned by watching videos or "practicing in your head". We will likely be buying out of the area and the first trip in the rig we buy will be fairly long.

What have others done to get ready for your first time driving? Are there hands on training classes that would be suitable? I know I don't need a CDL, but i would have no problem investing the time and money in similar classes. I imagine there will be orientation and walkthroughs if we buy new, but I'm not sure how much that will simulate what is needed to get across the country.

Others have told me that driving down the highway is really not that different than driving a car, but it's the beginning and end of the trip, local street driving, turns, and parking that would probably require some technique that I don't have yet.

I'd appreciate any insight from others that have been in this situation.

Thanks!
 

Roy M

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May 31, 2017
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1,363
Location
southern British Columbia
Take baby steps until you are comfortable. Can you find nearby campsites off the main highways where you can have weekend getaways far from the madding crowds? 80mph on the interstate with a semi on your tail will be very unerving at best.
 

John From Detroit

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Apr 12, 2005
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25,200
Location
Davison Michigan
The Best way is to go back to Driver's ed. There are RV driver schools.. However that may not be practical

Now an alternative.. A large shopping mall. the kind with a road that runs all around it and which is nearly deserted from time to time *(like from 10 pm to 10 am) go during the "off" hours and drive the circle.. NOtice when you are centered in the lane and on a straight section of the "Circle drive" put an avery "Dot" on the windshield positioned so when you are driving it "blocks" the center line. This will help you to center in your lane.

Backing into a campsite.
With the aid of a collection of rubber "Dunce cap" traffic cones Practice backing into parking spots (You likely will need two "head to head" spots but thankfully many Malls are layed out that way.

Get a feel for it when the only thing to hit is (hopefully) the brakes.

One other thing.... When on the road. learn to count seconds or polymigioust hippy wives..
I use the one thousand one one thousand two method
The other one is one Mrs Hippy Two Mrs Hippy (or Mississippi) (Thought I'd work the pun in)

5 or 6 seconds is good as a novice. after your 2nd or 3rd trip 4 to 5 on dry pavement. Try to keep it at least 3.. Yes, Bumps in the road will cut in front of you so close that if traffic stops suddenly... They live up to their name. but try to back down.

Also remember RV life is about stopping to smell the roses (Hopefully roses)
Not about getting there first.
Many people are in the devil's own hurry to get where they are going. They just forget we are all going to the same place..... a funeral.. I'm in no hurry to get to mine.. Please do not hurry to yours.
 

Reinigm

Active member
Joined
May 12, 2021
Posts
34
Location
Westminster, CA
I took my wife to Bolsa Chica state beach in Huntington Beach. Had her weave her way around the cars in the parking lots to get familiar with the size. (Fleetwood Tioga 29'). The first time out, she jumped a few curbs. Second time out, she was fine. Had her do some parking practice, and on the way back home had her drive city streets. She only clipped one rear view mirror in our neighborhood, but otherwise she has been doing fine since. I only plan to have her drive on wide open highways, not on surface street. But we will see. She is 69, by the way and I am 71. I have past experience driving rock and sand trucks and concrete trucks. That helps.
 

UTTransplant

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Joined
Jul 20, 2014
Posts
2,810
Location
Cedar Falls, IA
Your dealer should give you a short intro to driving the rig, but I highly recommend setting up a personal class with RVDrivingSchool.com. They have instructors all over the country, and you will learn in your own rig. We set up a class the day after we bought the rig, and it was well worth the money and time. We have been towing trailers for years, the last one a 30’ with a 3/4 ton truck, but having the steering behind you instead of in front takes adjustments.
 

steveblonde

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Joined
Jan 8, 2015
Posts
3,970
Location
calgary alberta
Boats are much harder to handle than rvs lol and wakeboats are the worst lol. Drive the highways first, they are big with lots of space and find shopping centers or truck stops before trying urban areas you will be fine
 

HappyWanderer

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Joined
Apr 21, 2014
Posts
2,770
Don't believe the nonsense that driving a heavy duty 40-foot truck is no different than driving a car. Banging into things and causing property damage is neither inevitable or acceptable.
 

unni

Member
Joined
Sep 8, 2021
Posts
19
Location
Coupeville, WA
We are soon to be first time buyers. After a lot of online research, and a visit to the Hershey show last week, I am pretty sure a large super C is the right rig for us. I am around a year away from retirement (early 60s) and we intend to use it primarily for cross country trips with my wife and I, two dogs, and the occasional guests.

