How Tall Is Your RV? RV Clearance Tips
Do you know what your RV clearance height is? Or in the most simple of terms, do you know how tall your RV is? When you are driving the open roads or in your car, the clearance numbers don’t matter so much.
But what about those bridges? Some of them are pretty low. You wouldn’t want to lose the top of your RV because you misjudged the height. And that includes your AC!
State and Federal Height Regulations
The Federal Highway Administration sets bridge clearances at 14-16 feet, unless a special design exception is obtained.
There is no FEDERAL maximum height regulation on commercial motor vehicles. However, states have their own restrictions. According to Heavy Haul, state laws in the eastern half (not east of the Mississippi but rather from the Minnesota-Dakotas state line south plus Oklahoma) have maximum heights of 13 and a half feet, while the western half have maximum height at 14 feet. Colorado and Nebraska have maximum heights of 14 and a half feet while Alaska has 15 feet tall maximums.
As a result, most tractor trailers are 13.5 – 14 feet tall.
RV Specific Clearance Rules
RVs are not commercial motor vehicles subject to federal size regulations. Even though there are no RV restrictions at the federal level, many states have laws or regulations that apply to RVs. In Georgia and many other states, the restrictions don’t distinguish between commercial vehicles and non-commercial vehicles. In Georgia, O.C.G.A. § 32-6-22(a) says the maximum height is 13 feet, six inches. On or near the interstate system, the maximum height is 14 feet, but you’ll want to go with the lower number so that you can go everywhere.
Bridge Clearance Issues
But hold up! Just because the federal bridge clearance is set at 14 feet doesn’t mean that it is actually 14 feet! Repaving can lower bridge clearances by 2 inches each time it is repaved.
And local and state bridges don’t have to abide by the federal regulations. So there are many that will be significantly lower, particularly the further you get away from major commercial areas.
According to the website 11foot8, there is a railroad trestle in Durham, North Carolina that is only 11 feet, 8 inches. The bridge has been hit so many times that the railroad company installed a crash beam to protect the bridge. And they have already had to replace the beam once. A local business owner setup some cameras to watch all the accidents and has compiled them into a YouTube video.
Recommendations for You, the RV Owner
Know How Tall Your RV Is
Tip for Fifth Wheelers: Remember to measure when your RV is hooked up to your truck. You want to know what the RV clearance height is when you are driving, not when you are parked.The most important thing for you is to know how tall your RV is! Don’t rely on manufacturer’s numbers or the owners manual. Instead, get up there on the roof and measure it yourself. Make sure that you find the highest point to measure from – not the roof of the RV, but rather the top of the AC or satellite dish. Or any other tall thing you have up there on the roof. Only trust the measurements you take.
Print out a label and put it on your windshield (like those oil change reminder stickers) or on your dash. This way you are not relying on memory when you come across a clearance sign. You’ll know whether you can fit or not.
Map Out Your Route
Many GPS systems, especially the common RV versions, have many low clearance points programmed in. Garmin’s RV 760LMT Navigator has a customizable routing ability based on height, weight, and length restrictions.
According to Low Clearances, most GPS units have only about 1,500 pre-installed clearance restrictions. Their Route-1 product has 7,000 locations in the US and is compatible with most GPS units, as well as Google Maps and several other mapping services.
Even if it means going miles out of your way, you’ll still be better off than a costly repair bill for your AC, satellite dish, and your RV roof.
Pay Attention to Signs
When you see a clearance sign, don’t ignore them! They are there for a reason and that is to protect you from hazards. And because those signs may not have been updated after the last repaving job, take six inches off the clearance level.
Some bridges have different clearance signs for different parts of the bridges. The middle of the bridge usually has the highest clearance level, but in mountain areas it may be one side or the other. Go with the highest clearance area for your safety.
If there is a bridge that you’ll just barely fit under and you don’t have any other option, go SLOW. I mean, crawl under that bridge. By going slow, you’ll avoid unexpected bounces from uneven road surfaces. Don’t be surprised if you have to back out and find a different route.
Remember Any Damage is Your Fault!
The authorities won’t be happy if you hit the bridge. And companies won’t be happy if you hit their awnings. Don’t try to go through ATM or fast food drive thrus. And you know who really won’t be happy? Your insurance company. So keep your rates low by knowing what your RV clearance is.
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