You can save money by making a do-it-yourself move, but make sure you’re fully prepared before you climb behind the wheel of a rented moving truck.
Whether you’re traveling across the country to a new home or across town to a self-storage facility, driving a moving truck can be intimidating for inexperienced drivers, said Lew Grill, a truck driving instructor who has worked in the industry since 1968. Compared with a passenger car, a moving truck is difficult to maneuver in traffic.
“For most consumers, it is bigger than anything they have ever driven,” Grill said.
Here are five tips for reaching your destination safely.
1. Use Side-View Mirrors.
If you drive a moving truck, you won’t have the use of a rearview mirror centered above the dashboard, as you do with a passenger car, Grill said. Large trucks have blind spots immediately behind the vehicles. You’ll need to rely on side-view mirrors and pay close attention to surrounding traffic when changing lanes on the road.
Dave Baptisti, director of national consumer sales and programs at Penske Truck Leasing, said it’s best to avoid small parking spaces when driving a moving truck.
“You definitely need more room and since many of our customers are first-time renters we encourage them to stay out of tight spaces if possible,” he says.
It’s helpful to use parking lots that let you drive forward when you exit, rather than backing out. If you must back up, have someone stand outside the vehicle to guide you.
2. Be Careful When Stopping or Turning.
Because of their weight, moving trucks require more time to accelerate and stop, Grill said. Make sure you leave adequate space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you, in case you must stop suddenly.
Aaron Carlson, a Ryder rental sales representative in Glendale, CA, said moving trucks also require more room for turns. A miscalculation could cause you to cut a corner too close, striking other vehicles.
“You have to make your turns a lot wider or you could scrape the sides of a truck,” Carlson said.
3. Plot Your Trip.
In a recent move from Johnson City, TN to Billings, MT, optometrist Dr. John Gingrich mapped out his route. He rented a 26-foot-long to pull a trailer that carried his wife’s car.
“We had our route planned out precisely,” Gingrich said. “You want to look for motels that have access for truck parking.”
Traveling more than 1,800 miles, Gingrich calculated how far he could go on a single tank of diesel fuel. He made sure he always would reach a truck stop before the truck ran out of fuel.
The amount of fuel your truck uses depends on its load, the steepness of the terrain and the driving speed, Baptisti said. “Smaller trucks can average up to 12 miles per gallon,” he said, “and larger trucks up to 10 miles per gallon.”
You can conserve fuel if you accelerate gradually and avoid unnecessary idling.
4. Follow the Rules of the Road.
You don’t need a special license to drive a rented moving truck, but make sure you follow all of the rules of the road, Baptisti said.
“These trucks can be driven with a regular driver’s license,” he said. “However, all rules of the road that normally apply to commercial trucks will also apply to our trucks.”
Weather conditions may require driving below the speed limit. Baptisti said you should drive at a speed that feels safe and never exceed the posted limit.
“Always be aware of your surroundings,” Baptisti said. “Drive defensively, just as you would a passenger car.”
5. Take Note of Your Truck’s Height.
Getting used to the size of a moving truck takes time, Grill said. Unfortunately, renters typically don’t have the luxury of practicing under the watchful eyes of an instructor. That means they must be especially cautious as they gain experience on the road. It’s easy to misjudge the height of a moving truck.
Before you drive under any bridges or underpasses, make sure the truck will fit by a comfortable margin. Never drive underneath something unless you’re absolutely certain your truck isn’t too tall to fit.