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Limitations due to size of HDT?


RoamingRanger

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Hi,

I'm looking for opinions from HDT owners regarding limitations they face utilizing HDT's as tow vehicles?

  • Increased difficulties finding a campsite or campground due to length?
  • How often do you have to park your HDT offsite in overflow?
  • Limitations driving over bridges or through city streets due to weight?
  • Limitations getting into State and National Parks?
  • Difficulties navigating city streets or campgrounds with a 13' tall HDT (low bridges, narrow streets, low hanging trees etc.)? 
  • Assuming you pull a rather long trailer, do you avoid states with conservative maximum length towing laws?
    • While researching, I was shocked to find 15 states that prohibit vehicles with a combined length greater than 65' (source: https://www.nexttruckonline.com/). I'm assuming the majority of HDT's with a 40' 5th Wheel would exceed 65' in length.
  • How practical is it to use your HDT as an everyday driver (sightseeing, grocery getting, etc.)?
  • Any additional limitations I'm not considering?

Due to our family size (6 currently), we'll likely settle on a 36+ foot 5th wheel so I'm considering a HDT as our Tow Vehicle. Any input you can provide regarding limitations of using a HDT as a tow vehicle and a daily driver are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Roaming Ranger, you're asking the right questions. Get a current copy of Rand McNally's Motor Carriers Road Atlas (often discounted at truck stops and on Amazon). LOTS of useful information therein. Don't be afraid to browse or, just dive in. My HDT is a Class 7 Super-C (2015 Dynamax DX3-37RB). I HAVE had to park the Featherlite trailer I have for my Prius in overflow lots on several occasions and to date, that has NOT been a problem. More and more RV parks ARE upgrading their properties so that an RV site can be 70'  (or more) long. These improved sires are usually pull through. Other forum members have "Big Boy" Class 8 HDT Super-Cs; maybe they'll chime in. Some Class 8 Super Cs are BUNKHOUSE models and can sleep and travel safely with eight or more people. Get a SMART WEIGH done on your rig AND, make sure the height is properly measured. Post that height in the cab where it's readily visible and, will hopefully remind you just how much space you need to stay safe. When on local roads, PLAN AHEAD so as NOT to be surprised by finding yourself boxed in or, overweight on (or approaching) an old bridge. This is more of a problem in the east (and especially in the New England area) where some roads and bridges go back to colonial times.

 

"Old" public style RV sites are often small. They were designed and built DECADES ago when RVs were smaller. If you want to visit a National Park, big rigs can often find commercial RV parks not too far away and, privately owned RV parks have the incentive to update / upgrade  / expand their sites as it's MUCH easier for them to raise rates. Publicly owned RV parks often require a change in the laws to get a rate increase approved. If you want to visit a National / State / Municipal park, CALL that park directly and play 20 questions. Government properties WANT visitors and, are usually VERY familiar with their park and the surrounding area. Rangers can tell you that they DO have "x" number of sites that are longer than the park standard (getting of of those golden sites can be an entirely different matter. ASK questions and be ready to answer questions they'll have re length, height etc of your rig as well as your ability to drive it safely in tight quarters).

 

For years now, LEOs (Law Enforcement officers) have largely left RVs / RVers alone. Decades ago, RVers tended to 1: be driving smaller rigs and 2: be far more responsible than many of today's newbies are. "Leave No Trace" was widely followed back then; not so much these days. I fear that the HUGE increase of new, inexperienced RVers who are often ill equipped to drive the monster RV they recently bought, will be the undoing of that hands off policy. most LEOs still follow.  DECADES ago, the Federal government made major changes to commercial trucking. All it might take, would be to have a few horrific RV accidents, resulting in a public outcry calling for more restrictions on RVs and RVers. Most levels of government are cash strapped and, RVers could be seen as a source of easy revenue. Currently, RVs are generally NOT wanted "clogging up" weigh stations. I expect that most forum members have noticed that TODAY, more and more weigh stations list the WEIGHT (GVWR / GCWR) of vehicles required to pull in (and I've seen weights as low as 8,000# listed). I fear that it's just a matter of time before RVs (which, according to RVSEF are often overweight) will be required to pull into weigh stations. It might just start with HDT based RVs and then, expand from there (it's a slippery slope). Again, it is likely to be driven by accidents and government's need for a new cash source. I truly hope I'm wrong here but, unless people in general make the conscious decision to be more responsible RVers, as a group, are headed for a fall.

 

As for your "family of six", a Smart for Two ain't going to cut it and, I'm not aware or any state that allows double or triple towing without some kind of special permit. Gregg Shield used to do EXCELLENT HDT seminars at out rallies but I believe he is now pursuing other interests. He showed that overall, an HDT tractor had the same "footprint" of a dually pick up truck (of course fuel economy won't be what a pick up truck would get). It would also be wise to park AWAY from the store entrance but yes, an HDT can be used as a daily driver. A second option would be to rent a minivan (or other suitable vehicle) if you'll be in one location for more than a day or three. Enterprise WILL pick yo up if you're within 10~15 miles of their office.

