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How to Drive a Rental Moving Truck

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Driving a rental moving truck for a do-it-yourself move is not everyone's cup of tea especially when it's packed to the gills. Although packing and heavy lifting seem like the most difficult aspect of such a move, the main challenge is actually driving smoothly enough to make sure your belongings aren't damaged in transit.

How to Drive a Rental Moving Truck

Read on some helpful tips for driving your rental truck for your move.

Inspect the moving truck thoroughly

The first tip is to inspect the truck thoroughly when renting it from a truck rental company. Before you drive off the rental lot, make sure that the vehicle is safe to drive and that none of its parts are damaged - and get familiar with how to operate the truck, including learning how to easily handle all the controls like brakes, wipers, and lights. If the moving truck is not in proper working condition, ask the company to provide you one that is.

Load the rental truck properly

In order to make sure that that all your belongings make it to your destination in one piece, pack and load all boxes and other items properly. When loading the truck, place items onto the truck in such a way that they won't go flying if there's a sharp turn or sudden braking. If you are not sure about your packing and loading skills, you can also hire professionals to do the job for you.

Plan your route

Before you hit the road, make sure you are well aware of your route. Planning the route of the move in advance will allow you to prepare for road weight restrictions and avoid low bridges that will not accommodate your truck. Also, maneuvering a heavy moving truck will be much easier if you are confident in navigating your route. Getting confused or lost will only make your trip more stressful and difficult. If you do not already own one, you may be able to rent a GPS unit from your rental truck agency.

Don't tailgate

Trucks require more time to stop compared to other vehicles. If you know there is a stop approaching, be sure to apply the brakes early. Never tailgate - always keep at least five car lengths between you and the vehicle ahead of you.

Be wary of overhead clearance and restrictions

Your rental moving truck will require at least 14 feet of overhead clearance to safely pass. When planning your travel route, check for low overpasses and bridges. Additionally, beware of low-hanging tree branches, drive-thru restaurants, banks, and parking garage entrances. There will often be a sign alerting drivers of the permitted clearance in tight passages. Look for signs prohibiting truck traffic on bridges, in tunnels, and on certain roadways.

Keep an eye on weigh station stops

While weigh stations are checkpoints usually meant for commercial vehicles, sometimes moving trucks also have to be inspected for weight and for security purposes. Since every state has its own set of regulations, you need to pay attention to signs so you know where you need to stop and how to follow the specific guidelines.

To learn more, read about weigh station regulations for rental trucks.

Turning and passing tips

An important tip for driving a moving truck is to take turns slowly and carefully. This is because your rental truck is longer and wider than a car, meaning that it will require more space to turn.

Below are some crucial turning and passing tips for driving a moving truck:

  • Put on your turn signal as early as possible before turning.
  • Check all the mirrors before taking any turn.
  • Never pass a vehicle that's moving faster than 40 miles per hour and stay out of the passing lane on highways.
  • Always use a turning signal before changing lanes and check your mirror to ensure you have ample room to do so.
  • Never pass cars on hills or curves and avoid making sudden stops or changing lanes abruptly.

Parking tips

Parking a bulky truck can be tricky. Make sure you take your time and check all the blind spots while parking. Here are some tips to follow while parking a moving truck:

  • Always park with your wheels turned away from the curb when you are parked uphill and toward the curb when facing downhill to prevent the truck from rolling.
  • Set the emergency brake every time you park.
  • Avoid backing into parking spaces in lots as it can be extremely difficult to maneuver a large truck. If possible, it is best to park far away from any business entrances when the lot is empty so you can avoid having to back out of the space. If you must back up, ask someone to direct you. Never back up if your truck has towing equipment.
  • Park in well-lit areas. To protect your goods, keep all doors locked. Padlock the safety chain from the towing device to the truck and the safety chain from the towing device to the towed vehicle.

Fuel-saving tips

When driving a rental truck, you will have to pay for your own fuel. While the truck will be provided with gas in the tank, you will be responsible for replenishing what you use before you return it. Using green driving methods to conserve your fuel will not only help the environment, but it will save you some money, too!

Use the following fuel saving tips while driving a rental truck:

  • Don't speed. The faster you drive, the more fuel you will burn.
  • Don't accelerate too quickly. Be light on the gas pedal to reach your desired speed slowly.
  • When slowing down or stopping, slowly let up on the gas and brake gently.

Other tips

  • Always wear your safety belt.
  • Pay attention to all road signs, especially those pertinent to trucks - including weigh station stops, truck restriction signs, and overhead clearance notices.
  • Drive slowly and cautiously. Avoid speeding, making abrupt stops, or taking turns quickly and sharply. Not only will careful driving keep you safe, but it will keep your cargo safe as well. Reckless driving will cause your cargo to shift and could damage it.
  • Be extra careful at intersections. Always check both ways twice before proceeding.
  • If you are traveling long distances, take turns driving with somebody to avoid fatigue. Ideally, you should not travel more than 500 miles per day.
  • If you are moving alone, make stops every few hours to stretch your legs and rest your eyes. Always stop at hotels to get a full night's sleep - and never drive while you are tired.

Driving in bad weather

Although it's best not to drive a moving truck in adverse weather conditions, sometimes you may not have a choice. In such a case, remember the following things:

  • Keep your headlights on so your truck is visible to others on the road, especially when it's foggy or raining heavily.
  • Usually, trucks are equipped with traction control, but if your truck skids on a slippery patch, apply your brakes slowly.
  • Keep your windshield clean and clear so that other vehicles are visible to you. Check that the wiper blades are working properly before you start driving. If needed, you can pull over and wipe the windshield to clear off the steam or water.

Driving at night

Driving a moving truck at night isn't ideal; it's better to leave the truck at a gas station or rest stop. However, if you have no other options, you need to be extra cautious.

Firstly, try not to look directly at extra bright headlights from other vehicles on the road. If you do, it will take time for your eyes to adjust back to normal, and you won't be able to see anything in front of you for a while.

Secondly, you'll have a higher chance of encountering animals on the road at night. Always keep a lookout for them, and if you encounter one, make sure that you honk loud enough for them to hear.

Towing a car with your moving truck

It's hard enough driving a moving truck loaded with packed goods, but when it comes to towing a car, the task becomes even more daunting. Here are some tips for driving safely with a car in tow:

  • Every time you take a break from driving check if the car is properly attached to the setup.
  • Take extra time and space while turning the truck.
  • To be safe, keep the driving speed under the speed limit.
  • Pay close attention to your blind spots while backing up the vehicle.

What if the moving truck breaks down?

Although no truck rental company would want its reputation to be damaged by providing faulty trucks, the possibility of a sudden breakdown of the vehicle cannot be overlooked. Usually, there is a helpline number mentioned in your rental contract for such situations. If there isn't any such information, your only option is to contact the rental company and ask for assistance. Some of the companies even work with assistance providers that will come to your rescue in case of an emergency.

Although it might seem like a rental truck is just like any other vehicle, you must drive with extra caution. The above-mentioned tips on how to drive a rental moving truck will help make your move easier and safer.

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on October 29, 2013

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