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Old 08-16-2022, 02:56 PM   #1
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38 foot diesel pusher driving tips

1997 Holiday Rambler. I would appreciate some veteran driving tips for turning and backing. My Motorhome is starting to look like it’s been in a destruction derby. If I keep fixing it it will look like a bumper car! Seriously! Two examples: First time to a intersection turning right, cars on the other side of where I am turning won’t always give me room to turn wide. Stuck, cars behind me won’t let me back up just blowing their horn. So I scrape my side. The other thing is backing. Want to pull into a campsite! Most of the time there is a vehicle in front of my site or someplace where I want to swing and back in. Would cameras help? FRUSTRATED
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Old 08-16-2022, 03:02 PM   #2
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Cameras a plus

Cameras do help, and aftermarket systems are readily available. Sitting on top of the drive wheels with nearly 38 feet behind you makes turns very different to gauge, practice and patience will get you batter at it.
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Old 08-16-2022, 03:19 PM   #3
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I was in the same situation just a couple of years ago, below items have helped me enjoy the drive more:
1. try to anticipate turns as far in advance as possible to allow you to make sure you can get as much space as possible without blocking traffic
2. Do not allow the other drivers to force you to do something that you know will damage either your rig or other property. A little embarrassment goes away a lot easier than a dinged up motor home. If necessary talk to the folks blocking you and explain your situation. I understand your frustration but keep your cool, I was there (still there) sometimes.
3. I never back up without the wife behind the rig with her phone.
4. I found it helpful to go to a Walmart on a Sunday morning and tracking where the rig tracks on turns.


Don't let others bully you into doing something you'll regret. You'll get much better with experience.
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Old 08-16-2022, 03:42 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wingchop View Post
I was in the same situation just a couple of years ago, below items have helped me enjoy the drive more:
1. try to anticipate turns as far in advance as possible to allow you to make sure you can get as much space as possible without blocking traffic
2. Do not allow the other drivers to force you to do something that you know will damage either your rig or other property. A little embarrassment goes away a lot easier than a dinged up motor home. If necessary talk to the folks blocking you and explain your situation. I understand your frustration but keep your cool, I was there (still there) sometimes.
3. I never back up without the wife behind the rig with her phone.
4. I found it helpful to go to a Walmart on a Sunday morning and tracking where the rig tracks on turns.


Don't let others bully you into doing something you'll regret. You'll get much better with experience.


Thank You
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Old 08-16-2022, 03:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scotttkd View Post
Cameras do help, and aftermarket systems are readily available. Sitting on top of the drive wheels with nearly 38 feet behind you makes turns very different to gauge, practice and patience will get you batter at it.


Thank You
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Old 08-16-2022, 04:35 PM   #6
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Driving on city streets is painful. These things were designed for highways. I don’t go down any street, or make any right hand turns, without looking at satellite images first. It’s almost like filing a flight plan for a plane.

These are not rigs you just “drive.” At least imho. You need to plan all your routes, to avoid what you described.

I installed a 4 way camera system immediately. $400, plus 2 weekends to run the wires.

Oddly, the only view I ever use now, is the direct rear view. Everything else is easier with mirrors.

Don’t feel bad. First time out by myself with my 40 footer, I backed into a ditch blocking lanes of traffic…
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Old 08-16-2022, 05:04 PM   #7
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After driving OTR for a very short time, I drove transit buses for several decades and was also a trainer for the same agency plus drove charters after retirement for also a short time. City buses in large cities are making dozens of turns a day much of the time in congested and heavy traffic. When training those who have never been behind the wheel of such a vehicle, we had several things we emphasized making turns but one in particular that pertains to making a right turn. So this post will deal with right turns since you mentioned that in your opening post. A left turn presents an entire different set of hazards --one being very dangerous and often deadly-- but I'll leave that for another time.

One of the most common accidents when making a right turn is the pocket-accident. The right pocket is the distance or area between you and the curb. Therefore, we always stressed PROTECTING THE POCKET. You don't want a smaller vehicle attempting to make a right turn WITH you as it is tempting for any driver to slip inside the pocket of a large vehicle making a right turn because lots of trucks and buses making a right turn leave too much room between the curb and their vehicle.

Our agency had brand new drivers do a subtle 5' - 3' turn out just before executing a right turn in order to stress blocking the pocket. They wanted us to teach new drivers to position the front of the bus 5' from the curb with the rear at 3' just prior to executing the right turn.