 

All in all, what you WANT to do CAN be done. Start perusing the HDT RESOURCE GUIDE, there's a WEALTH of information contained therein. Good luck and, WELCOME!

 

http://www.hhrvresource.com/

Edited by Phil D
Removed non-conforming political opinion to retain useful content.
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Unless you plan to haul a car on the HDT, there is no real need to have a long wheelbase to tow an RV.  In this case, the HDT is not the limiting factor in travel, the large 5th wheel will be.  The 5th wheel will be as tall or taller than an HDT, so the height of the HDT while towing is a non issue. 

My HDT is the same basic footprint as a dually pick up.  It is a few inches longer than a crew cab dually, but the same width (as the duals) and it will still fit in a regular parking space if I need to.  The only time height is an issue with the HDT is when I am bobtailing without the trailer.  There are some places I can't go that a dually could go because of height.  With the length of my HDT being short and it still fitting in a regular parking space, touring around in it for sight seeing or whatever (daily driver stuff) is not an issue.  I just can't park it in a parking garage or other height restricted areas.

Because my truck is singled short and the overall length is short, I have never had to park it away from my site.  If a dually pick up will fit, my HDT will fit in the site.  In fact, because my 5th wheel hitch is behind the rear axle of the HDT and the HDT has much sharper wheel cut for turning, I can maneuver my large 5th wheel (42 feet) into spots I couldn't get it into with a dually.  As long as there is physically enough room for the trailer to sit in the site, I have so far been able to get it in regardless of the obstacles around it.  This wasn't always the case with my dually. 

My rig's overall length is 61 feet 4 inches (with a 42 foot 5er).  The wheelbase of my HDT is 194 inches and the actual length is 24 feet.  No issues anywhere with that combination.  I did put a straight down pin box on my 5th wheel in place of the extended pin box it came with to help shorten it up even more (another benefit of having the 5th wheel hitch behind the truck axle and not needing so much overhang on the 5th wheel itself).  I occasionally double tow behind my 5th wheel (either a second vehicle or a RZR on a utility trailer).  When I do this, I am over length in most places but so far have not had any issues.  (I am properly licensed to tow doubles in my home state as well.)  I do not double tow in states that do not allow it though.

As for hauling a family, my HDT has a full size mid roof sleeper.  It is well over 6 feet tall on the interior, allowing even the tallest of people to stand up with no issues.  I removed the lower bunk bed and installed a bench seat in its place.  I used a fairly narrow bench seat because it was readily available at the time.  It sits three on the bench, but there is plenty of room to put a wider bench in to sit four.  My sleeper also still has a fold down upper bunk.  I also tore out the OEM plastic cabinets and built wood cabinets to meet my needs for storage and seating.  The sleeper has plenty of room for a family of six to use.  I have hauled 5 many times with plenty of room to spread out.

As to your concerns about State or National Parks or bridges and the like, again with a short wheelbase HDT the trailer is the limiting factor not the truck.

If you decide you want a long wheelbase truck to haul a car on the back (in your case a really long wheelbase to haul a car large enough to fit 6 people) then everything I said goes out the window.  If I were you, I would stick with a short wheelbase truck and double tow a 4 door SUV or other vehicle large enough to accommodate your family.  If length or double towing become an issue in a particular area, then simply detach and have your significant other drive the second vehicle as necessary.

Edited by Chad Heiser

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Hello RoamingRanger,

Full disclosure, We left the HDT space about 2 years ago and went back to pickup land for a few of the reasons touched on above, so take my perspective with a grain of salt.

Our usage pattern was to use the HDT / large 5th wheel (42ft toyhauler & 40ft Montana) during extended trips (2 weeks) and long weekends typically with 3 quads onboard the HDT; so not living in it.  We traveled as a group of 3 (myself / wife / kid) and a dog.  We didn't bring a smart car with although the HDT was setup to handle one.  We also did long distance trips (10+ hours each way) during the extended trips.

Our usage pattern did change away from long distance extended trips to fewer shorter trips without the quads. (this affected the HDT choice quite a bit)

The HDT was a volvo 610 which was shorter then the 5th wheel, I believe it was just over 10ft.  The HDT was singled long with a total length of 27ft.  The deck on the HDT was just over 13ft which enabled the 3 quads to fit in front of the trailer.

