This organization’s primary focus is to promote weight and tire safety for the individual RVer as well as the entire RV industry.
By Gary Bunzer
Not often does a service provider have a positive impact on all segments of a given industry. It’s a breath of fresh air when it does happen, for sure. The RV Safety & Education Foundation (RVSEF) fits that bill nicely within the RV industry. RVSEF, headquartered in Merritt Island, Florida, is not only the RVing public’s best friend, but many motorhome builders in the RV industry have benefitted from its dedication as well. Compared with some RVs built 10 or more years ago, today’s motorhomes are much safer thanks to the efforts of RVSEF and its predecessor, A”˜Weigh We Go (AWWG).
The brainchild of John Anderson, AWWG first appeared in 1993 when John and his wife discovered that their travel trailer “” and many RVs leaving the factory “” was decidedly overweight, even before the owner loaded that first can of soup. It’s not easy to make friends by pointing out a deficiency in vehicles produced by veteran manufacturers, but with product and personal safety at risk, Mr. Anderson pushed on and began weighing travel trailers, fifth-wheels, and motorhomes in order to record and analyze the extent of the issue. Weighing is still one of the main tenets of RVSEF activities to this day, and the organization continues to gather data at RV shows, conventions, and rallies throughout North America.
Many leading tire safety experts have long professed that the only way to determine how much air to carry in recreation vehicle tires is by accurately weighing each tire position individually. It’s also the only way to tell whether a given axle is overloaded on one side, so the importance of weighing individual wheel positions on every RV on the road cannot be overstated.
After collecting and analyzing the information, AWWG quickly found an interested sponsor in Michelin Tires. Michelin, dealing with the aftereffects of overweight RVs and underinflated tires on a daily basis, quickly partnered with AWWG, and the first safety seminar program was developed. Although Mr. Anderson was sometimes refused admittance to RV shows, he continued weighing as many RVs as possible, and the data began to accumulate.
It may shock readers to note that the data actually reveals that more than 50 percent of existing RVs exceed at least one safety rating, typically as a result of owners overloading the RV or improperly loading the cargo. Exceeding the limit of the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or the gross axle weight rating (GAWR) is dangerous. Factor in the number one cause of tire failure, underinflation, and the results can be catastrophic. This is not meant to scare readers, but simply to raise awareness.
Through the early efforts of AWWG and now RVSEF, the industry has taken steps to distribute the dry weight more evenly when the motorhome is being designed and manufactured, and to provide RVers with information to make them more knowledgeable and effective when packing the cargo carried for RV excursions. The end result is that every RV must now be equipped with a safety and weight label stating just how much cargo can be carried along with other pertinent information. And that’s a good thing for the RVing public. An educated consumer is a wiser consumer; one who knows that proper weight distribution is paramount to safe travels. Prior to AWWG and RVSEF, RV manufacturers were not required to declare the cargo carrying capacity, sleeping capacity, etc. As a result, some recreation vehicles were delivered to dealers in overweight condition. Thankfully, that era is behind us now!
As the 1990s closed out, additional safety topics were added to the slate of seminars offered by RVSEF, which formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. And by 2001, RVSEF had taken over all the programs and services of AWWG. Since then RVSEF has participated in many RV shows, rallies, and conventions all across the country, providing safety seminars and RV weighing services.
RVSEF also works closely with Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and Recreation Vehicle Dealer’s Association (RVDA) to coordinate safety programs. Not a consumer advocate group, RVSEF is a safety advocate and a champion for all involved in the RV lifestyle. The organization’s efforts and dedication have improved the products created by RV builders as more manufacturers have become aware of weight limitations. Most RV builders now design their motorhomes with weight distribution and cargo carrying capacities in mind. But don’t look for RVSEF to endorse specific brands or types of recreation vehicles; the organization sticks simply to the facts. They allow the data to speak for itself.
While RVSEF continues to present safety seminars and coach weighing activities at various RV venues throughout year, the organization took up a new endeavor in 2010 with its first RV Lifestyle, Education & Safety Conference at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Picking up the trail blazed by Gaylord Maxwell and the popular Life on Wheels Conferences, in 2011 RVSEF will again hold this annual event at the university’s Carroll Knicely Conference Center. Since Mr. Maxwell’s death in September 2008, it is the only national event with RV industry support that focuses solely on consumer education. Educational experts and technical authors from all facets of the RV industry form the nucleus of the instructional staff.
The RV Lifestyle, Education and Safety Conference, similar to Life on Wheels, is designed and presented like a college-based program. Participants (students) rotate from classroom to classroom for each hourly session. Through detailed planning, many of the classes are repeated at different times on alternating days so participants have a chance to attend their specific classes of choice.
This year’s conference is slated for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 6 through 8. Enrollment is limited and classes fill up quickly, so if you are a serious RVer and would like to attend, contact RVSEF at (321) 453-7673 to find out whether any room remains. Additional venues in other geographical areas will be added as demand increases for this type of RV consumer training.
This August 10 through 13, FMCA’s 86th Family Reunion & Motorhome Showcase will be held in Madison, Wisconsin. Among the many seminars offered to attendees will be Coach Weight and Tire Safety, a two-hour course created by RVSEF. It helps FMCA members to be sure they are operating their motorhomes within the weight and tire capacities for which the vehicles were designed. You also can have your motorhome weighed by individual wheel position and receive a load capacity analysis from RVSEF personnel. In addition, RVSEF representatives will conduct the popular two-part (six hours total) RV Driving Safety Program during the Madison convention. Check the seminar listings in the program you receive at the Madison event for dates and times.
The entire industry owes a debt of gratitude to AWWG and RVSEF for the exemplary work they have done and continue to do in the name of RV safety and education. Walter Cannon, the executive director of RVSEF, is known throughout the industry today as the tire and safety guy. After working closely with John Anderson since the late 1990s, Walter became RVSEF’s director of operations in 2001 and was named the foundation’s executive director in July 2003 when John decided to take a well-deserved retirement.
A tireless proponent of safety at all levels of the industry, Mr. Cannon can often be found personally weighing RVs all morning at an event, only to change into business attire in order to lobby for funding support from a major supplier in the afternoon, and later to stand before a class of interested RVers teaching a safety seminar in the evening. RVSEF’s only financial support is through industry appreciation and participation. If your company is interested in partnering with RVSEF in the name of RV safety and consumer education, feel free to contact the organization today.
If you have never had your motorhome professionally weighed using certified individual scales or if you are seeking solid information regarding the RV lifestyle, technical maintenance, or just want to know how much air to squeeze into your tires, give RVSEF a call. Because of their expertise and unwavering labors on behalf of the entire industry, RVSEF is the only trusted safety and weighing organization fully endorsed by RVIA and RVDA.
Recreation Vehicle Safety & Education Foundation, 125 E. Merritt Island Causeway, Suite 209409, Merritt Island, FL 32952; (321) 453-7673; www.rvsafety.com.