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> And Sage Advice/stories For First-time Class A Drivers?, (We go get our new camper on Monday - all 42 feet of it!)
GandJ
post Oct 5 2013, 04:01 PM
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Any advice or stories to tell about the first time you drove a Class A?

-and/or-

How long/how many miles did it take for you to feel comfortable
with your driving ability?

Between the two of us (G & J), we have a whopping half-an-hour
of Class A test-driving experience. That sure ain't much!

We are registered for an RV driving school, but still that's 350 miles
from where we're picking up our camper.

Lindsay mentioned that the first time he got behind the wheel of a
rental Class A, it was a white-knuckle experience. Somehow that
made me feel a little better...or at least like being nervous is "normal".

Wish us luck, please?

p.s.: Also, how far did you go on your first trip? We seem to have
a different opinion on what's a sane amount of hours and miles to
drive when we're so new at this.


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Dutch_12078
post Oct 5 2013, 06:36 PM
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Since my first experience driving a "big bus" was 51 years ago, I really can't offer you much "sage advice" on that other than take your time and remember, it's just a "bigger car". You need to learn where the corners are and get accustomed to the width and other characteristics, just as you would with any other new vehicle. The common tendency is to hug the right shoulder a bit too much, so watch those mail boxes and right turns. It also helps to focus farther down the road to help keep you centered in your lane. Also keep in mind that your stopping distance is much greater than a car, so try to watch farther ahead, leaving yourself plenty of space and backing off a bit earlier than you might otherwise for stops and traffic coming up. And take heart, many of us have "been there, done that", and survived the "newbie" phase with minimal mental anguish. biggrin.gif



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Dutch
Great Sacandaga Lake, NY
1995 Coachmen 33' Class A
2011 Toyota RAV4 toad
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Texasrvers
post Oct 5 2013, 08:13 PM
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Our first trip (other than getting the MH from the dealership to our house) was about 200 mi one way. We picked a route/destination that we were familiar with and that did not have any major cities that we had to go through. We also did not try to tow a car the first time. The worst thing that happened is that a few miles from home we were passing an 18 wheeler and one of its tires blew. That really scared us, until we managed to figure out it was the truck and not us.

Eventually we started towing a car on a tow dolly, and not long after we cut a corner a bit sharp pulling into a filling station. It was either take out the pump or take the car off the dolly (not a quick, easy task) so that we could back up. We chose the latter, but I’m sure that to this day that station remembers us because we blocked 3 lanes trying to get things fixed. At least we did buy gas there.

Taking a driving course is an excellent idea. In the meantime you might try to find a large deserted parking lot and practice driving there. Try to find one that has lanes and parking spaces painted on it so that you can practice staying between the lines and backing up. Also do you know anyone (friend of a friend) that drives a class A who would be willing to give you a few lessons? Maybe the dealership could even suggest someone.

Depending on how long your coach is, you do have to watch out for the rear end swinging out of your lane when you turn, and you have to learn how far you need to pull forward before starting a right turn so that your rear wheels will clear the curb. We definitely went over a few of those in the beginning. When you are backing, it is best for one of you to be on the ground at the rear of the coach and visible to the driver—even if you have a back-up camera. Work out a set of hand signals or better yet, get a set of walkie-talkies to communicate. It is much more effective to say “stop” than to jump up and down and wave your arms hoping the driver will see you in time.

We have been driving a large coach (37’) for 13 years now, and to be truthful I still do not feel comfortable in heavy traffic. But don’t let that scare you because there is an advantage to that; it makes us stay more alert to the traffic around us and anticipate problems before they happen.

You have a great adventure ahead of you. Enjoy.
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JDOLLEN
post Oct 6 2013, 08:42 AM
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Don't forget that your new class A is probably taller than anything else you have driven. The good....you can see forever. The bad...watch for older service station canopies and like low clearance objects. I know my height in feet and meters.

Darrell
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docj
post Oct 6 2013, 11:21 AM
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My personal opinion is that everyone who drives a Class A would benefit from some professional training, preferably before they drive it. Learning as you go is fine as long as you don't develop and reinforce bad habits. From what I've observed there are quite a few Class A owners who never really become comfortable about driving their rigs and IMHO that's because they never took the time to "study" the "art" of driving a big vehicle.

