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  1. Default Driving a truck across america

    Hi all,

    I am moving from the east coast (Ithaca, NY) the west coast (San
    Francisco) in the beginning of September and I am planning on renting
    a 26' truck from Penske and drive, with my car towed behind. This is
    a bit intimidating, as I have never driven a truck before, and I have
    never driven across the US.

    I am looking for information on recommended stops and motels that
    can accommodate a big truck in their parking lot.
    I am planning on driving no more than 9 hours per day (5 hours on the first
    day). I was thinking about making the following stops (distances and travel time are based on google maps):

    from: Ithaca, NY to: Cleveland, Ohio (329 miles, about 5.5 hours)
    from Cleveland, Ohio to: Davenport, Iowa (495 miles, about 8 hours)
    from Davenport, Iowa, to: North Platte, Nebraska (578 miles, about 8.5 hours)
    from: North Platte, Nebraska to: Salt Lake City, Utah (656 miles, about 9 hours)
    from: Salt Lake City, Utah to: Reno, Nevada (519 miles, about 7.5 hours)
    from: Reno, Nevada to: San Francisco, CA (219 miles, about 3.5 hours)

    I was wondering if anyone has any advice on this route. Does it seem like
    a reasonable plan? Should I change the stops?

    Also, does anyone know of cheap but decent motels/hotels in the cities I am planning on stopping by? I tried and, as suggested by other members of this forum (thanks for these pointers!), and they came up with a plan, but I am not sure it is useful for truck drivers.

    The main issue I am concerned about is accessibility - I would prefer motels that are close to the highway so I don't have to drive
    through small roads to get there, and I can easily get in and out (preferably without having to go in reverse..)
    The other issue is parking - most motels have small parking lots so
    where can you park such a big truck (+car carrier)?
    Alternatively, is there a website/software that can come up with
    a travel plan geared toward trucks?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!


  2. #2
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Take it easy

    Greetings Jona!

    The first thin about driving a large truck like a rented box truck is to just take it easy. Be very generous in your distance allowances, and don't think twice about waiting until you're absolutely sure you're ready to make a move (ie pulling out from a parking lot, pulling into one. Give yourself plenty of space.

    With that said, my family has made similar trips multiple times with the largest Ryder or U-Haul trucks available, and a car in tow just as you do. You should have no problem with most parking lots, but it's always good to eyeball it. If worse comes to worse, you may have to parallel park outside of the parking lot (if it is allowed), or park across 10 spaces (done that multiple times).

    Motel 6 has always been adequate for parking a large rental truck, so has super 8. I'd check with those.

    Hope everything goes well!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default questions and answers

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    At this point are you planning to use a Tow Dolly (where your car is pulled with 2 wheels on the ground) or were you leaning towards a full trailer to pull your car?

    With the Tow Dolly, you can't back up at all, so I would recommend going with the full trailer for a move of this size.

    About your schedule, I do like that you gave yourself a short day on your first day. I've found you'll end up going very slow with lots of stops as you get started on your trip. But you'll gradually get more comfortable with the large truck and trailer setup, and by the end of the trip, you'll feel like you are a pro!

    I am a little bit concerned about the length of your days. You are going to have to keep your driving speeds down around 60-65, even if the speed limit for cars is 75. When you factor that in with needed stops for food, fuel, etc, I'd bet your total time on the road looks much closer to 50 mph or less. That means your 650 mile day will take at least 13 hours. Since you are planning for a relatively short day that last day, I would rework your trip a bit and plan to spend more of that last day on the road and shorten those days where you've got more than 500-550 miles planned.

    Since you are sticking to I-80, you really shouldn't have any problem finding services that will work with your large set up. Most chain hotels will have plenty of parking, where you can pull through two spaces or just park across several spaces in the back of the lot. Places out by the interstate will be used to dealing with set ups like yours.

    I have had a little more trouble with some mom and pops, where the lots have dead-ended - leading me to make some manuvers that put the famous "Austin Powers" turnaround to shame. If there is ever a question, I'd stop and do a quick walking inspection before you get yourself into trouble.

  4. #4
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Brakes!!!

