Good Sam Camping Blog
TEST Header
Filed under: Safety on the Road

Higher Speed Limits – Are they Safe for RVs?

November 4, 2010 by · 17 Comments 

·

Virginia’s speed limits are going up!

Many states have limits of 75 – even 80 mph on their rural Interstate Highways.

If you have a need for speed, this is great news.  If you drive a motorhome or pull a camper, you might want to think twice before you adopt the newer speed limits with your rig.

In 1974 a national speed limit of 55 mph was imposed.

Like all of the states, Virginia had to reduce its Interstate highway speed limit from 70 to 55 when Congress called for national fuel saving measures after the Arab Oil Embargo of October 1973.  Even though fuel prices had risen from an average of 40 cents a gallon to over $1.20 a gallon due to the embargo, most drivers were furious that Interstate Highway speed limits were imposed.

The 55 mph speed limit stuck until 1987 when the Federal Government allowed speeds on some rural Interstate Highway to be increased to 65.

Virginia responded by raising the speed limit for cars to 65, but kept the truck speed limit at 55.

By 1996, when the Federal Speed Limit was totally repealed, Virginia realized that a “dual” speed limit on its highways was more dangerous than beneficial and removed the 55 mph limit on trucks, allowing them to travel the same speed as cars.

Now, some 37 years later, Virginia is pulling down the old speed limit signs and replacing them with new 70 mph signs.  The new 70 mph speeds apply to everyone.

Local newspapers touted how the new speed limits would save time and allow truck freight to reach its destination earlier.

Personally, I enjoy speed.  I own a sports car that is capable of reaching speeds twice as fast as Virginia’s new 70 mph limit – and then some left over.  I spent a number of years participating in sanctioned SCCA racing.  I enjoy the g-forces of a 0-60 run in 5 seconds or less and being plastered to the door as I apex a tight mountain turn.

But NOT in my truck or pulling our camper.

Frankly, I am extremely worried about the increased speed limits and RV’s, not to mention heavy trucks.  Overall, we have a tendency to drive the speed limit regardless of what we are steering.

My major concerns are:

  • The physical condition of many highways is deplorable.  While dips in the road, uneven bridge approaches, repaired but rough potholes, and sunken bridge supports may barely be felt in a Lexus, they can easily throw a truck pulling a camper off course and joust the driver well out of his seat.  Since Nancy and I use an ex-semi tractor as a tow vehicle for our large fifth wheel trailer, I know the same can happen to truckers.
  • Motorhome and truck tires are often only speed rated for 65 mph.

    Tires on camping trailers with a ST designation (Special Trailer) are only speed rated to a maximum of 65 mph.  This, of course, does not mean that at 66 mph the tire will explode, it simply means that over 65 the manufacturers load and pressure ratings fly out the window.  At 70 mph, you are strictly on your own as far as warranties, safety, and compliance with the tire ratings.  Many LT (Light Truck) tires are in the same category as are larger motorhome and big truck tires.

  • Truck tire "alligators" in the roadway present dangers - especially to Motorcycles.

    You can expect to see more “alligators” littering the highway.  No, not real Alligators – the long strips of tire tread rubber that often come off of trucker’s trailer tires are called alligators by the 18-wheeler drivers.  These things are a menace and can lead to vehicle damage or even wrecks when vehicles attempt to avoid them in the middle of the road or, worse yet, hit one.

  • The faster you go, the longer the distance it will take to stop.  Trailer and motorhome drivers often overlook this.  Additional distances between vehicles must be allowed.  Sadly, impatient four-wheelers quickly fill in these safety distances as they attempt to pass our view-obstructing rigs.  The white-knuckle syndrome will get worse.
  • RV fuel mileage can drop drastically by increasing speeds.  We may get to a camping site quicker, but it is going to cost more.  Higher speeds also increase our “carbon footprint” and environmental impact due to less vehicle efficiency.
  • Not something we want to experience!

    Vehicle control changes with speed.  It is not just braking distances that increase – vehicle stability decreases proportionally.  Crosswinds, passing trucks, turns, and more all become more dangerous as speeds increase.  Even trailers weighing less than the tow vehicle can take charge of the entire tow rig.  When you have a trailer heavier than your tow vehicle, the trailer is going to be the boss – the truck in front will not stop it from doing what it wants to in a slide, roll, or fishtail event.

I am sure the more safety conscious RV drivers will lower their speed to one that provides safety for their equipment, themselves, passengers and other vehicles.  But many will not, further endangering the public.  Lowering speed is easy, but the consequences of lowering the speed of an RV can also be negative as faster, more impatient drivers attempt dangerous passing maneuvers or traffic backs up behind them contributing to irritation and aggression.  There is noting wrong with pulling off at a rest stop or interchange to allow faster traffic to move on.

As a friend once told me, “Anyone that drives faster than me is a fool, and anyone that drives slower is an idiot!” I cannot say I agree with him, but I know we have many drivers out there that do.

Please, as highway speed limits rise, become even more conscientious of your tire and temperature ratings, road conditions, stopping distances and faster traffic.  Slowing down or maintaining speeds at or under 65 mph remains the safest choice for RV drivers.