I decided to obtain a CDL before I purchased our MH and my wife took a lesson from RV Driving School before she started to share the task with me. We believe we are both better drivers as a result.

Regardless of whether or not you heed that advice, I urge you to simply get out and drive it in all sorts of situations. On RV forums I constantly see posts from Class A owners who are afraid to take their rigs through big cities, over high mountain passes, etc. IMHO the only way to deal with such fears is to "just do it." After 3 years and 30,000 miles I feel I can pretty much cope with any driving situation I am presented with. That doesn't mean I won't try to avoid driving through Houston on I-10 (I'd gladly pay to use the Sam Houston tollway instead), but I have done it and I am not scared if I had to do it again.

The first summer we owned our MH we were coming over the pass into Moran Junction WY from Dubois on our way to Grand Teton Park. At the summit of the pass (at 9,800 feet) there was a sign that simply stated "pavement ends" and we drove from that point to about 6,600 feet on a dirt road with loose gravel (they were rebuilding the road and it was easier to take it all away rather than deal with one lane at a time). I wasn't thrilled by this experience, but I didn't freak out about it. After it was all over it just became another one of those "well, that was a lot of fun" moments!


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Lindsay Richards
post Oct 6 2013, 11:39 AM
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Not sure what other experience you have had. If you have driven a Class C, it won't be much difference. They are the same width except for what you see out the front. Use the bottom part of your side mirrors to look at the center line and the passenger side line and try to keep an equidistant between them. Try to limit your backing up. On right turns, swing wide and just miss the cars that are in the left lane of the road you are turning into. Left turns will be easier. Find a marker along the windshield that corresponds to the center position in your lane and use it as a guide. It takes a lots more concentration than a car. Don't feel you have to go the speed limit. Don't worry about the cars behind you. Give yourself lots of time when pulling out. DO NOT be afraid to use you horn on cars that are entering onto the expressway. They will be texting and putting on makeup, Blowing the horn is not a mean thing to do. It could save their life. We have well over 50,000 miles now in Class A. You can do it. Your navigator/spotter is your best tool. She should get into the habit of talking to you about what is ahead. Things, 'Large gap after blue truck o merge." You can do it.


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GandJ
post Oct 6 2013, 04:19 PM
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BIG thanks for the advice. Makes us feel a little more confident.

Prior to this we've had only a towable (our TT) and
a 'lug-able' (truck camper). Nothing motorized larger than
our Exploder (which will be our toad/tow'd now).

Getting a CDL is a great idea.

We hadn't planned on making this purchase for another couple
of years and had hoped to do a driving school before that time
came. But when the right one comes along, well..you know.

First thing we're going to do it plant a big sticker on our front
dash that says what our vehicle height is. We'll be sure to
watch out for those gas station awnings.

One of the things I'm most concerned about is merges. Perhaps
those Hadley air horns are going to come in handy.

Thanks again!


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Dutch_12078
post Oct 6 2013, 07:17 PM
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I do not normally recommend that an RV operator get a CDL just to operate an RV. For one thing, training and qualifying for a CDL does not give you the same kind of driving experience that a qualified RV driving instructor provides. You'll also need to waste time learning a bunch of commercial regulations that have no application to RV's. Another concern is that CDL holders are subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules that are stricter than typical state drivers license rules. While the more serious infractions understandably apply to commercial motor vehicle operation, there some significant areas where the type vehicle is not a factor. Get a ticket for an illegal lane change for instance in any vehicle, and then three years later get a ticket for following too closely in an entirely different state, and you automatically lose your CDL for 60 days. Throw in a third ticket for something like a rolling stop at a stop sign in those three years, and it's 120 days without your license. In addition, the BAC limit for most states is currently .08%, but CDL holders are subject to a .04% limit, and many states double the normal fines for CDL holders as well. I gave up my CDL a couple of years ago when I no longer had a professional need for it. The potential legal hassles, physicals, TSA background checks, etc., that my license called for just made it not worth keeping. Get whichever class of NON-commercial license your state requires for your Class A and take the RV driving course you already have scheduled.


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Dutch
Great Sacandaga Lake, NY
1995 Coachmen 33' Class A
2011 Toyota RAV4 toad
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docj
post Oct 7 2013, 06:58 PM
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The 3-week Class B CDL course I took at a community college had none of the over-the-road recording-keeping stuff mentioned in the previous post. The college had a far more extensive Class A course which did include all that material, but the one I took did not.

