Did you know that driving or towing an overloaded rig is a leading cause of RV accidents? Even a slight overload or unequal weight distribution can seriously restrict braking and steering, dramatically increase fuel consumption, and cause sudden blowouts or breakdowns. An overweight RV also creates the danger of early failure in your rig’s tires, brakes, wheels, drive train and other components.
If any of these RV weight problems sound familiar to you, you’re not alone. Disturbing statistics, compiled by RV safety expert John Anderson during rally weighing exercises, show that nearly two-thirds of all the RVs weighed exceed one or more of their load ratings.
Controlling Your RV’s Weight Problem
Does Your Rig Need A Diet?
Simply put, your RV is overloaded if it exceeds any of the manufacturer’s established limitations for total load, axle load, or tire loading. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is the maximum amount your RV can safely carry. It includes both the wet weight and the cargo weight. Be sure to check your owner’s manual for weight limitations.
Recent Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) weight-labeling requirements make it easier for new RV buyers to judge weight and carrying capacity. If you’re in the market for a new motor home or travel trailer, you’ll find this information very helpful. But if you’re already an RV owner, there are important steps you can take toward safer weight distribution.
If you’ve been gradually accumulating more and more “stuff” over the years, it’s probably time to put your RV on a weight reduction program. But first you need to take a trip to the scales. Don’t guess at your load weight–it’s easy to underestimate by hundreds of pounds. You can have your rig weighed at a public weigh station for a minimal fee. Look in the Yellow Pages under “Scales, Public” to find the location of scales nearest you.
Be sure to weigh your rig when it’s fully loaded. It’s also important to weigh each axle separately. After the weigh-in you might be surprised at how quickly the combined weight of your passengers and all your “stuff” adds up to more than you expected.
Lightening That Load
If your RV turns out to be a heavyweight, look it over from top to bottom and consider what’s necessary and what’s not. Just because your rig has a lot of shelves, drawers and other storage space doesn’t mean you have to fill them all up. If possible, remove all your belongings, then put back only the items you really need.
When you reload, remember to store heavy items low and forward, lightweight articles high. Be sure heavy items can’t slide into the water pump or other fixed equipment. Try to balance the load between the two sides of the RV. A simple measurement of clearances on both sides can aid in proper balance. You can minimize swing, sway or wobble if you keep the vehicle’s center of gravity low.
When loading your motor home or travel trailer, make sure everything has a place and is easy to get at when needed. Experienced RVers prepare a packing map of luggage and storage areas for easy access. Secure all cargo inside and outside the vehicle. Anything rattling around loose is a potential hazard, as well as noisy.
Finally, check your tires–one of the most critical factors in safe RVing. Since most tire failures are caused by overload or under inflation, be sure your tires are inflated in accordance with proper inflation pressures for the load you’re carrying. Overloaded tires are more prone to blow out. Keep tires of similar tread patterns and similar construction on the same axles.
Remember, a properly balanced RV, safe equipment and good driving can tame almost any road.
The author, Bill Pinchak, is an RV Claims Consultant with the Foremost Insurance Group of Companies, based in Grand Rapids, MI. Foremost has been a national leader in specialty insurance products for more than 50 years. Recreational vehicle insurance is a Foremost specialty.
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