By Jim Ammenheuser, F157201
Chairman, Education Committee
National Vice President, South Central Area
The FMCA Education Committee came into full committee status this past summer when Jeff Jefcoat, F118344, was elected national president of the association. Prior to that, the Education Subcommittee had been functioning for 2½ years.
Now that the group has full committee status, we have had the good fortune of having two more members assigned to join us. They are Gary Resnick, F146323, and Daryl Skorupa, F192413, each of whom brings enthusiastic interest. The group’s three incumbent members — Mary Lawler, F119890, National Vice President, Southeast Area; Len Pigg, F133119, National Vice President, Rocky Mountain Area; and I — welcome them. The Education Committee is further enhanced with support from the director of FMCA’s Membership Services Department, Beverly Spurgeon, as well as FMCA executive director Don Eversmann, and national president Jeff Jefcoat.
The initial goal of the committee was to establish a curriculum that would provide a background in the safe operation of motorhomes and an understanding of how these sophisticated machines function. The initial proposed curriculum includes the following: basic driving safety; fire and life safety; coach weight and tire safety, including the weighing of one’s coach; heavy large vehicle drivers license requirements and air brakes; driving instruction, beginner and advanced; electricity-electrical safety, problem solving 12-volts DC and 120-volts AC; medical emergencies, CPR; food and water safety; towing and braking; engine maintenance — gasoline or diesel; Allison Transmissions and supplemental braking; road service — what to expect; coach navigation, communications and entertainment systems.
It also was thought that a recognition program should be established to acknowledge FMCA members who complete the curriculum at various levels.
The first three programs have been offered for more than a year. They are the RV Safe Driving Course, jointly sponsored by RV Alliance America (RVAA) and FMCA; Fire & Life Safety, jointly sponsored by RVAA and FMCA; and Coach Weight & Tire Safety, jointly sponsored by the Recreation Vehicle Safety Education Foundation (RVSEF) and FMCA.
We are all familiar with RVAA, the insurance company that has long offered motorhome coverage to FMCA members and the RV community at large. Many of us also have heard of RVSEF — formerly known as A’Weigh We Go — which provides a weighing service for RVs and presents the RV weight and tire safety seminar. The foundation is getting ready to market a new nine-chapter RV study course beginning this summer. The Education Committee critiqued this material for RVSEF as it was being developed. I felt honored that our group was asked to assist in editing the course material.
The agreements that FMCA has established with RVAA and RVSEF ensure that FMCA gets preferential scheduling for the courses, not only at FMCA’s international motorhome extravaganzas (conventions) but also at area rallies. Until these arrangements were put in place, the providers could not fund all the proposed venues, nor could all the areas afford to bring in the instructors on their own.
It also was decided to keep the price of these programs reasonable, and to provide FMCA members an added incentive to participate. Graduates of the RV Safe Driving Course, which covers a variety of driving scenarios and safety tips, receive a certificate of completion. The six-hour course costs only $10 per student. Some RV insurance companies offer lower rates to those who have participated in this course.
The Fire & Life Safety program is free. Attendees receive a completion certificate and a $5 coupon toward the purchase of a fire extinguisher from McCoy Enterprises, the presenter of the program.
The Coach Weight & Tire Safety program educates participants about potential overloading dangers and other hazards. In addition to an educational seminar, this program provides motorhome owners the opportunity to have their coach weighed wheel by wheel. The cost of this weighing service increased to $35 in 2002, but FMCA is subsidizing the weighing service so that the cost to FMCA members will continue to be $20. The handbook previously provided with the course will no longer be available once new course study material becomes available this year.
What does the future hold? The pressing issue seems to be a hands-on RV driving course. Several committee members have attended such programs offered by motorhome manufacturers and private RV driving schools, or Gaylord Maxwell’s “Life on Wheels” program. When the Education Committee meets next month, this topic will be on our agenda. My crystal ball contains a vision of some classroom indoctrination for inexperienced drivers that focuses on handling large vehicles, as well as brief hands-on instruction in performing a check of one’s motorhome before starting out, and then actual driving. It would be a confidence-building seminar — a prelude to getting further time behind the wheel — that also would serve to increase new drivers’ appreciation of their motorhomes.
Discussing recognition of FMCA members who have completed the courses is another item on the agenda.
The new course material from RVSEF will be evaluated as a complimentary study guide for our curriculum. In addition, we will continue to review information concerning the fact that Class B drivers licenses are required for vehicles with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more in some states, as well as air brake endorsement requirements.
Since the establishment of these educational programs, an overriding concern has been how to make them available to more FMCA members. Right now, we can provide the opportunity to only 1 percent to 2 percent of FMCA’s 122,000 active members.
FMCA’s three education programs are well worth your time. Take the opportunity to increase your knowledge and to provide a safer, more enjoyable RV environment. Your Education Committee will continue to develop programs for consideration by the Executive Committee and to assist in the implementation of these programs, for your edification and safer enjoyment of the RV lifestyle.