My question is how best to get comfortable with driving a rig that size when the only land vehicles I have ever driven have been cars and SUV's? We have been boaters for 20 years, and when we bought our first boat we also went big, and I just jumped in the deep end, but as other boaters know, as long as you are focused, attentive, and prepared, the only part of the journey where there is any real prior experience or training required is the one minute you spend docking, especially when the winds are blowing and the currents are strong! :)

But I imagine there is a lot more to understanding how to drive a 40' rig with a tow vehicle attached that can't be learned by watching videos or "practicing in your head". We will likely be buying out of the area and the first trip in the rig we buy will be fairly long.

What have others done to get ready for your first time driving? Are there hands on training classes that would be suitable? I know I don't need a CDL, but i would have no problem investing the time and money in similar classes. I imagine there will be orientation and walkthroughs if we buy new, but I'm not sure how much that will simulate what is needed to get across the country.

Others have told me that driving down the highway is really not that different than driving a car, but it's the beginning and end of the trip, local street driving, turns, and parking that would probably require some technique that I don't have yet.

I'd appreciate any insight from others that have been in this situation.

Thanks!
My suggestion would be to rent one from Cruise America and get a taste of what you are about to get. You heard it right. They are like driving any other car and handling them would be like handling a boat. You square it when turning and prejudge a tight space and watch the sides and top (sometimes bottom) at all times and once inside the tight space, you keep a straight line. All manuvering is like a large boat.
Super-C are more expensive than Diesel pushers. Since you like BIG and want power, also have a look at Diesel pushers. You wont regret it. Good luck
 

Isaac-1

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Joined
Dec 3, 2016
Posts
5,010
Location
SW Louisiana
If you are looking at getting a Super C, my advice is rent a 26 ft u-haul truck, and drive it a few hundred miles, start out of 4 lane federal highways or wider 2 lane highways preferably with lower speed limits, and go from there, mostly avoiding the interstate highways at first. If you can stay away from larger cities until you get comfortable, which may take a while. Even after 5 years and 25,000+ miles in our 28 ft class A coach I try to avoid larger cities when possible.
 

SeilerBird

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Joined
Feb 25, 2012
Posts
16,164
Location
St Cloud Florida USA
Don't believe the nonsense that driving a heavy duty 40-foot truck is no different than driving a car. Banging into things and causing property damage is neither inevitable or acceptable.
Yep it is different driving a huge RV. It is easier to drive than a car. I spent ten years on the road driving RVs of all types and now I have hung up the keys I bought a rice burner and it is harder to drive. Backing up is a real bitch with those tiny rear view mirrors.
 

donn

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Joined
Nov 8, 2009
Posts
4,774
Find someone to give you driving lessons. Did that for a gal and her mom this past spring. She had a brand new dually and picked up a 40 foot fiver that morning. We found an empty lot less than a quarter mile away and spend a few hours backing, turning etc. After that she took off and has not had any problems.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Posts
74,574
Location
At our Silver Springs FL home
I think your boat analogy applies - be attentive and cautious until you get experienced. The size isn't all that much of a problem - the wrinkles come from the different driver position (higher and more forward) and your fear of screwing up. The latter causes you to focus too much on your mirrors & cameras (to watch the rear) and the highway lines near you (to make sure you are still in your lane). You can't drive straight that way - you have to get your focus out ahead and let your parallax vision guide the vehicle. The rear end will follow, trust me! Yes, there is more lag in a turn, so you have to stay left longer and rive further thru an intersection before cranking the wheels around, but you will pick that up quickly.
 

