By Frank Brodersen, F289730
Chairman, Oregon Governmental & Legislative Affairs Subcommittee
The concept of using a symbol on highway signs to help RV travelers find easily accessible businesses and tourist attractions that cater to their needs works, and is gaining momentum in Oregon and, more recently, in Louisiana.
Many of us have experienced the frustration of not knowing whether a tourist stop, restaurant, or gas station advertised along the interstate offers enough room for RV access and parking. It was out of this frustration that a suggestion was made to the Oregon Travel Information Council about signage identifying “RV Friendly” locations in late 2002. The idea was favorably received, and input from FMCA, as well as the Oregon Department of Transportation and Travel Information Council, led to the establishment of a set of qualifying standards. Trials for the type, size, and coloration of the symbol were conducted. The design ultimately was revised by the Federal Highway Administration, including the requirement to increase the symbol to 12 inches in diameter with 8-inch letters. We originally had asked that the “RV Friendly” signs have a happy face on them, but the final approved design deleted the smiling face and simply includes the letters “RV” in black on a yellow background. Nevertheless, the project continues to be called “RV Friendly.”
The “RV Friendly” symbols were used to identify qualifying restaurants, fueling stations, and tourist attractions in a portion of Oregon in June, July, and August 2003. At the conclusion of that first trial period, 87 percent of surveyed travelers in RVs and other oversize vehicles responded that it was a “great idea.” Of the business managers participating in the program, 92 percent said they believed it was worth continuing.
This overwhelming approval of the initial limited experiment led to the Oregon Travel Information Council requesting an expanded trial in 2004. Approval was obtained to offer the signage this year on Interstate 5 from Ashland to Aurora; all of U.S. Route 101; U.S. Route 97 from Klamath Falls to Madras; and on connecting state highways from the summit of the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
This past June, the state of Louisiana enacted a law that requires the department of transportation in that state to include RV Friendly markers within the state’s logo sign program. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association was in favor of this new law and is working with the state to help implement it.
During its June 10, 2004, meeting, the RVIA Board of Directors “made the pursuit of legislative and regulatory efforts to permit RV Friendly logos on highway enunciator signs . . . a priority for the association,” according to a memo from RVIA. RVIA notes that by helping to ease the frustration of failing to find facilities that accommodate recreation vehicles, the RV Friendly logos improve overall owner satisfaction and goodwill, and they would also serve to remind highway travelers that RVs are a viable option for their next vacation. In other words, they are good for the RV industry as a whole.
RVIA officials have noted that they are hopeful that standard criteria for facilities that display the RV Friendly logo can be established, eventually leading to a nationwide program.
Following are the current requirements for the Oregon program:
- Roadway access and egress must be hard surface, free of potholes, and have lane widths of 12 feet.
- Facilities requiring short-term parking (restaurants, tourist attractions, etc.) are required to have two or more spaces that are 12 feet wide and 65 feet long with a swing radius of 50 feet at both ends to enter and exit the spaces.
- Fuel stations with canopies must have a minimum 14-foot height clearance. All stations must have a swing radius of 50 feet to enter and exit fuel islands. Facilities selling diesel fuel to RVs must have pumps with non-commercial nozzles.
If you do not live in Oregon or Louisiana, what can you do to help further this program?
- First, would you be willing to approach the agency in your state that administers the blue highway logo signs and ask for their participation? Motorist services and other tourist-oriented signage on state highways are usually managed by a single agency or department. Generally, it’s a part of each state’s department of transportation. Getting these logos on signs in Oregon did not require legislative action; in your state, it may not require it, either.
- You will have to establish contact with the appropriate agency and then do some consistent follow-up. In Oregon and many other states, this is a user-supported program that does not require tax revenue to implement. In some states, the situation may be different.
Be well prepared for your initial interview.
1. Establish scope and need. How many RVs are licensed in your state? What is the increased business potential? I found there were two RVers on the Oregon Travel Information Council staff, and they were invaluable in verifying the problems we RVers encounter when traveling in unfamiliar areas. Don’t overlook the benefit to all oversize vehicles, not just motorhomes. One member of the Oregon TIC board is a rancher who has similar problems towing a stock trailer. What about tour buses, and people who tow boats or snowmobiles?
2. Point to the fact that Oregon and Louisiana are working on putting such a program in place, and that the RVIA is behind the concept. In Oregon, we’re well on the way with testing an approved symbol. Our sign is made from a standard reflective pressure-sensitive material, overprinted with black letters and mounted on an aluminum backing. This enables ease of mounting or removal if necessary. The symbols also are used at the specific venue to direct vehicles to the proper area to park or fuel. The Federal Highway Administration will require the same symbol be used on interstates. Our goal is to build the evidence so the symbol will be included in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
3. Remember, too, that it just works! RV travelers love the idea, and participating businesses were almost unanimous in their approval and willingness to continue to participate, even in Oregon, where they know there would be a cost involved. Oregon’s plan is to treat this as they do logo riders (signs that say “Open 24 hours, etc.”) with a one-time installation charge, plus a fee for removal, should that be necessary.
If you do live in Oregon, we’re asking for you to please comment on the project in your state. You also can help in several ways:
1. Please let us know whether you would be willing to check out facility compliance, should the need arise. You’d be asked to visit a site to confirm that it meets the established requirements or, in your judgment, that there are offsetting, compensating benefits.
2. Help us educate other RVers by talking about this program at rallies, when visiting with friends, and so forth. Explaining the concept is very, very important. As I’ve noted, the hope is that this will spread to other states and the end result will be beneficial to all RV travelers.
3. Promote usage to qualifying businesses and tourist attractions. If you know of a business, fuel station, or tourist-oriented destination that meets the basic requirements for an RV Friendly designation, encourage their participation. There are approximately 200,000 licensed RVs in Oregon and countless thousands of RVing tourists, not to mention thousands of other oversize vehicles. An RV Friendly designation application can be mailed to the business at your request.
4. Help us promote the concept, for publicity is key to our long-term success. If you live within the area covered in the expanded trial, would you be willing to contact your newspaper, TV stations, and radio stations? We expect the Oregon Travel Information Council to have press releases available starting this summer. If you know of a media outlet that should receive press releases, please let us know.
5. Consumer demand will dictate how rapidly the RV Friendly idea will spread. Your comments to me will be forwarded to Oregon’s Travel Information Council. For example, RV parks were included in the initial trial but were eliminated this year. Would you appreciate knowing by way of a simple highway symbol which campgrounds can accommodate “big rigs”? If there is an RV park near you, would you be willing to interview them to see whether they would like to participate?
Having a reference resource makes any job easier. Don’t hesitate to contact me at 287 S. 68th Place, Springfield, OR 97478; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, contact Max Durbin, F76454, International Area vice president and Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee chairman at (800) 544-7062, ext. 600. Your willingness to assist in your state is invaluable. Thank you.