I actually don't like to see that turn-out being done and after one gains experience, it really isn't necessary as you get in the habit of concentrating on the proper distance needed between you and the curb in order to block off the pocket so nobody is tempted to sneak into that area. Bicycles are notorious for not paying attention and slipping into the pocket.

I never had any student do that slight turn-out when making a right turn in a 60-footer (artic) as they will eventually find out that a 60-footer actually can make a tighter turn than a 40-footer so I had them just stay parallel with the curb and partially split the lanes with an artic.

As has already been mentioned, there are times where you have to take more room to make a turn and you can't be intimidated by horns from those who don't understand that such a long vehicle can't make a turn as a passenger car can make. Sometimes --and it's recommended especially if you're not familiar with the intersection-- is to split the lanes as you approach the intersection. I'm sure you've seen transit buses (or semis) splitting the lanes before making a right turn. But again, when splitting lanes, you still need to block the pocket as much as is practical. If you detect a car slipping into your pocket in your right mirror, stop immediately and let them do whatever they are stupidly trying to do before you proceed.

The attached video is a training video from, I believe, the Austin TX transit agency that I found online (there are more training videos online from various transit agencies, and some that pertain to school bus driver training too that you might find helpful) but at least this one below shows that slight but subtle turn-out I mentioned. If you go to 4:20 you'll see the bus doing that although they do not instruct doing so in the narrative but at least you can see it being done ...it's not a pure or exact 5'-3' but the principle is the same --actually, you can see it in the still preview of the video. They will also give you a tip at 3:40 that has to do with citing a reference point on your vehicle that they call "the 4ft reference point" that you may or may not find helpful when setting up for a right turn.









eta: Pertaining to cameras, it is a point of controversy here on the forum. Being that I never used cameras on any vehicle driving professionally, I am used to using mirrors. Using mirrors effectively, I believe --but I know many will disagree-- gives a much better perspective than attempting to use cameras. That's just me but it comes from never having cameras on vehicles when I drove large vehicles in the past.
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Old 08-16-2022, 05:08 PM   #8
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Time behind the wheel is the best teacher. You need to learn distance judgement in all directions. I was fortunate to have to operate long and very wide equipment in our businesses over the years. Hence driving a 43' MH with a 26' enclosed trailer in heavy traffic or confined places, is a walk in the park. I actually prefer driving the motorhome in heavy traffic, as I have a better view of what's ahead. For someone with different lifetime experience, it can be intimidating. Yes, cameras can help develop skills and it might help to have someone with a hand held radio watch and direct you both backing into a slot or even pulling out when close to other campers. That would help you to use the cameras and mirrors more effectively. Just keep at it. Most will develop distance judgement skills with time. Good Luck.
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Old 08-16-2022, 05:46 PM   #9
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I'm self taught and follow Theroc's advice. I run parallel to the curb but leaving a 3' or so gap so cars won't be tempted to work their way in there. Then I pull way out into the cross street before starting my left or right turn, often taking up 2 lanes, while glancing at both mirrors.

What I did initially, before I bought my first Class A was to find and follow RV's, buses, and semi-trucks around town. Had zero experience in a big vehicle or even towing. I did that in my car, and then after buying my RV, I'd still watch them carefully from a distance so as not to impede traffic and turn like they did. I also went to some local RV parks and watched people parking their rigs. That's where I discovered that 5th wheels are not fun to set up. Class A you just park, drop your jacks and have an adult beverage.

I learned a lot from my car following big rigs around town. Usually a couple times per week for a year before actually trying it myself. I still do that sometimes after 18 years of full timing. I only have the two mirrors and the backup camera to follow so when backing, I may stop, leave the RV, check things out, than back in to finish backing up. I'm immune to other drivers and a friendly wave is all it usually takes to get them to be patient. I'll often hold up the number of fingers I guesstimate it'll take me to negotiate the RV space.
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Old 08-16-2022, 05:49 PM   #10
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Their is a bit of a learning curve when driving a large diesel pusher. I had plenty of experience driving 31' class C motorhomes. But, switching to a 36' DP has some differences. I still have to concentrate on the amount of pressure the air brakes take. Especially when sitting still. My wife & I were distracted by an overly talkative neighbor when backing into our space one time. I ended up busting the rear fiberglass (so called) bumper area. I was sick and peaved at the same time! Never again! I'll stop and wait until we have each others full attention. Like mentioned, find an empty parking lot early some morning and practice, practice.
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Old 08-16-2022, 06:05 PM   #11
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Now I want to hear about left turns…