What we liked;

  • having the quads fit on the HDT (no more double tow!)
  • traveling down the interstate was a joy
  • range, mileage all good (300 gallons onboard)
  • ease of driving; very high, burning up miles was really easy
  • room within the cab, high level of comfort, all super high (full depth sleeper with jackknife sofa and killer AV)

What we didn't like;

  • driving an HDT when on vacation looses its fun factor pretty quick; always parking in the back of lots, slow movement through traffic, etc (getting the mid height solved the tallness issue, that wasn't a problem, I wouldn't get a full height HDT)
  • finding spots to park that size of a rig was a pain (I'm super comfortable with maneuvering a HDT hooked to a 5th wheel and the volvo would turn very sharp; and we had a large overhang behind the rear axle; but the shear length of the setup caused pain, especially with the toyhauler due to the wheelbase).
  • finding vehicle rentals when onsite is a drag; we did that a few years and it got old (availability then getting and returning was a pain)

Regarding your other questions:

  • probably 50/50 as to if I had to park away from the campsite (but it was always available)
  • I didn't really have issues with road / bridge limitations; those seemed to be fine
  • We didn't change any routes or destinations due to state length law specifics (we double towed a 79ft setup so my worry about length is probably falsely low)

All in all,

An HDT is the absolute bomb for dragging a large 5th wheel down the interstate!  Undeniably the best option!  Maneuverability when in traffic / town / parking onsite the joy starts to dissipate.  We have transitioned back to a pickup and are happy with the choice.  It isn't any cheaper (the pickup is a lot more then the HDT) and on windy days or mountain travel days the pickup struggles, but once we are on location the pickup makes up for its downfalls. 

Traveling with 6 people is going to be an issue; have you considered a motor home and pull a full sized vehicle?  In my HDT 6 people would have been 2 in the front seats then 4 across the jack knife sofa which wouldn't be ideal if the people were full sized.  Changing that configuration to multiple rows wouldn't have been trivial.

2000 volvo 610
2013 cyclone 3950

 

ontheroad.jpg

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I'm one of the longer ones on here. Do not double tow, I haul a 4door JL on bed and a 40ft 5ver. Occasionally have to park the truck in overflow, but that is usually if the site is 45' or less, Jeep barely fits on with the trailer setup, so same problem with a dually. I use my HDT as a daily driver all the time if the DW is out in the grocery getter and I need to go somewhere. Yes, I have to park out at the end of the lot, but I do that anyway in my JL or the powerstroke, I don't like door dings. Yes, it take a few min longer to get there sometimes, but the comfort and ease of towing thousands of miles, being able to stop the 40ft 5ver, is totally worth it. And I'm in to this truck way less than a dually and it will last much, much longer, is safer, and gets about same fuel mileage. No brainer in my book. Conveniences completely outweigh the inconveniences. 

2003 International Eagle 9200i, Cummins ISX, Freedomline

2007 Teton Scottsdale XT4

 

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I have to admit I regreat getting a full height truck. And really think I would be better off with a flat top short cab singled short and no Smartcar. Use truck. With the dually had to always park at back. A 610/630 singled short isn't much longer than the dually I had. 

2003 Teton Grand Freedom towed with 2006 Freightliner Century 120 across the beautiful USA welding pipe.https://photos.app.goo.gl/O32ZjgzSzgK7LAyt1

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OP:  Family of 6?  What ages are the kids?  Kids love to sleep in tents and in public parks they're allowed on the one campsite. That way perhaps you could go smaller and just get a regular truck.

A 36' 5th wheel would fit in many public parks. Our 40' motorhome and Jeep did.  The issue would be the big HDT truck with a big RV.

Calling a park and asking about sites?  Chances are slim that a ranger or the person in the office answering the phone knows about the sites.  Reservations are usually done by a company out of state. They know nothing about the sites other than what on their computer screen. 

We volunteered at Rocky Mtn. Nat'l Park and one of our jobs was matching the incoming reservations with a site.  Every morning we soon ran out of big sites according to their 'site board' but having walked the campground a lot we knew there were big sites that weren't listed on that board.  We offered to measure each site and make recommendations for a new 'board' based on our findings.  We took into account rocks, trees, etc.  The rangers were absolutely amazed at how many more big sites we found.  That's why we rarely made reservations.  We'd much rather drive into the park and choose our site knowing what we could fit into.  Quite often we got the best site in the house because we liked being in the rear of the campground away from everything. Sites at the corner of a turn in the road usually had the most yard room and are easy to get into. Also, we only had two slideouts and both were on the same side which gave us more choices.  Slides on both sides makes some sites very limited because of trees.

Good luck finding the right one for you!

Full-timed for 16 Years
Traveled 8 yr in a 2004 Newmar Dutch Star 40' Motorhome
and 8 yr in a 33' Travel Supreme 5th Wheel

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While I have no experience with this myself, but I know of one large family where the wife drove a van full of kids either leading or following the RV as the situation required. In that case multiple car seats were required which limited what they could put all the kids in. But, it also made for easier sight seeing away from camp.

