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Old 03-30-2014, 01:08 AM   #1
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Trailer Towing and the Law

When we're not poring over our build list, with frequent reference to the excellent advice on this forum, on every car trip we envision how driving will be different when we have two tons of trailer in tow, and are unable to perform u-turns, 3-point turns, and other standard maneuvers.

Obviously "predict and prevent" thinking is key to staying out of jams, and the more advance knowledge we have, the better our predictions will be. Naturally, we intend to tow within weight capacities and observe all safety regulations.

We know that speed limits for vehicles towing a trailer vary in different jurisdictions, and must be researched in advance. We don't know, however, if trailers can travel legally in HOV lanes, or if using those lanes should be avoided, even if legal, because of all the lane changes needed to get over to them and back on a freeway.

We plan to avoid city and town driving as much as possible, but know we will have to park our rig occasionally. Can we feed both parking meters and take up two consecutive spaces on the street? Can we straddle two rows in a mall parking lot? Would it be a mistake to enter a commercial parking lot at all, given how tight those have become with the advent of "small car" spaces?

So, our big question is, how do traffic laws and driving strategies differ for a vehicle that is towing a recreational trailer, in this instance an SUV and an Escape 21?

Thanks for your thoughts, experiences, and perhaps a few links on this.
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Old 03-30-2014, 01:28 AM   #2
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I've towed in the HOV lane from Vancouver to Surrey a couple of times. Don't know if it was legal or not. The signs just indicate two passengers.
But, I now choose the slow lanes. No matter how fast you go in the HOV lane, you know those behind can't see that you are following another car, and they are cursing you. And, having to go that fast burns more gas and creates more anxiety.
I much prefer driving at 90 kph to 110 - 120 kph.
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Old 03-30-2014, 06:48 AM   #3
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Never tried HOV lanes, in Ma they are limited to a combined 2.5 tons which knocks me out.

Few things I've learned:
Stay in the middle lane away from exits in heavy traffic, exit traffic causes problems.

Be careful where you pull in for gas, gas pumps don't move.

No pulling into fast food or coffee shop parking lots without surveying them first. They are not designed for access with trailers. Backing out of a parking lot into heavy traffic is no fun.

Know where you want to be before you get there, you need time to change lanes and such, quick moves don't work. Don't trust your navigator to tell you.
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Old 03-30-2014, 08:59 AM   #4
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Another option is the Rand McNally GPS made for rv trailers. This set up allows you to specify your length of unit and it will program your trip with that in mind, eliminating tight turns and highway restrictions that could create issues. This neat unit also can provide weather for your route with weather alerts. If you travel with pets it also has a search feature for veterinarians on your route. Lifetime maps upgrades also.Rand McNally RVND7715
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Old 03-30-2014, 11:06 AM   #5
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Another option is the Rand McNally GPS made for rv trailers. This set up allows you to specify your length of unit and it will program your trip with that in mind, eliminating tight turns and highway restrictions that could create issues. This neat unit also can provide weather for your route with weather alerts. If you travel with pets it also has a search feature for veterinarians on your route. Lifetime maps upgrades also.Rand McNally RVND7715
What a great idea! Pity there's not an app that does the same thing.
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Old 03-30-2014, 11:56 AM   #6
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All of the responses above are excellent information; I particularly like the theme - including in the original post - of carefully considering where you are going in advance, even if that is just moments before turning into that parking lot.

Possible maneuvers
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Originally Posted by Catchlight View Post
.. we envision how driving will be different when we have two tons of trailer in tow, and are unable to perform u-turns, 3-point turns, and other standard maneuvers.
You might be surprised - I've U-turned, done 3-point turns, and parallel parked with our van towing our trailer.

HOV Lanes
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Originally Posted by Catchlight View Post
We don't know, however, if trailers can travel legally in HOV lanes, or if using those lanes should be avoided, even if legal, because of all the lane changes needed to get over to them and back on a freeway.
In addition to the challenge of getting from ramps on the right to the HOV lane on the left, most HOV lanes that I have seen have very restricted lane change opportunities - they don't want people jumping in and out. That's good in a way, but means that when you do (infrequently) change lanes, you might have a short window. Whether the trailer matters much lane changes that depends on how well you judge distances, how well you can see rearward, and how incompetent the other drivers might be. I changed lanes several times in densely packed traffic in Montreal during rush hour with a motorhome which is wider and longer than our van and trailer combined, with no problems - but drivers there handle heavy traffic well.