Quote:
Originally Posted by theroc View Post
After driving OTR for a very short time, I drove transit buses for several decades and was also a trainer for the same agency plus drove charters after retirement for also a short time. City buses in large cities are making dozens of turns a day much of the time in congested and heavy traffic. When training those who have never been behind the wheel of such a vehicle, we had several things we emphasized making turns but one in particular that pertains to making a right turn. So this post will deal with right turns since you mentioned that in your opening post. A left turn presents an entire different set of hazards --one being very dangerous and often deadly-- but I'll leave that for another time.

One of the most common accidents when making a right turn is the pocket-accident. The right pocket is the distance or area between you and the curb. Therefore, we always stressed PROTECTING THE POCKET. You don't want a smaller vehicle attempting to make a right turn WITH you as it is tempting for any driver to slip inside the pocket of a large vehicle making a right turn because lots of trucks and buses making a right turn leave too much room between the curb and their vehicle.

Our agency had brand new drivers do a subtle 5' - 3' turn out just before executing a right turn in order to stress blocking the pocket. They wanted us to teach new drivers to position the front of the bus 5' from the curb with the rear at 3' just prior to executing the right turn.

I actually don't like to see that turn-out being done and after one gains experience, it really isn't necessary as you get in the habit of concentrating on the proper distance needed between you and the curb in order to block off the pocket so nobody is tempted to sneak into that area. Bicycles are notorious for not paying attention and slipping into the pocket.

I never had any student do that slight turn-out when making a right turn in a 60-footer (artic) as they will eventually find out that a 60-footer actually can make a tighter turn than a 40-footer so I had them just stay parallel with the curb and partially split the lanes with an artic.

As has already been mentioned, there are times where you have to take more room to make a turn and you can't be intimidated by horns from those who don't understand that such a long vehicle can't make a turn as a passenger car can make. Sometimes --and it's recommended especially if you're not familiar with the intersection-- is to split the lanes as you approach the intersection. I'm sure you've seen transit buses (or semis) splitting the lanes before making a right turn. But again, when splitting lanes, you still need to block the pocket as much as is practical. If you detect a car slipping into your pocket in your right mirror, stop immediately and let them do whatever they are stupidly trying to do before you proceed.

The attached video is a training video from, I believe, the Austin TX transit agency that I found online (there are more training videos online from various transit agencies, and some that pertain to school bus driver training too that you might find helpful) but at least this one below shows that slight but subtle turn-out I mentioned. If you go to 4:20 you'll see the bus doing that although they do not instruct doing so in the narrative but at least you can see it being done ...it's not a pure or exact 5'-3' but the principle is the same --actually, you can see it in the still preview of the video. They will also give you a tip at 3:40 that has to do with citing a reference point on your vehicle that they call "the 4ft reference point" that you may or may not find helpful when setting up for a right turn.









eta: Pertaining to cameras, it is a point of controversy here on the forum. Being that I never used cameras on any vehicle driving professionally, I am used to using mirrors. Using mirrors effectively, I believe --but I know many will disagree-- gives a much better perspective than attempting to use cameras. That's just me but it comes from never having cameras on vehicles when I drove large vehicles in the past.
Good info Now I want to hear about left turns…
Thanks
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Old 08-16-2022, 06:19 PM   #12
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I make left turns to get to my destination if I have a choice. Especially in an Urban setting.

Make the left turn from the right most turn lane.

Right turns should not begin until the navigator chair has passed the curb corner. This can be trouble because the turn will require a wide swing.

I back into a site by pulling close to the "curb" next to the site entrance and pulling forward until my rear wheels are where the turn should begin. Then I begin backing and turning with the DW guiding me and seen in my mirrors.

My biggest problem with backing into a site is not being able to see what obstacles are on the passenger side of the front of the rig. Your guide needs to be watching. If I cannot see my guide, the rig stops backing.

I find it helpful if I dismount and look at the landing spot before beginning to back up.

Fortunately, we have had no damage in our 21 years of use of our 38' rig.

But we have lost quite a few crystal wine glasses because the street curb jumped out and hit our rig and sent the crystal to the floor.

