Driving bonus: General highway driving

MasterTrack Lesson

Lane position: We will put reference marks on your coach before we get going. This will give you a boundary to your left and to your right. If you keep the markers inside the lines, you are in position.

Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a tight situation, with a hard obstacle on your side such as a wall, cones, a curb, or a cliff. In this situation, “drive to the object”. This means use the reference marker on that side of the coach to keep off the object, and let the other side of the coach “take care of itself”. If you are in a construction zone, with a concrete wall on one side of you, that is the side you have fewer options on. Stay in position based on that wall, and watch the other side of the coach for safety, but knowing there are no options to the opposite direction.

Road conditions: A coach is bigger, taller, heavier, and all around slower – it can’t maneuver quickly. Road hazards include trash, buckets, tumbleweeds, gators (pieces of truck tires), people, signs, posts, etc. You must be looking down the road at least 15 seconds – any shorter and you are victim to whatever you “come upon”. If you do approach an object and you can’t react, your best bet is to straddle it and be prepared to hit it. Don’t make hard swerves or over-react in a way that can put the coach on its side and hurt people. It may be expensive, but sometimes you just have to straddle and hit the object.

Speed: You have control over your speed. Increased speed reduces your options to react. When travelling faster, you can’t swerve, maneuver, or stop as quickly. For this reason, you always monitor your speed to your conditions.

You also must react differently than you would in a car. In a car, if there is something “happening up there”, or flashing lights, or cars pulled over, or just something going on, we often just drive right into the situation and see what’s going on, then react accordingly (i.e. slow down, change lanes). In a coach, you must train yourself to slow down when you can’t interpret what you’re looking at. It could be an accident, a construction zone, an animal on the highway, or any other number of things. If you speed into that situation “hot”, you have very few options if it indeed turns out to be an obstacle. If you can’t identify what you’re looking at, slow down – period!

BELIEVE the yellow corner speed signs!!!! Do AT LEAST as slow as they’re saying, if not slower. Once in awhile they’re too conservative, but it’s better than flipping over. If there is a turn sign, but no speed posted, slow down anyway. The speed limit of the road may still be too fast for you. Slowing down too quickly in a turn is bad – it shifts the weight in such a way that it increases ability to roll over.

Spacing: We’ve all been taught the 3 second rule when driving a car: to pick a spot that the car in front of us passed and count until we get to the same spot, and it needs to be at least 3 seconds. In your coach, this needs to increase to 5. Remember, you’re bigger, taller, heavier, and slower to react – you must give yourself more time to evaluate and react to conditions!

Braking: Braking is made up of 4 things: perception, reaction, brake lag (air systems can be .5 seconds before feeling it), stopping distance. You only have control of one of those things: perception. You must be looking at least 15 seconds down the road in order to have enough time to safely react!

Positioning: As a larger vehicle, you’ll notice smaller cars and trucks treat you a little different – it’s almost like you don’t exist. They’re oblivious to cutting you off, how wind or road conditions are affecting your lane position, etc.

One of the most important things is to be consistent: stay in your lane, stay centered and be predictable. There is no need to make big swings from one side of the lane to another simply because you’re being passed, whether by a large or small vehicle. There is plenty of room, unless it’s an extra large load that deserves its own space.

Tip: If your wheels leave the pavement for any reason (drove off shoulder, etc.), the best practice is to slow down, stop, and drive back onto the pavement. Many people however simply and gently nudge back onto the road. The point is not to overreact – you have a lot of weight that won’t respond well to quick and abrupt movements.

Fuel efficiency: In general, for every 5 MPH over 60, it’s like paying $.10 more per gallon of fuel. There is something magic about 60 MPH – you’ll usually notice rapidly declining fuel efficiency as you exceed that speed.