Joenew61

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Joined
Mar 8, 2021
Posts
54
Location
Connecticut
Thanks all for the information and suggestions! RVdrivingschool has locations 2.5 hours east and 2.5 hours southwest of us, but it sounds like it's definitely worth the time and cost of taking their two day course. The only obstacle is that their approach is to teach you on your own RV, which does make a lot of sense, but I won't be able to get any practice until after we make the purchase and after we drive it home from wherever we buy it.

Regarding pre-purchase training, we are in a really congested area of SW CT, but I think there are some rental places that we could drive to that would put us in more open areas. I'll definitely scout out some locations where I can practice with nothing around me but cones. I imagine that U-haul would be a more cost effective way for a first step than renting an RV, then maybe a short weekend trip to a campsite in an RV for round 2. I like the idea of taking this in stages.

I would love to find someone in the area that could give me personalized driving lessons, but just don't know how to go about finding someone that is RV-knowledgeable. I was wondering if there are any truck driving schools that might have a boot camp type training course. I would guess that the driving experience and techniques are not that different from a Super C?

Seilerbird - easier to drive than a car?...now you are just trying to put me at ease. Maybe the tenth time out that will be the case.
 

Kirk

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Oct 30, 2005
Posts
911
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Full-time , Escapee
I like the idea of taking this in stages.
While I have not driven a super C, I do have experience in driving a large strait truck which I agree is pretty similar and a lot of driving a class A that I would consider to be pretty similar as well. The key things when you first start are to make sure your mirrors are adjusted properly and use them constantly. Be aware of tail swing because even though it may be true what someone said that the rear will follow you, the rear of the body extends beyond the rear axle and so swings much wider in a turn than where the rear wheels travel. The same caution applies to turning a corner too closely. The distance between the front and rear axle makes it very easy to run over the curb, or worse. Just take your time, make wide turns and avoid tight places while you are learning. For most of us the most difficult part is overcoming the psychological intimidation of size. With automatic transmissions, power mirrors, back-up cameras, power steering & brakes, they are not physically any more difficult to drive than a car but they are much more intimidating mentally.

When we bought our first motorhome I felt like I was driving a battleship in a canoe pond. With practice as I began to feel more comfortable I discovered that I could see around me much better than in a car and with some practice and experience a very pleasant experience.
 

Lou Schneider

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Mar 14, 2005
Posts
11,146
Thanks all for the information and suggestions! RVdrivingschool has locations 2.5 hours east and 2.5 hours southwest of us, but it sounds like it's definitely worth the time and cost of taking their two day course. The only obstacle is that their approach is to teach you on your own RV, which does make a lot of sense, but I won't be able to get any practice until after we make the purchase and after we drive it home from wherever we buy it.
RV Driving School doesn't have physical locations as such, just instructors who are based in those areas. Some of their instructors are mobile full time RVers and maybe with advance notice one can meet you at the dealer when you pick up your RV and start your lessons there.

 

Joenew61

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Joined
Mar 8, 2021
Posts
54
Location
Connecticut
While I have not driven a super C, I do have experience in driving a large strait truck which I agree is pretty similar and a lot of driving a class A that I would consider to be pretty similar as well. The key things when you first start are to make sure your mirrors are adjusted properly and use them constantly. Be aware of tail swing because even though it may be true what someone said that the rear will follow you, the rear of the body extends beyond the rear axle and so swings much wider in a turn than where the rear wheels travel. The same caution applies to turning a corner too closely. The distance between the front and rear axle makes it very easy to run over the curb, or worse. Just take your time, make wide turns and avoid tight places while you are learning. For most of us the most difficult part is overcoming the psychological intimidation of size. With automatic transmissions, power mirrors, back-up cameras, power steering & brakes, they are not physically any more difficult to drive than a car but they are much more intimidating mentally.

When we bought our first motorhome I felt like I was driving a battleship in a canoe pond. With practice as I began to feel more comfortable I discovered that I could see around me much better than in a car and with some practice and experience a very pleasant experience.
Thanks for the tips, and the mental intimidation aspect is definitely where I need to get over the hump. This is a case where you don't know what you don't know until you experience it. Regarding tail swing, how do you factor in what happens with the tow vehicle behind the coach - i.e. if you clear what you need to clear on left or right turns with the body of the coach, then do you not have to be concerned with where the tow goes, or does that have to be factored into the "geometry"?
 
