"I Cant Drive Something That Big!"
by Bob (Ram) Muessig
As a professional truck driver with approximately 2 million safe miles behind me, Ive spent a lot of time behind the wheel, in all kinds of weather, over all types of terrain.
Now I drive a truck for fun...my RV. Its a 36-foot, fifth-wheel trailer. Its long, wide, and heavy, and when we pull into campgrounds, the most common statement we hear is "I couldnt drive something that big!" My response? "Sure you could. All it takes is a little patience and some practice."
Often as not, this comment comes from a woman, yet lots of women own and drive their own trucks or RVs. Women of all ages have been hitting the road in record numbers, some in RVs (lifestyle choice), some in big trucks (career choice). About half of these brave souls even travel alone, so dont start telling me that you cant drive that RV. Some day, you may have to.
I understand that this might be a sensitive subject, ladies, but what would happen if your traveling companion got hurt or took ill? One woman I know told me "George does all the driving. I just could handle the rig by myself." Then George rudely decided to get sick out in the middle of Podunk, USA. This proved to be a disabling illness and she had to learn to drive...the hard way.
She managed to get back to civilization, get George to the hospital, and take the rig to a nearby RV park. George got better, but now they share the time spent behind the wheel, for it was determined that sheer physical exhaustion was the major contributing cause of his illness.
Nobody ever expects things like that to happen, but happen they do, and its best to be prepared. There are several ways to do this, such as driving schools, videotapes, books, experienced RVers who will teach you, or perhaps the dealer where you bought your rig. Just dont get discouraged. Remember...driving is a full-time job. Thats why they pay people to do it.
If you are new to your rig, or your rig is new to you, take it to a vacant parking lot (every town has one) and get the feel of turning, backing, and parking. Soon, you will become familiar with the various techniques and begin to develop real skills. After a while, you may want to take the rig out on the highway for some practice with the mirrors and signals while changing lanes, shifting gears while climbing hills, and using the gears and brakes for coming back down.
Once you have developed some proficiency in the parking lot and on the road, you can spend a little time getting acquainted with emergency triangles, road flares, the jack and other basic tools. Its possible you may have to change a tire or perform some other minor repair, like changing fuses or replacing lamps, so be sure you know how to use these tools correctly.
At this point, you may also want to investigate the availability of emergency road services offered by many of the travel organizations. it would be wise to select one that understands recreational vehicles and provides towing service for both your tow vehicle and your trailer in the event of a major breakdown. Some of these things may appear terribly complicated, but thats simply because theyre new to you. Keep in mind that a little advance preparation now could save you a big headache later on.
If you have a travel trailer or a fifth-wheel, get some practice in hitching to and unhitching from your tow vehicle and, while youre at it, make a checklist of the procedures to follow. You see, if you get into the habit of doing things the same way each time and using your checklist, you wont forget a critical step. The one thing you forget could lead to your trailer heading south on I-17 while youre going west on I-10. Bad form!
People usually fear things when they dont understand them, so the more you know and understand about your rig, the less apprehension and fear youll experience in regard to its operation. Youll learn to drive that RV just like you learned to walk...one step at a time. And dont rush things. Little by little, slow and easy, and before you know it...youre a pro!
"Honey, would you like to drive for a while?"
"Thought youd never ask."
Opdated the 4th of August 1999