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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pavement Boondocking--How Safe Are Truck Stops for RVers?

Admittedly, no RVer in their right mind would want to spend any more time than necessary in a truck stop. Trucks are running in and out, 24/7, and "reefer" units sounding off can just about kill even the hopes of the deepest sleeper. But hey, sometimes that's about all that's available to the weary wanderer. But are they a safe place for us?

We've spent our fair share of nights in truck stops, and we know plenty that have. How safe staying in a truck stop often depends on the attitude of the commercial drivers who bring those big rigs through. Witness the case of Dave and Shirley, who rolled their motorhome into a big truck stop one night. They got a rude--and jarring--awakening at around five in the morning. Their car alarm was bleating like a sick sheep, and Dave, bailing out of the motorhome, watched a rapidly retreating semi-truck skating for the exit--just moments before he spotted the remains of the rear end of his toad car, lying in a number of pieces in the parking lot.

Witnesses told Dave that a semi-driver had looped around the rear of the toad car, which had been neatly mounted on a tow dolly. The trucker caught the rear of the car, working hard to yank it of the dolly. The driver then stopped--presumably for a better look--and then headed out of the lot. The mystery hit-and-runner was never caught. Dave's insurance company paid the freight for the trucker, and the couple were toadless for several days while the car was repaired.

So is the moral of the story, "Don't park in a truck stop"? Not necessarily. Commercial drivers mention that drivers rolling into truck stops are often tired out, bored, and under pressure to get their mandated off-road time done. Paying attention may not have as high a value as getting paid. If you park in a truck stop, try and find a quiet corner. If you have a rig you can back in (obviously out for Dave), you're probably better off putting yourself in a back-in spot. Don't park on a "corner spot" where your rig will be exposed to the danger of every passing rig making too close a cut.

Where truck stops--like Flying J for example--have a designated "RV" parking area, avail yourself of it. Nothing "chaps the hide" of a long-haul driver when he rolls into a truck stop that has dedicated RV parking and finds that instead of taking advantage of it, RVers are needlessly parking in the big-truck lot, which may already be crowded. All it takes is a hot-head with a grudge and 65,000 pounds of mass and 300 horsepower to ruin your whole day.


  1. I felt uncomfortable once- at a Flying J in Indio, CA. I was traveling by myself and went inside well after dark. I was very cautious - like I would be going out to my car in a shopping center at night. I was nervous but fine.

    Good advice as far as parking goes. That's what I have always done. First choice - park well away from the main truck area- to the back or side of the truck stop, if possible.

    Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

  2. From the looks of the photo the RV appears to have parked partially in a no parking zone. Notice the lines across the pavement in the photo. Those areas may have room to park but they are marked off to allow trucks to make the tight turns in the truck stop. I notice the RV is partially in a space but the tow dolly is not. It looks as though the tow dolly did not get moved in the collision, just the car as the are angled in different directions. I am a truck driver and even I will not park in any spot where another truck could tear off my hood. Also, most truck stops are pretty safe. Just remember that when truck drivers are looking for parking they are running a log book that will put them in violation with DOT if they do not park for their required 10hr break. So if at all possible, park in the designated RV & car parking only. There are more trucks on the road today and with tougher laws they may not be able to legally drive to another truck stop for parking, but an RVer can.
    Be safe.