RV Driving Skills: Know your pivot point and tail-swing

Mark Polk, RV Education 101
Driving a compact automobile is different than towing a trailer or driving a motorhome. The more proficient your driving skills and knowledge are, the more your confidence and abilities increase when driving or towing an RV.

There are driving techniques used to train professional drivers that cross over nicely in RV driver education. After you learn these simple driving techniques you will be a better driver.

Here are two important driving techniques every RV owner needs to understand:

1. Pivot point

The first technique is referred to as your pivot point. It does not matter if you are driving a motorhome or towing a trailer – every vehicle has a pivot point. The pivot point is a fixed point on the vehicle at which the vehicle rotates around when making a turn. It sounds more complicated than it is. If it is a truck or motorhome with two axles, the pivot point is the center of the rear axle.

If it has a tandem axle, like a travel trailer or 5th wheel, the pivot point is at the center of the two axles. What you need to understand is, if an object like a gas pump is at the center of your pivot point (or behind your pivot point) you can turn in the direction of the object and not hit it. If the object is in front of the pivot point and you turn in the direction of the object you can hit it. Note: This also depends on the distance you are away from the object when you start making the turn.

2. Tail-swing

The next technique is commonly referred to as tail-swing. Tail-swing is the distance the overhang, or the portion of the body that extends behind the pivot point, moves in the opposite direction you are turning in. Tail-swing can be 30 inches or more on some vehicles. This means if you are only parked 24 inches away from the concrete barrier at a gas pump and you turn away from the pump to exit the gas station, tail-swing can cause the rear of the RV to hit the concrete barrier. Accidents like this happen every day.

To avoid this you must know what your tail-swing is. Park your motorhome or truck and trailer parallel directly alongside a straight line in an empty parking lot. Next, make a full lock turn in the direction opposite from the line. Have someone measure the maximum distance the tail swings over the line as you slowly turn and drive away from the line. You will see the tail of the RV cross over the line. Take the measurement at the maximum point where the tail extends over the line. This is your tail-swing, and it represents the minimum distance you need to park away from an object to avoid hitting it as you turn and move away from the object.

To learn more about improving your RV driving skills check out our Tow your Travel Trailer Like a Pro, Tow your 5th Wheel Trailer Like a Pro and Drive your Motorhome Like a Pro.

These are two easy RV driving techniques that can improve your RV driving skills immediately.

Read more of Mark Polk’s RV Education 101 tips on RVtravel.com here.


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