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Can RVs Stay at Truck Stops?

Published on October 22nd, 2018 by Donna Gum

In planning our camping trips, I have become more aware of the difficulties that can take place from RVers and truck drivers sharing a parking lot overnight at truck stops/travel centers. RVs can use truck stops, but it might not be the first choice an RVer should make. Before you feel your feathers get ruffled, read the article below.

RVers and Truckers Have Similar Goals

There are two well-known communities that travel the highways and byways of the nation: truck drivers and RVers. Both need to drive safely. Both often use Walmarts and the parking lots of other businesses to pull over for a night’s rest. Truckers, in the past have relied on truck stops. As time passed these truck stops became known as travel centers, offering parking space and rest to RVers as well. Truckers, however, are finding it increasingly difficult to find overnight parking that doesn’t take them off of their routes. With the increasing shortage, this has led some to question whether truck stops shouldn’t be solely for truckers.

RVers At Truck Stops Are Controversial Topics

RVers using truck stops to stay overnight in is a hotly contested issue. Truckers complain that if spots are claimed by RVs and the lot is full, they have no place to eat, launder their clothes, or get some much needed sleep to keep the roads safe for everyone. Eighteen wheelers now have an electronic system on board which tracks the length of time spent driving and the timing of their stops. This information is no longer entered on a clipboard by the trucker. Truck drivers are mandated by law to stop after eleven hours of driving. Truck stops are a vital part of how they make their living. They argue that RVers are not mandated to do the same and can drive to a different place such as a Walmart to stop for the night if they choose not to use a campground. However, people might be surprised to know that the truck stop is not most truckers’ number one place to stay. I’ll explain that in a minute.

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The RVers’ Point of View (for Some)

RVers make the points that they need to stop and have a meal and sleep even if there are no laws mandating this. Truck stops such as Pilot and Flying J muddy the waters by inviting RVers to stop. If the RV section is full, the staff will point the driver of the RV to the truckers’ section of the parking lot. In fact, some RVers receive a Good Sam’s benefit when purchasing their RV that gives them five cents off per gallon of fuel at Pilot and Flying J truck stops, which increases the likelihood of RVers choosing to spend the night. Also truck stops are now often referred to as Travel Centers, making it even more likely that both road-traveling communities will use the areas for sleep.

Overcrowding Between RVs and Semi-Trucks

Truck drivers don’t mind if RVers spend the night in the RV section. It’s when RVs overflow into the truckers’ section that it begins to affect them, preventing them from the mandated stop after eleven hours of driving or getting some much needed sleep.  

Truckers are usually polite and courteous in trying to explain the difficulty this causes them as they work. In fact, many truckers are trying to get the word out that there is the occasional trucker who might cause damage to an RV’s slides when pulling into a space next to them in the truckers’ section of the parking lot. This type of trucker can cause truckers, in general, who are family men themselves, to be labeled as outlaws. Possible clashes become even more likely if the truck stop/travel center doesn’t have separated areas for truckers and RVs.  

In response, some RVers are hotly contesting that these trucker sections are not meant for truckers only. They point out that staff will direct them to the parking spots in the trucking section. They also point out the label of Travel Center rather than truckstops for these places of business that are privately owned. Some RVers state that these business owners have the right to direct RVs to any spot they wish on their own property.

Fewer Places to Stay

Combined with this conflict is the fact that some cities are passing ordinances prohibiting truckers and RVers both from overnighting in parking lots of businesses such as Walmart and others.

Solutions to the Conflict

So what is the solution? Acknowledging that both truckers and RVers need sleep to safely drive is a start. However, truckers rely on truckstops/travel centers to make their living and stay on certain driving routes, while RVers do have some options. Some preplanning by the RVer will be needed. With the new city ordinances, preplanning by RVers has already become a necessity.

Options for no-cost overnighting include Walmart, K-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, Cabelas, and Camping World. Not all of these overnight lots are affected by city ordinances. Mostly areas with high levels of homeless people are the ones passing the new laws against overnighting in parking lots. California is one example. Also search for when these places may be outside of the city limits and not affected by the laws.

