Overweight RVs: An industry and consumers’ problem

Overweight RVs: An industry and consumers’ problem

By Greg Gerber
editor, RV Daily Report

There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about overweight RVs. Most of the talk centers around RVers cramming too much stuff in their units and exceeding the vehicle’s weight rating.

Groups like Escapees Club and FMCA offer the opportunity to have RVs weighed at many events, and most who do have their RVs weighed are surprised at the results.

But, overweight RVs are not entirely the consumers fault. The RV industry shares much of the blame. I recall reading a blog a year or two ago where the writer noted their motorhome was designed to carry everything but people. I can’t put my finger on the post now, but the bottom line was that after weight for fuel, LP gas and fresh water was added into the mix, the family had just 400 pounds available for clothes, dishes — and people.

A few weeks ago, I was approached by Kimberly Travaglino, who is the founder of the nearly 1,150-member Fulltime Families group. She was very concerned about her Heartland fifth wheel after learning some interesting information about the unit. The fifth wheel is officially rated to hold 18,000 pounds, according to the labels affixed to her RV. However, she has since discovered:

  • Each of her three axles are rated for just 5,200 pounds — for a total weight carrying capacity of 15,600 pounds.
  • Furthermore, the leaf springs on her toy hauler are rated to carry just 12,000 pounds.

She was rightfully concerned that even if her family was diligent to keep the weight of the entire fifth wheel to just 18,000 pounds — the maximum weight rating — her family was exerting more pressure on the axles and springs than they were designed to bear. She asked what, if anything, could be done to shore up the structure. I immediately recommended MORryde because their staff has told me in the past they were the experts in RV suspensions, and their website boasts of that claim as well:

“At MORryde, we think of your RV as a house on wheels — one that needs a solid foundation to withstand the rigors of the road. For nearly 50 years, we’ve been delivering suspensions systems that protect this foundation. Considered the expert in suspension systems, we offer a variety of solutions, for every budget.”

Which is why Kimberly and I are both surprised the company would not even offer the courtesy of a response when we both sought confirmation that MORryde had products to help people in situations like this. Assuming that this is a very common problem in the industry, I even offered to do a story in RV Daily Report and Let’s RV on how effective the products were in addressing Kimberly’s weight issue. Crickets — no response at all.

While Kimberly and I were in the process of trying to find a solution to her weight issue, the family moved their RV from Cocoa Beach back down to Delray, Fla. They made it exactly one exit down Interstate 95 when her husband, Chris, spotted white smoke billowing out of the driver’s side wheel compartment. By the time he pulled over, flames were shooting out from the rear wheels, and burning perilously close to the toy hauler’s fuel tank.

Because they had been trained by Mac the Fire Guy to have fire extinguishers at each RV exit and in the tow vehicle, Chris was able to suppress the fire with a whole can of extinguisher foam.

THE VEHICLE WAS TOWED to a service center where the Travaglinos were told the axle bearings had locked up on the driver’s side rear tire. They are left to believe that this whole situation was caused because the fifth wheel toy hauler was rated for a certain capacity — which is why they bought it — but built with components that could not bear that much weight.

Kimberly is, perhaps, one of the RV industry’s greatest cheerleaders. Besides her own organization, her Facebook group has nearly 10,000 members. She is responsible for hundreds of people buying new RVs each year, if not for full-time living, then at least so families can experience many of the things her group does on a part-time basis.

However, she is constantly listening to horror stories from RV owners about defective products they bought. The problem has increased in recent years, she told me. She has been at her current campground for only a few days, and three of her neighbors have complained about product quality.  One can point to the RV roof peeling away and exposing lumber on a two-week-old travel trailer.

“I think the recession forced several high-quality RV manufacturers with commendable reputations out of business because they couldn’t compete against companies who build and sell RVs that are, for all intent and purpose, designed to be bought and stored,” Kimberly told me.

If anyone in the industry has a solution to the problem of overrated RV weights, and what can be done to help people who bought these RVs shore up their systems, Kimberly and I would welcome more information. Perhaps an RV dealer has jerry-rigged a solution that could be shared with others?

Greg Gerber is the editor of RV Daily Report and Let’s RV, a new RV consumer website. He can be reached at editor (at) rvdailyreport.com.

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