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A Guide For Driving A Moving Truck Across The Country

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driving a rental truckPacking up your belongings and moving isn't as easy as it seems. It is a stressful task, and it would get more difficult if you are planning to make a cross-country move. Driving a moving truck for the first time can also create a lot of tension for you.

Choosing the right truck size

A cross-country move will only be successful if you choose the right size of rental moving truck available in varied sizes ranging between 10 to 26 feet long.

  • If you rent a bigger truck, you may face a few issues handling it. The truck would end up consuming more fuel and your overall expenses would even increase.
  • Consider choosing a small truck rental between 10-12 feet long if you need to move an averagely furnished one-bedroom apartment.
  • Alternatively, if you are moving a townhouse or a multi-room apartment you should consider renting a larger truck.

Generally, a truck rental company will help you choose the right size of a moving van. But if you get stuck between two options, you should consider selecting the bigger alternative.

Who can drive a rental truck?

You can drive a moving truck provided you are 18 years and have all the relevant documents which we will discuss below.

A valid driver’s license is what you must possess if you want to drive a rental truck. Since it's not commercial transport you don't need any special license for driving the vehicle.

Proper proof of identity has been made mandatory by most of the truck rental companies at the time of picking up your moving van. You can present your driver’s license, passport, state-issued license, credit card, or social security card. We recommend confirming with the truck rental company you choose about the identity proof they will accept.

Check if the rental truck you choose has insurance or not. You might need to check with your auto insurance company if it would cover a moving van or not. If it covers, you need to take the details from them, and if it doesn't then you might need to purchase an additional supplementary plan.

Apart from the important documents discussed above, you should consider having the following things while driving your moving truck across the country.

  • Auxiliary cord- You must keep an auxiliary cord handy as you might need to charge your phone on the move.
  • A map and direction print out- You should always keep the printouts ready in case your GPS doesn’t work properly.
  • Emergency Kit- It seems worthy to have an emergency kit ready in case your truck experiences a mechanical problem. A reflective vest, flashlight, and a window breaker are a few things you can keep in an emergency kit.
  • First-aid box- You should prepare a first-aid box with a few medical supplies like gauze, bandages, OTC pain killers, and antiseptic wipes.
  • Keep some cash- This would be the right time to empty your piggy banks as you might need it at toll gates.
  • Water and snacks- You should keep sufficient snacks and water so that you don’t have to stop frequently to buy such refreshments. Choose only a few stops where you can get off the truck and freshen yourself up.
  • Medications- Don’t forget to keep any prescribed medicines with you as you might take them on your long journey.
  • Miscellaneous items- Umbrella, raincoat, interesting playlist, UV window shade, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper are a few other things which you should carry during the drive.

Tip: We recommend carrying an ice scraper or a snow shovel if you are moving during the winter.

Safety tips for driving a moving truck across the country

  • Finish the basic moving truck inspection- At the time of renting a moving van from a truck rental company, you should ensure that the vehicle is in good condition. Also, make sure that you know how to operate the fundamental control buttons of the vehicle.
    • Check for both internal and external damage on the moving truck, including the lights, signals, side-view mirror, and tires.
    • Ensure that you can control the windshield wipers, turn signal, and parking brake.
    • Try to convince the truck rental company to provide you with the new and best truck of their company.
  • Load the moving truck properly- Before you start driving your moving van, make sure all your belongings have been loaded properly at the back of the truck. This is important because due to emergency brakes or sudden turn your items can move from their position and get damaged. Consider hiring professional movers if you are not sure about securely loading your items into the moving truck.
  • Slowly reach the speed you want- You are not going to drive a standard vehicle so be careful about the speed of your vehicle. Due to the enormous size and weight of your vehicle, it should take some time to gain speed.
  • Put the brakes early- You shouldn’t apply the brakes suddenly as it can damage the belonging that you have secured at the back of your truck. It can also throw the whole moving van off balance, which means you may lose control of your vehicle. The chances of road accidents will increase if the weather condition is bad.
    • Drive the rental truck slowly when you want to stop it.
    • Apply the brakes early before reaching an intersection or even a turn. This will give you sufficient time to put the brakes smoothly.
    • Maintain a safe distance from other vehicles- Since a moving truck will take some time to stop, you should maintain a double distance from other vehicles on the road.
  • Create space while making a turn- While entering a turn ensures creating sufficient space in between you and the brake. Mostly you will need to apply this while making the right turn. Also, consider taking a turn slowly, checking traffic jams, and if that is the case put the brakes in advance.
  • Don’t hurry while switching lanes- You should put on the turn signal and make use of the side-view mirror while changing lanes. The idea is to maintain sufficient space for both the front and backside of the cargo van at the time of switching lanes.
  • Avoid overtaking- Try not overtaking other vehicles on the road, especially when you are moving uphill, on steep roads or curves. Pass other vehicles only when you find it necessary as it will take sufficient time and distance to overtake.

Why shouldn’t you skip the overhead clearance signs and the weigh stations?

While driving a moving truck cross-country you should be extra careful about the overhead clearance signs.

It is important to note the height of a moving truck when approaching bridges, tunnels etc. Most overpasses and bridges are significantly taller than a rental truck.

Apart from these, you need to look for the weigh station stops while driving your truck across several states.

Weigh stations are checkpoints on the highway where large vehicles like a moving van need to stop and undergo both weight and safety checks. Different states would have different protocols when it comes to stopping at weigh stations on the highway.

Generally, a commercial truck would need to stop at weight stations in most of the states. But if you are driving a rental truck for moving your household items, not all states will require you to stop at weigh stations. If the weight of your rental truck is more than 10,000 lbs, you may need to stop at the weigh stations of certain states.

List of a few states where a rental truck needs to stop at weigh stations

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Florida

What’s Next?

Indeed, it’s a good idea to rent a truck and drive across the country by yourself. This will save you a lot of money as compared to what you might have paid for hiring full-service movers. Driving cross-country isn’t everybody’s cup of tea as the huge size of the vehicle seems to challenge many. So, if you still choose to drive by yourself, consider following the necessary protocols and ensure a safe drive.

Staff Writer  Posted by Staff Writer on April 4, 2022

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