Just as truckers use the Truckers’ Pro Path app to find weigh stations, hotels, restaurants, DOT inspections, truck washes, and points of interest, there are several apps available for RVers to check out for Walmarts and other places on their routes. Try the RV Parky app. This app helps RVers find campgrounds, rest stops, gas stations, stores, low clearance, and includes a trip planner. Apps are helpful, but calling ahead is essential as many of these apps are powered with information from fellow RVers. Check to make sure. Another helpful app for RVers is the Oh Ranger Park Finder. This handy app helps you find state and national parks, and national forests, based on activities offered and personal interests such as hiking, birdwatching, etc., thus making RVers aware of new places to enjoy.

Tips From the Truckers for RVers

An RVer, Robin, of Creativity RV set out to find out what truckers wishes are since both communities need to drive safely. She then posted the information she found out in a helpful YouTube video entitled: TRUCKERS SPEAK:Should RVs Park Overnight at Truck Stops? Here is the link, but if you don’t have time to watch the twelve and a half minute video, some of the main points are listed below, from Trucker

  • Try to park in front of the truck stop as truckers are usually in the back.
  • If those spaces are full, park in the cab only area in the truckers lot. These spaces are not in as much demand by truckers.
  • Don’t use your slide unless it’s over a grassy area. At night, truckers have a hard time seeing them. Truckers can sometimes break off each others’ sideview mirrors because of the dark.
  • If filling up on fuel or potable water, don’t leave to do laundry or take a shower. Truckers are waiting to fill up, and the computer on board their trucks is ticking away their time. They don’t get paid while filling up or waiting in line, only for the miles they drive.
  • Truckers have different places they prefer to park. The truck stop is usually a last resort. While truckers are becoming increasingly regulated, places for truckers to stay are decreasing.
  • Truckers recommend that if a lot is full, the next one a mile down the road might have some openings.
  • Time your showers and laundry in mid-afternoon to avoid the evening semi rush. Doing so will allow a trucker time to get his things done in the evenings after driving all day.
  • Stay in the right lane unless passing. This basic rule seems to have gotten reversed somewhere along the line.
  • If you have an older, slower model RV, try to drive outside of rush hours for semis.

Truckers, on the other hand, were surprised to find that many of the RVers that they thought were on vacation are actually living and working from RVs. For additional tips from truckers, follow Robin’s Creativity RV on YouTube.

A good will gesture, if you’re parking your RV near trucks in a lot and grilling hotdogs, consider sharing the meal with truckers nearby. 

Building Rapport Between RVers and Truckers

With a little pre-planning and use of a good app to guide their routes, RVers can do what they set out to do, which is to have a peaceful, stress-free vacation, (or live and work with no problems), seeing the sights of the country and enjoying time with family. Overnighting need not be a problem for RVers or truckers, allowing the truckers to overnight as closely as possible to their driving routes and safely reach their destinations in the alloted time of eleven hour stints.

3 thoughts on “Can RVs Stay at Truck Stops?”

  1. There is a group of professional drivers who do RV camper towaway. They use pickup trucks to pull campers across the country. They are not allowed to sleep in the campers. They usually sleep in the back of their trucks just like truckers do in their sleepers. They are under the same D.O.T. hours of service as well. So truck drivers, before getting mad at a truck hauling a camper, look to see if it has an IFTA sticker on it. It might just be another professional driver moving a load across the country the same as you.

  2. Fairly new to RVing, we were returning home from Florida to Virginia on our first trip. After 11 hours on the road, I began suffering from motion sickness. In all of my 60+ years I never had motion sickness. We were about 4 hours from home but I was in agony. I needed for everything to be still. We came uppon a Pilot. While hubby went inside to ask if we could stay, I crashed on the sofa with cold rag on face. I am so thankful we were allowed to park in the rear. Hubby found a small area to back into, inbetween a couple of trucks. We did not out the BR slide out so I just crawled up on the bed and konked out.

    Woke up at dawn’s first light as truckers were starting to pull out feeling fit as a fiddle and ready to hit the road. I am so thankful we came upon that Pilot!!

  3. I believe that the best way to build ‘rapport’ between truckers and Rver’s is to stay out of their space. These drivers are regulated as to how many hours they can drive and then they have to pull out. An Rver parks at a truck stop because it’s free or very cheap. A trucker stops there because they have to. I’m am an RVer and just could’t park in the same space as a regulated driver. It’s just a question of attitude. Like the Walmart campers who gets the table and chairs out and heaven forbid the propane fireplace. Don’t you get it?
    Free parking is a privilege don’t blow it for the rest of us


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