There are some video tutorials on line that provide driving tips.
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Old 08-16-2022, 06:48 PM   #13
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Backup camera is slightly useful as it covers a blind spot. Otherwise you will need to learn to use mirrors. I hardly ever use the backup camera, but I drove without for years - dump truck, semi, coach bus, school bus … if it has wheels I have moved it. If you are scraping the curb on a right turn it may be that you are starting too early. I start a turn from as far left in the lane as possible and take the turn as late as possible so that the front of the rig is as close to oncoming traffic in the road you will end up in. If there is space go out into that road. If there is not room then you need to make room, either by starting from partway in the lane to your left or waiting until oncoming traffic clears in the road you are turning in to. Plan ahead and be patient, don’t let other drivers push you into doing something that will damage your rig or someone else’s property. If you can’t make the right turn - drive on and come back.

Just a note, backing up is when you are most likely going to damage something - take your time. If you are at all unsure get out and have a look!

I like the idea of following pro drivers in town (in your car) to see how they manage. Buses are the most similar to an RV but any large vehicle will give you some good tips. Walmart parking lot with some cones to practice is also a good idea.
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Old 08-16-2022, 10:34 PM   #14
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Good info Now I want to hear about left turns…
Thanks
Well, thank you for the opportunity to express my concern!

This doesn't seem to have much of a problem for motorhome operators as it does for transit buses. The reason is that motorhomes, as somebody has already mentioned, are mainly on the highway. And I as mentioned in my previous post, city transit buses are typically making dozens of turns daily in any given shift in congested areas with motorized traffic and PEDESTRIANS.

When I mentioned the "deadly" aspect of making a left turn, I was referring to pedestrians legally crossing the street and getting severely injured or killed by a transit bus because the driver didn't see them.

It's more common that one might think.

It can happen when driving any vehicle, even in the cars, pickups and SUVs we all drive but especially magnified because of a combination of factors that pertain to decisions on how the left mirror is mounted and the size of the mirror head on transit buses. Because some buses have thick A-pillars (like some motorhomes), that in combination with a large mirror head and if that large mirror head is mounted at the height of a driver's head, it creates a huge blind area that blocks the driver's vision of a pedestrian crossing the street at an intersection as the bus is executing a left turn.

Transit agencies will instruct their drivers to "rock and roll" in the seat in order to see around this visual obstacle as well as "squaring a left turn." However, simply moving the mirror head lower (or even higher) can make a HUGE difference in mitigating this "blind spot." Transit agencies have been slow to respond to this solution and keep blaming the drivers for these accidents. Yes, it's ultimately the driver's responsibility to make sure the pathway is clear but the simple act of lowering the left mirror and using a smaller mirror head can make a significant difference and save lives.

One horrible left-turning bus accident occurred in Portland Oregon in 2010 when two young women were killed as they were crossing the street in a family group of five after leaving an event in downtown one evening. The driver just did not see them. I know most will question how she did not see five people crossing the street? ...but believe me, I've had very close calls too under similar circumstances so I can vouch for and defend that driver.

The Amalgamated Transit Union has been involved for the past decade and there have been a number of agencies around the country and Canada that have altered their mirror head size and mounting positions. Seattle's King County Metro I believe was the first. Many agencies, however, have not changed a thing. But even though these accidents have been becoming less frequent, it still happens every now and then where injury or a death occurs from a left-turning bus hitting a pedestrian.

There is a thread started on a Canadian transit forum that was started by a retired co-worker which describes in more detail what I'm referring to. It is now kind of disjointed and many of the links no longer work as the forum went through a server change a few years ago but at least it still gives a general overview of the problem. He attempts to chronicle these particular accidents since 2014 when the thread was started.

The Deadly "Blind Spot" on Transit Buses

A summary from a lawyer: Scary secret from a bus driver: The deadly blind spot on transit buses

A video that also gives a good explanation from the biggest union covering transit employees, ATU:




So, even though driving a motorhome typically does not involve making a lot of left turns in congested areas, it's wise to be aware of this phenomenon.

I don't want to hijack this thread from the OP so if you have criticism or want to dispute any of what I just wrote, please Private Message me and I'll be glad to discuss the issue and relate some of the incidents and close calls I've had making left turns in a transit bus.





Here's the video from the same agency as the one in my previous post ---Austin Texas, I believe-- on their training procedure for left turns:

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