If you are uncomfortable with the MINIMUM posted speed limit, get off the road and take another route!

Remember, just because the sign says that the limit is 70 or even 75 does not mean you must drive your RV at that speed.  If the highway you are traveling  has a posted minimum speed limit that you are uncomfortable with, get off that highway and take another route.  In RVs, trucks and motorhomes, “The Need for Speed” should only be played by the kids in the back seat on their GameBoy.

SPEAK OUT!  What is your feeling on higher speed limits and RVs.  Tell us your opinions HERE, in the comments section.

Comments

17 Responses to “Higher Speed Limits – Are they Safe for RVs?”
  1. Jon delPozo says:

    Anyone who drives faster than their tires safety rating ought to stay on another PLANET!! I can remeber the days when the speed limits were 55 and I seen many accidents because someone just had to drive like crazy to get somewhere and not only endanged themselves but many others as well. In those days, I was an EMT and covered many highway accidents. Today, its not much better. Progress has been made in the area of tires and the vehicles safety standards, but the nut behind the wheel is the most important nut in the vehicle. Yes, I also am a speed nut, how would you like to go 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds? I used to—-not anymore, sold the hotrod. But I still ride motorcycles so the temptation is still there. The same thing applies to motorcycles, never run over one’s tires!!

    ps: I really do miss the hotrod!

  2. butterbean carpenter says:

    Howdy Prof. Randy,
    My need for speed ended a loooong time ago.. I had hot rods, race cars, dragsters, hot cycles,etc.
    When I was in the trucking business I always, on EVERY trip, saw IDIOTS & SUPER-IDIOTS on the
    roads.. We ran the New Mexico and Arizona deserts at night 90-100mph pulling 60-80K# of freight..
    Of course, the super-slabs were only a dream back then and if you went off the road it was level and you just slid around a little..haha You are so right about the backups, though.. ALL people OVERDRIVE their abilities and scare me to death.. Even on the 75-80 limit hiways they want to go 100, and do..
    My motorhome will go a whole lot faster than I drive it, but, I CAN CONTROL IT AT THAT SPEED!!!!!
    You are right-on about the ‘road-gaters’ .. one came out from under the car in front of me on I-20 and
    took my mirror, paint and almost the windows… Anyway, the side hiways are a lot prettier than ‘slabs’
    and I AIN’T IN NO HURRY !!!!!!!!!!

  3. Gail Duykers says:

    Just recently returned from a month-long RV trip to NH from FL in a 32′ 2010 Tioga Ranger. We were taking our time, only driving about 250 miles a day. The first two days I drove the speed limit (65-70) and was getting about 7.8 mpg. On the third day, my husband ‘convinced’ me to slow down to 55 mph. I did this very reluctantly since it made me feel like I was crawling along. However, our gas mileage actually went up to 11.2 mpg. I was amazed at the difference. After that, we compromised and I drove between 60 and 65 mph and the gas mileage dropped down to 9.8 mpg. What an eye-opening experience.

  4. Jan and Don says:

    We rarely exceed 60 mph in our 35′ motorhome. Speeds above that and we feel like a missile going down the highway. We try to use the less traveled roads rather than the interstates, though it’s not always possible. We do realize the braking distance issue and we know our mileage is better at 60. We’ve seen many an RV pass us at speeds that we would not be comfortable with. I call that the Oops Factor. It’s okay until something goes awry and then it’s Oops, too late to fix the problem.

  5. Gene Nichols says:

    I personally drive my 38′ Class Motorhome towing my TOAD a 2009 Saturn Aura at 62 to 65 MPH. Mostly 62 which is 100 Km. I feel safer at those speeds if I have to stop fast or make an evasive maneuver. I get passed by other RV’s doing the speed limit (70) or greater. Please keep in mind I am a AUX Deputy Sheriff who has been thru the CEVO training so I have been trained to drive fast safely. I am not in favor of split limits where trucks drive one speed limit (which most never do) and cars have a faster speed limit. They all should be the same. I know Illinois has a 55 MPH speed for motorhomes and campers. Only good thing about that is I always get greater fuel mileage in Illinois unless I’m driving the Natchez Trace. I have always been a proponent of people driving speeds that are safe for them on interstate grade highways. Some people do well at 80 and others do well at 65, Just remember stay to the right unless passing.

  6. Gene Nichols says:

    I personally drive my 38′ Class Motorhome towing my TOAD a 2009 Saturn Aura at 62 to 65 MPH. Mostly 62 which is 100 Km. I feel safer at those speeds if I have to stop fast or make an evasive maneuver. I get passed by other RV’s doing the speed limit (70) or greater. Please keep in mind I am a AUX Deputy Sheriff who has been thru the CEVO training so I have been trained to drive fast safely. I am not in favor of split limits where trucks drive one speed limit (which most never do) and cars have a faster speed limit. They all should be the same. I know Illinois has a 55 MPH speed for motorhomes and campers. Only good thing about that is I always get greater fuel mileage in Illinois unless I’m driving the Natchez Trace. I have always been a proponent of people driving speeds that are safe for them on interstate grade highways. Some people do well at 80 and others do well at 65, Just remember stay to the right unless passing. Please everyone be safe. I want to RV for many more years. Thanks!!