    Also be sure to be cautious of the brakes after a long downhill stent. We set the brakes on fire going down Siskiyous Pass on I-5, even when using low gears to control speed simply due to weight. I would recommend stopping at the bottom of any steep downhill run at a rest area or truck stop and turning the vehicle off and checking the wheels for smoke, and generally allowing them to cool before moving on.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Rule of thumb that works


    Yikes! That must have been fun.

    A rule that is easy to adopt and will generally keep one safe is:

    Never go down a hill any faster than it took to drive up it. Same with the gearing, if the truck is in 2nd most of the way up the grade, keep it in 2nd on the way down.


  6. #6
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Yeah, it didn't work

    Quote Originally Posted by Editor View Post

    Yikes! That must have been fun.

    A rule that is easy to adopt and will generally keep one safe is:

    Never go down a hill any faster than it took to drive up it. Same with the gearing, if the truck is in 2nd most of the way up the grade, keep it in 2nd on the way down.

    Yeah... we tried that. It didn't work. The truck was fully loaded with a 1/2 ton pickup on the back. The turn at the base of the hill complicated things, as we had to ride the brakes more to keep the truck stable going down around the curve.

    I was only about 6. My dad didn't believe me that the brakes were on fire until I finally got him to look under the truck and there were orange flames. Never seen the man move faster! We packed 3 fire extinguishers, one for each car, we used two.

  7. #7

    Default A couple of thoughts

    It's a long time since I first drove a truck so I guess it's mostly second nature to me now but a couple of things come to mind - you'll need to make much wider turns than you're used to and other (car) drivers (unbelievably) don't realise what you're doing when you indicate left and swind out wide to the right to make the turn (or the opposite in your case, I guess!) and will often start to gun it down your inside. You have to keep a good eye on those mirrors when turning. Another thing, when pulling up to reverse, etc., is to know exactly what is behind you by keeping a regular eye on those mirrors. Once again it's usually car drivers, but some people don't realise that, if they pull right up behind you, you're likely to reverse over them!

    So, really, it's mirrors, mirrors, mirrors. And taking things steady. You'll be fine, just give yourself time to settle in to what you're driving.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default A couple more ideas

    One of the most often over-looked issues is the vertical size of the vehicle. Most of us are used to the 6-ft height of our cars and trucks and can easily judge how much clearance they have when crossing under low tree branches. But a truck is much hard to visualize at first.

    What I recommend is getting a tall stick (or a light-weight PVC pipe) and tie a red bandana on it at the height of the minimum clearance of your truck and have some hold the pipe/stick vertical about 30 paces in front of the truck (with you in the driver's seat). After getting that height fixed in your mind, have them walk around the truck so you can see that same height in all of the mirrors. Then have them walk up to a tree or some other lowered obstacle and see how much clearance you have.

    This atlas lists all of the low clearance bridges you are likely to run across on your trip. For the most part, you will never have a problem, since you will be interstate highways -- but forewarned is better than backing up a block or two in traffic!


  9. Default Thanks!

    Thanks guys! This is very helpful.
    Brad - I m glad to hear that motel6 and super 8 can accommodate big trucks, and I'll watch out for the brakes as you suggested. With an almost fully loaded truck (about 20,000 pounds with the car) that might be a real issue. So I added another item to my "grocery list" - a fire extinguisher..

    Michael - I picked a car carrier because i was told that I won't be able to
    back up with a tow dolly, but I know it is still going to be a challenge. There is a big empty parking lot next to Penske in Ithaca, so I am planning on practicing there. It will probably look quite funny (or suspicious) to a bystander ..
    As for the plan - you are right, it seems I underestimated the time
    it would take to drive 500 miles, so I will change the plan.

    Craig, Mark - thanks for the tips and the encouragement.

    btw - I realized that the travel-planer at has an option
    to add '18 wheeler parking' as hotel amenity, so you can build a plan
    that lists only hotels with adequate parking. Seems like a really useful

    This is a great forum. I am really glad I found out about it


  10. #10
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Standard Equipment

    Quote Originally Posted by jona View Post
    So I added another item to my "grocery list" - a fire extinguisher..
    I personally recommend a fire extinguisher on all rigs, from your commuter car to the fully loaded U-Haul type. Just be sure it's an ABC Class extinguisher.

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