Whether you are full-time RVers or simply making a long trip in your RV, it can be difficult to find campgrounds when you need them. Plus, it can get expensive paying for reservations each night. When I first drove across country, I needed a solution to this problem. So, I asked myself, “Can RVs stay at truck stops?”
RVs, including motorhomes and campers, are permitted to stay overnight at most truck stops in the United States. However, there are some downsides to doing this.
I must admit that truck stops are not my first choice when finding somewhere to stay when traveling. There are some significant advantages, though, one being they’re free. But it also comes with disadvantages. Continue reading to hear some pros and cons of parking your RV at a truck stop, along with some tips and guidelines to follow.
Important Facts to Know About Truck Stops
Let’s cover some important information before we get into the advantages and disadvantages of parking your RV at a truck stop. First, let’s go over some of the major truck stops around the country. Although there are various options, the most prevalent are Flying J, Pilot, TA (travel centers of America), Loves, and Petro.
The Original Purpose of Truck Stops
When these areas were first created, they were solely intended to house truckers. Over the years, they have increasingly been used by RVers, especially those traveling full-time. This has affected the availability of stops for truckers to use. Understandably, this has created some animosity between truck drivers and RVers.
In an attempt to draw more people and businesses, truck stops started calling themselves travel plazas to appeal to the general public. These travel plazas became bigger and better, and some have even built hair salons, movie theaters, along with a variety of other services. Surely truck drivers enjoy these additional amenities but don’t necessarily appreciate the larger crowds these bring in.
Laws Truckers Have to Abide By
It’s important for RVers to remember that truckers need a place to park their truck, rest, wash up, and eat. By law they must stop every 11 hours to keep themselves and everyone on the road safe and well rested. Unfortunately, states have been unable to keep up with the demand of the number of truckers and RVers needing a place to park. Just be courteous, and try to find somewhere else to stay if you see a truck stop is near capacity.
|Free||Dirtier than a campground|
|No fuss entrance/exit (No check-in process)||Noisy|
|Amenities (showers, food, gas,)||Cramped|
|Many have dumping stations||May have limited parking available|
Advantages to Parking Your RV at a Truck Stop
My favorite advantage of parking my RV at a truck stop is the cost or lack thereof. It’s FREE! Who doesn’t like free? Not only does it not cost you anything, but I love how it is a no-fuss entrance and exit. After driving hours and being tired, the last thing you want to do is mess with reservations and a check-in process.
Another advantage is that you can easily fill up your gas tank, and not have to try to maneuver your way around a typical gas station with multiple cars everywhere. Another huge plus of purchasing fuel at truck stops is that you can apply for the TSG Logistics Card for discounts on your gas. It’s good at every major truck, and it’s tied to your debit or checking account. Here is a great YouTube video explaining how much you could save using this card.
Fill Up Your Fresh Water Tank
Other than gas, you can fill up on non-potable water (non-drinking water) and even use the dumping station at many locations. These dump stations usually have a fee attached to them, so just beware. Loves truck stops have over 500 dump stations across America. How great is that?!
Take a Shower
Most major chains of truck stops provide showers, although I have found that some are not the cleanest so defiantly wear some flip-flops in.
Eat and Stock up on Supplies
Now because parking is free, it’s important to always show your support by visiting the store/restaurant there to grab a meal and stock up on some food and basic supplies.
Lastly, some truck stops, including TravelCenters of America, Petro, Pilot, and Flying J have free Wi-Fi. Often, I have found that it is usually slower and less reliable than your cellphone data.
Disadvantages to Parking Your RV at a Truck Stop
Now that we’ve covered all the advantages let’s look at the disadvantages of staying at a truck stop with your RV.
Doesn’t Compare to Campgrounds
Truck stops tend to be dirtier than campgrounds, with a lot of noise due to trucks coming in and out. Unlike campsites where it is expected to pull out the BBQ grill up something to eat, I’ve learned from some truckers that this is mostly frowned upon by the trucking community. But if you do decide to grill up some hotdogs, maybe offer some to the truckers parked beside you.
They are often cramped, making it difficult to maneuver your RV at times. It’s important to remember that if there are limited parking spots, you may be taking the spot of a trucker who is required to stop and rest.
Guidelines RV’s Need to Follow at Truck Stops
Park in the Right Area
If the truck stop has a designated RV area, be sure to park there or in the front where trucks don’t park. Or if you fit in two parking spots designated for cars, then that is acceptable as well. As a last resort, park in the cab-only area in the trucker’s lot (usually not used).
Watch Your Slide-Out
Always keep your slide in unless it is over a grassy/dirt area. This is so you don’t take up too much space, but also to protect your RV. Truckers pulling in and out in the dark won’t see your slide out and could damage it badly.
Don’t Leave Your RV Unattended
Don’t leave your RV at the fuel pump or filling up for water to go use the showers, shop, or eat. This causes truckers to have to wait longer than necessary, and they don’t get paid for their time at truck stops. This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised at how often this occurs.
Use the RV Lanes
All truck stops have different entrances, but there is a separate entrance and lane for RVs most of the time. Be sure to look for signs showing you where to go.
Tips for Parking Your RV at Truck Stops
- If the lot is full or near full, check for space at the next truck stop. Use TRUckerPath.com to show you truck stops near you, along with how busy they are.
- Try to use truck stop amenities such as showers or laundry during the less crowded times. I’ve found mid-afternoon to be a great time. Remember, truckers are on a deadline while RVers are not. Try to respect their time and need to use various amenities.
- Don’t take advantage of truck stops. Go in, and buy something to support them.
- A must for me is to bring shower shoes into truck stop showers. Defiantly don’t want to be walking around barefoot.
- Use gloves for fueling at truck stop gas pumps because they are filthy! Trust me here.
- You cannot pay at gas pumps unless you have one of their credit cards, like the ones mentioned earlier.
- My favorite truck stop to stay at in my RV is Flying J.
3 Misconceptions Rvers Have About Truckers
- Truckers don’t want RVers at the rest stops. FALSE. The vast majority of truckers don’t feel this way. They want us to rest up just like them to keep the roads safe for everyone.
- Truck stops are not safe. FALSE. Most are safe, but if you pull into one and get a bad feeling about it, leave and drive to the next one. Just be smart about it, and trust your instincts.
- Truckers like to stay at truck stops. FALSE. The majority of truckers would prefer to stay at their shipper or their honey spot. Their honey spot is the sweet spot on the side of somewhere they feel more comfortable. Many would even prefer to park at some Walmart parking lot.