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Isaac-1

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Dec 3, 2016
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5,010
Location
SW Louisiana
The tow vehicle till track inside the turn, where tailswing will track outside the turn. There are some good videos that illustrate tailswing in motorhomes on youtube. Gas stations are a place where you must be very aware of this issue, so as to not hit the pump island or other vehicles as you turn, when possible I try to turn towards the pump island when departing a gas station so that my tail swings into the aisle space, but even doing this it is important to watch out for vehicles at the next pump..
 

SeilerBird

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Feb 25, 2012
Posts
16,164
Location
St Cloud Florida USA
Seilerbird - easier to drive than a car?...now you are just trying to put me at ease. Maybe the tenth time out that will be the case.
Nope, you will love it after about five minutes. My girlfriend bought a 32 foot Class C. She told me she did not want to even try driving it because it scared her. Well I was not about to take off with a partner that would not drive an RV. Sounded stupid to me. What would happen if something happened to me and she had to drive. So on the maiden voyage up Eisenhower grade west of Denver I pulled over and got out of the drivers seat and told her to drive. She really tried to get out of driving so I said 'Ok we will sit here until you want to go home." It took her about a minute to realize I was serious and climbed into the drivers seat. It took her about 10 minutes to fall in love with driving it. I had a hard time getting the steering wheel back.

A few years ago a lady named Amanda who lived in New York state bought an RV(32 foot Ace) to take her six adopted kids on a one year trip around the country. She bought it sight unseen and had never driven an RV. She planned on flying down`to Tampa and driving it back. I lived about 100 miles from Tampa and I volunteered do drive down and give her lessons. She only drove it a little whioe and she realized she didn't need me. I told if she could raise 6 teenagers she could handle driving an RV. Her trip lasted ten months but she had to cut it off because Covid was starting to make travelling difficult. Search the forum for Amanda if you want to read about it.
 

Joenew61

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Mar 8, 2021
Posts
54
Location
Connecticut
Nope, you will love it after about five minutes. My girlfriend bought a 32 foot Class C. She told me she did not want to even try driving it because it scared her. Well I was not about to take off with a partner that would not drive an RV. Sounded stupid to me. What would happen if something happened to me and she had to drive. So on the maiden voyage up Eisenhower grade west of Denver I pulled over and got out of the drivers seat and told her to drive. She really tried to get out of driving so I said 'Ok we will sit here until you want to go home." It took her about a minute to realize I was serious and climbed into the drivers seat. It took her about 10 minutes to fall in love with driving it. I had a hard time getting the steering wheel back.

A few years ago a lady named Amanda who lived in New York state bought an RV(32 foot Ace) to take her six adopted kids on a one year trip around the country. She bought it sight unseen and had never driven an RV. She planned on flying down`to Tampa and driving it back. I lived about 100 miles from Tampa and I volunteered do drive down and give her lessons. She only drove it a little whioe and she realized she didn't need me. I told if she could raise 6 teenagers she could handle driving an RV. Her trip lasted ten months but she had to cut it off because Covid was starting to make travelling difficult. Search the forum for Amanda if you want to read about it.
Nice to hear real world stories of others that have been in my situation for sure - thanks! While we were at the show, my wife, who before the show said if we go ahead with this that I would be doing all the driving, told me in the middle of a freightliner seminar that she wanted to learn to drive it as well. She cited the same reason - backup in case I had any problems. Smart woman!

I think I will look for an opportunity to drive something similar in a non-critical trip before we take delivery. I'm thinking about pursuing this with IWS in Idaho, and hopefully I can arrange enough orientation and maybe a paid lesson with someone in their shop or RVschool to get comfortable with a 2500 mile maiden voyage. With the industry being what it is now with quality and support, and the scarcity of highly-rated dealers in the Northeast, I think in the long run it's probably a good strategy.

I am not sure I will be in the 5-10 minute comfort range, but if that can be done, then I should be able to get what I need with the above approach.
 
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