I think Baglo has a better approach - don't bother trying to use the HOV lanes. Even in a car with enough people, I don't use them unless the main lanes are choked.

Parking
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Originally Posted by Catchlight View Post
We plan to avoid city and town driving as much as possible, but know we will have to park our rig occasionally. Can we feed both parking meters and take up two consecutive spaces on the street? Can we straddle two rows in a mall parking lot? Would it be a mistake to enter a commercial parking lot at all, given how tight those have become with the advent of "small car" spaces?
I don't see a problem with the two consecutive spaces at the curb, but you need a clear approach, or the ability (and confidence) to back in without excessive delay of traffic.

In a mall parking lot, the standard technique is to use two spaces in line (pull through one spot into the next, leaving the trailer in the first one). With wide rigs, you also need two spaces in width, so can end up using four spots (that's what I do with the motorhome). Regardless of the exact number of spaces, only a jerk would use them near the store - go far enough away that you are not competing for spaces with those who are only taking one. At the far end of a half-full lot, you can use as many spaces as you want and it doesn't inconvenience anyone else.

Places that get RVs (or other large vehicles, such as buses) sometimes have parking for them - tourist information centres, highway rest stops, attractions such as theme parks, event venues - that you might not have noticed before. Take advantage of them, where permitted.

Overall
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Originally Posted by Catchlight View Post
So, our big question is, how do traffic laws and driving strategies differ for a vehicle that is towing a recreational trailer, in this instance an SUV and an Escape 21?
There are not many traffic laws which are different - maybe none here in Alberta. To me, it's mostly a matter of size, not whether or not the combination is one vehicle or two, and big vehicles are operated in all traffic conditions and situations. At highway speed, the bit of extra length makes essentially no difference; in tighter situations, it's just a matter of being aware of that size and realizing that the rig will not fit everywhere that is intended for driving.
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Old 03-30-2014, 05:41 PM   #7
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RE: parking. I think a good rule of thumb is when in an urban area never park it where you'll have to back it. Never park where another vehicle might then come in and potentially block you or make it too hard to pull out. Once in a town the only place I felt safe in parking was in an empty bank lot and 12 minutes later when I returned the bank manager came out and read me the riot act.
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Old 03-30-2014, 06:33 PM   #8
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RE: parking. I think a good rule of thumb is when in an urban area never park it where you'll have to back it. Never park where another vehicle might then come in and potentially block you or make it too hard to pull out. Once in a town the only place I felt safe in parking was in an empty bank lot and 12 minutes later when I returned the bank manager came out and read me the riot act.
All these replies contain great advice. For me and parking, Myron hit it on the head. I parked at a Costco three days ago with my 21 and was very particular about where. For instance, I parked way out where there weren't many cars, and weren't many expected. I didn't park in the two slots next to the cement curb at the end of the parking row because of the left hand turn necessary when entering the driving lane. I was actually more conscious of my exit rout then I was of my entrance. Just because I could get into the slots, didn't mean I could get out, especially when conditions could change.
Hope this makes some sense.
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Old 03-30-2014, 06:48 PM   #9
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I remember last summer we got to a shopping mall ( cross iron mills) outside Calgary and parked in the very back of the parking lot and thought were would be out of the way of everyone else, only to find when we returned to our truck and trailer that we had been blocked in. It took a lot of maneuvering to get out and I was not very pleased. Lesson learned I guess .
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Old 03-30-2014, 07:33 PM   #10
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The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is 17 miles long and has a rest area with a restaurant and a pier. When we decided to pull into the rest area, we were pulling a 31 foot airstream, and one of us ignored the sign cautioning against pulling in with anything longer than 29'. We were then confronted with the turn around, and it really seemed like we'd never be able to make it. Terry was considering unhitching and figuring out a way to move the airstream, but I assured him that I could guide him to do a U-turn. It took some very subtle maneuvering and took what seemed like a very long time, but we did it. It was really stupid and we had four hungry kids in the truck, and we would NEVER do it again, but since it had a happy ending I'm kind of glad for the experience. Pulling a 19' will allow us a lot more flexibility in where we can go.
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Old 03-30-2014, 07:58 PM   #11
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I remember watching a motor home (pulling a car), pull into a narrow dead-end road in downtown New Orleans. I stayed to see if the guy needed any help but he got out, unhitched the car, did a nice K-turn, hitched the car back up, and was on his way. It didn't take him more than five or ten minutes. He was obviously a very experienced driver.