I don't have to have a current DOT medical card either since South Dakota permits me to self-certify that I am not engaged in any activities that would require it.

However, twice since I have had the CDL I have been stopped by a LEO (both times in my car, not the RV). In both cases I got off with far fewer consequences than I expected, after the officer saw that I was driving on a CDL. One time I got a much smaller fine that he could have given me and the other time I got a warning even though I was pretty far over the limit. I'm not advocating speeding or otherwise breaking the law, but I think that at least some LEO's will give you the benefit of the doubt if they believe that doing otherwise would jeopardize your ability to drive professionally.


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GandJ
post Oct 16 2013, 07:50 PM
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Arrived home yesterday, safe and sound. Thanks for the advice!

(Yep, the air horns were useful.)


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JDOLLEN
post Oct 17 2013, 06:56 AM
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QUOTE(GandJ @ Oct 16 2013, 06:50 PM) *

Arrived home yesterday, safe and sound. Thanks for the advice!

(Yep, the air horns were useful.)


Good to hear. Enjoy!

Darrell
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packa
post Oct 18 2013, 06:49 AM
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I am not new at driving a class "A", but we purchased a 40ft new coach and brought it home and attemptd to back it into the side yard.
I have done this numerous times with the shorter 30ft coach so figured that it would be no problem with a little extra care so I wouldn't run over our central air conditioner unit at the side of the house.
I might mention also a neighbor's fence on the property line on the driver side.
I attempted to back it in and realized that it needs a lot of ares to manuever this gentle giant into the same space occupied by the other MH.
I had to pull forward to line up straight and when I pulled forward, "someone" had planted a Sago palm in my front yard and it leaped in front of me. Yup, I ran up over it and got it up under the front of our brand new coach.
I attempted to back up "gently" and strange noises were coming from the under side of the front of the MH.
Upon further inspection after getting it in our back yard, I found out what the noises were. When I got out to look at the front of the MH, I noticed that the "idiot that planted the palm {me} had managed to tear the fiber-glass front end of the coach part way off and would need extensive work to it.
After permission to take it to a RV repair shop, and a whole lot of duct tape, back to the dealer\ body shop place we just came from.
Our pride and joy unit was damaged and my pride was hurt, and that palm tree is now history.
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docj
post Oct 18 2013, 04:43 PM
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QUOTE(packa @ Oct 18 2013, 08:49 AM) *


I attempted to back it in and realized that it needs a lot of ares to manuever this gentle giant into the same space occupied by the other MH.



With all due respect, it really doesn't require much more space to back a 40' MH than it did to back a 30'. Yes, the turning circle is a bit larger, but that's all.

My suggestion is to buy yourself a set of small orange cones. You can get them at the dollar store or sometimes Walmart. When you need to back into a spot like the one at your home, put the cones out along the path you want your rear wheel to follow. Using your mirrors guide your rear wheel along the path and you'll be surprised how easy it really is. If you have a school parking lot nearby where you can practice it would even be better. In time you'll find that you don't need the cones but they're a nice "crutch" while you're getting used to the coach.


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packa
post Oct 18 2013, 08:19 PM
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QUOTE(docj @ Oct 18 2013, 04:43 PM) *

With all due respect, it really doesn't require much more space to back a 40' MH than it did to back a 30'. Yes, the turning circle is a bit larger, but that's all.

My suggestion is to buy yourself a set of small orange cones. You can get them at the dollar store or sometimes Walmart. When you need to back into a spot like the one at your home, put the cones out along the path you want your rear wheel to follow. Using your mirrors guide your rear wheel along the path and you'll be surprised how easy it really is. If you have a school parking lot nearby where you can practice it would even be better. In time you'll find that you don't need the cones but they're a nice "crutch" while you're getting used to the coach.

I thank you for the advise on the orange cone system. Orange cones at truck driving school many years ago became my best friend and at times my worst enemy. Perhaps I should have mentioned the differerence in the placement of the palm tree to the opening of my fenced in back yard. The gate is close with a 30 ft. to manuver forward without hitting the tree, but , yes, I know, a truck driver should take that into concideration when backing in, I didn't and the rest is history.
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