  7. Douglas Hornick says:

    It was myself and George Carlin that used to say “Anyone driving faster than me is a maniac and anyone driving slower that me is an idiot.” LOL. Anyway I’ve been tempted and unfortunately gave in to the “who has the more powerful truck” when a guy with a 3/4 ton Silverado and a 28ft fiver and me with a 1 ton Dodge dually V10 and a 30ft fiver. Normally I do 60mph but our little contest got us up to 70 on the freeway in up state New York. Ya, I know, stupid. Hopefully I’ve matured since then, 15 years ago.

  8. Ron says:

    Like the author, I CHOOSE to drive my camper at 55 even when the limit is higher. My reasons are:
    1. It costs less.
    2. I am not comfortable driving my camper with a toad faster than 55.
    3. I can see more and enjoy the trip.
    4. My bride of many years is happier when we do not drive our camper faster than 55. Wait! This is the biggest reason!

  9. MrOak says:

    Since day one I have always driven my motorhome differently than my car. All the comments in the article are correct. I tend to drive between 55 and 62/63 in cruise control on the highways. As road and weather conditions dictate I will slow down. I do get passed by almost every vehicle on the highway but who cares. I am retired and in no rush to go most places. The differences that allow me to feel comfortable driving at the lower speeds are cruise control and driving position. There is a difference when you sit up high and have a panoramic view of the road. Also making a quick change when you are driving a 30+ foot vehicle towing a car is difficult. You must be much more aware of the road and traffic to switch lanes to take an exit.
    Having said all this I realize that everyone has a different situation and different skills. I see many RVs that drive much faster but slow down when conditions change. They seem safe to me so more power to them.
    Of course you also see butt head drivers in cars and RV that do not drive with caution. Oh well there is the natural selection process to thin out the herd.

    Jim

    32′ gas Class A, Fleetwood Fiesta towing a Toyota Matrix.

  10. Dan Bowles says:

    This was our first year with a 38′ motorhome and we made a concious decision to drive 55 mph at all times unless the traffic was heavy and faster. We did not want to become a hazard and would increase our speed to 60, sometimes 65. Trust me, it was an adjustment as I historically drove my cars and trucks at over the posted speed limit. After the initial “break in” for me driving 55, I found that it was an easy speed to maintain control, got us there in almost the same time frame, mileage improved drastically and I arrived less tired and more likely to enjoy a campground. I was skeptical about gas mileage but found I got 7 mpg at 65 and 10.2 at 55. That was a deal breaker. I am now adjusted to slower speeds and enjoy our travels a lot more!

  11. Tom says:

    I don’t exceed 65 mph and t hat is plenty.

  12. Rob says:

    My best gas mpg is at 55 to 60 mph. Getting there 5 min. faster does not make up for the loss of mpg when gas is most likely to go above $3.00 per gallon and may see close to $4.00. If other drivers don’t like it, that’s what they made the left lane for, PASS ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Hoby says:

    I keep my speed around 55-60; I’ve noticed that my gas milage (which is already in the low 7s mpg) takes a big hit when I go faster. My Class A Diesel Pusher, even with a toad, is safe at higher speeds, but why would I want to go any faster. We calculate our trips based on 55, so we might as well stick to our schedule.

    Of course, what always happens is the speed is 75 or 80, I’m driving 55-60, and I come up on someone driving 45 right when there is lots of traffic :) What a mess!!!

  14. Rudy Grun says:

    As a retired police officer I have seen enough of accidents which were caused by speed. My wife, cat and myself enjoy the back roads because you can see a lot more of the country and you don’t have to worry about the speeders on the interstate highways. Fifty-five to sixty mph is more comfortable to drive and the view is a lot better and I am saving fuel. Being retired is the best part since we don’t have to be in a certain place at a certain time. I usually quit driving around 4:30pm to 5:00pm, that way we can relax before we eat, and I am not on the roadway when others that have been working all day are in a hurry to get home.
    I drive a 40′ Diesel Pusher with a Jeep Rubicon as a toad.
    Drive safe and I hope to see you at the next campground.

  15. Jon says:

    Yup 55- 60 max ..better to be safe than sorry. Am retired and in no hurry to get there. Besides the boss is watching my every move..momma knows best. When she is happy everyone is happy.

  16. OMG!!!! Thank you for agreeing with me. I am a school bus driver in California. I enjoy sporty driving in my accord where and when I can. But I recently rode with my friend in AZ in their 391/2 ft motorhome pulling a GMC Envoy from flagstaff to Grand Canyon at speeds of 75-78 was was stressed and scared the whole time. I told her she's kidding herself to think just because the sign says its ok at 75 does not mean its safe. Following distance was not adequate either and we passed many big rigs with shoulders of less than a foot n I could see in her backup camera overhead that she would cross the fog line! That's never ok. These people are fooling themselves and with no training.

Trackbacks

Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. [...] Higher Speed Limits for RVs – Are they Safe | Woodall’s … [...]



Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!