I also saw, in downtown Salt Lake City, a truck with a slide-in camper smash the camper roof into the overhead as it tried to enter a parking garage. I don't know if the driver was trying for an insurance claim or just so frustrated he wasn't thinking straight, but he backed up and rammed the overhead again, peeling back at least three feet on the roof of the camper.
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Old 03-30-2014, 08:43 PM   #12
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I'd like to recommend the Garmin RV GPS. Although it only takes RV lengths, no accounting for TV and trailer, I found it excellent for routing. I gave it a slightly shorter length than the actual measurement. the real reason I loved it was that when one was approaching a turn it would say something like 'take either of the two left lanes' or 'stay in the second lane from the right'. Stuff I found absolutely priceless, along with knowing which exits, etc. were good. Especially when one travels alone. Maybe other new brands give this depth of information but it is a first for me.
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Old 03-30-2014, 11:49 PM   #13
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I was wondering about trailer use of HOV lanes here in California. I pulled into one while towing and immediately wondered why I had done it. I could only go 55mph by law and was blocking traffic. It also occurred to me that the law says trailers are limited to the 2 right lanes. I pulled out at the first opportunity and will not ever return. Typical auto speeds can reach 80 at times in the HOV lanes, so I think it best to stay where we are more comfortable and not pissing everyone off.
As to parking lots I have found it best to plan ahead, and not rely on backing up unless it can't be avoided. I will take up as many parking slots as necessary to get my shopping done. Two slots head to head is best, as it only ties up 2 spaces, but not always possible in smaller lots. While camping in Dana Point last week we had to pass up several restaurants due to architectural problems with their parking layouts. We finally found one that worked.
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Old 03-31-2014, 12:00 AM   #14
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I'd like to recommend the Garmin RV GPS. Although it only takes RV lengths, no accounting for TV and trailer, I found it excellent for routing. I gave it a slightly shorter length than the actual measurement. the real reason I loved it was that when one was approaching a turn it would say something like 'take either of the two left lanes' or 'stay in the second lane from the right'. Stuff I found absolutely priceless, along with knowing which exits, etc. were good. Especially when one travels alone. Maybe other new brands give this depth of information but it is a first for me.
Sally,
Good to hear Garmin has cleaned up their act in the maps department. I have used Garmin maps since 2002, and have found them to be about 5 to 6 years behind the road development. Never could trust them without my own dead reckoning skills. They spent way more time developing their anti-pirating locks than keeping up with road changes. As if someone would want to steal a 6 year old obsolete map..... Their hardware has always worked well though.
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Old 03-31-2014, 12:12 AM   #15
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What a great idea! Pity there's not an app that does the same thing.
Try this...
RV GPS app
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Old 03-31-2014, 12:33 AM   #16
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Not sure about HOV lanes, but a many said, I'd avoid them because of the lane changes etc. The one special highway regulation I came against was the slower speed limit in California for trucks, and vehicles pulling trailers. They are limited to 55mph statewide. However, in Southern California they are all going like a bat out of hell, so on my way back home I did the same. Evidently there is a difference between Southern and Northern California because I got $200 ticket for traveling 65 mph in a 65 mph zone.
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Old 03-31-2014, 12:52 AM   #17
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This might be a good site (click on state or province):

Towing World Official Website
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Old 03-31-2014, 07:25 AM   #18
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From the CHP website.

Trucks and Cars with Trailers:
Any vehicle towing a trailer, large trucks, and other vehicles subject to a 55 MPH speed limit cannot use an HOV lane regardless of the number of occupants.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:12 AM   #19
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This might be a good site (click on state or province):

Towing World Official Website
Thanks Karen, that is a good one to know.
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Old 03-31-2014, 12:55 PM   #20
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Thanks Karen, that is a good one to know.
If I read this site correctly, some states and provinces require a different license to tow (like Oregon and B.C.) but it would appear that reciprocity precludes someone like me (Washington State) getting a ticket for non-compliance.
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