Linda

Blog: http://sandcastle.sandsys.org/

Former Rigs: Liesure Travel van, Winnebago View 24H, Winnebago Journey 34Y, Sportsmobile Sprinter conversion van

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  • Increased difficulties finding a campsite or campground due to length?   We Haven't yet in 6 years
  • How often do you have to park your HDT offsite in overflow?    Never... but if you have more than 2 vehicles you might have too
  • Limitations driving over bridges or through city streets due to weight?  The truck weighs no more than a delivery van.
  • Limitations getting into State and National Parks?  With the size of the rig  your getting, you shouldn't have any issue.
  • Difficulties navigating city streets or campgrounds with a 13' tall HDT (low bridges, narrow streets, low hanging trees etc.)?  Your HDT will not be any taller than another Class A or most 5th wheels.  On city streets, there are truck routes you can follow.
  • Assuming you pull a rather long trailer, do you avoid states with conservative maximum length towing laws?  No
    • While researching, I was shocked to find 15 states that prohibit vehicles with a combined length greater than 65' (source: https://www.nexttruckonline.com/). I'm assuming the majority of HDT's with a 40' 5th Wheel would exceed 65' in length.  We are 76' or so all hooked up with our double tow Smart car.  Without the car, we're still 68ft
  • How practical is it to use your HDT as an everyday driver (sightseeing, grocery getting, etc.)? We used ours for almost 5 years as a daily driver.
  • Any additional limitations I'm not considering? When its raining you don't park up front at wal mart... and no drive thru's

Jim's Adventures

Old Spacecraft.... Who knows whats next

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So many thoughtful replies, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to chime in. I appreciate it! It sounds like utilizing a HDT as a tow vehicle and daily driver may not be as much as an inconvenience as I had originally thought.

2gypsies- To answer your question, our four kids are 6-10 years old. If we decide to do this it'd likely be full-time so I think they'd get sick of tents. ;-) This is why we'd likely end up with a larger 5th Wheel. 

Sandsys- We've considered having my wife drive a second vehicle with the kids and it's still an option although if possible it'd be nice to have our family together while traveling. Although a quiet vehicle without fighting children does sound enticing. :D

Another follow-on question. The Volvo 780 layout with the workstation looks appealing assuming we could install proper seat belts across the two benches. Is there enough room on either bench to safely put two or three kids?

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3 hours ago, RoamingRanger said:

Another follow-on question. The Volvo 780 layout with the workstation looks appealing assuming we could install proper seat belts across the two benches. Is there enough room on either bench to safely put two or three kids?

I have an older Volvo model 770, with a workstation configuration.  I suspect the dimensions are very similar to that of a 780's.  My seat length is 43", so two of your children per seat would probably work well.

But, perhaps more importantly, with your children restrained in non-contoured seats, the seat belts would not help much, if you were involved in a head-on or rear impact collision.  The force wouldn't be pushing them back into their seat.  The belts would still prevent ejection which is a big safety plus.

As you know, safety factors used to be much less stringent.  I remember going to YMCA base ball and foot ball contests in the back of a pickup with about a dozen of my teammates, without seat belts or seats of any kind.

Would it be safe to put two or three kids on each bench?  "Safe" is all about odds.  Only you and your wife can make that call.

A possible alternative configuration, that would cost you more money, would be a more conventional seating arrangement.  A row of 4 seats, with individual seat belts, facing forward.  You might even be able to have two fold-down table surfaces (one on each side of  your truck) that would give them some table space in front of them.  For for less expense, a custom table, hinged in the middle, which attached to brackets on each interior side of your truck.

Good luck!

Dan

 

 

Edited by DanZemke
clarity

Volvo 770, New Horizons Majestic and an upcoming Smart car

 

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As to driving in town: Truck routes don't always go where you want to go. When our daughter lived in Chicago we went to visit in our Winnebago View. Those trees arching over residential streets in the midwest are beautiful until you try to drive under them. :)

Linda Sand

Blog: http://sandcastle.sandsys.org/

Former Rigs: Liesure Travel van, Winnebago View 24H, Winnebago Journey 34Y, Sportsmobile Sprinter conversion van

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6 hours ago, RoamingRanger said:

The Volvo 780 layout with the workstation looks appealing assuming we could install proper seat belts across the two benches. Is there enough room on either bench to safely put two or three kids?

There's a reason that Volvo doesn't install nor include provisions for seat belts in the workstation benches, beyond just the cost of the belts and hardware.  Lap belts are designed to restrain a human sitting so that they're facing the likely forces that the belt would impose in an accident -- forward forces, not lateral.  You would be risking potentially severe injuries to your kids in the event of a serious accident, were they to be belted sitting sideways.

Phil

 

2002 Teton Royal Aspen

2003 Kenworth T2000 - Cat C12 380/430 1450/1650, FreedomLine, 3.36 - TOTO . . . he's not in Kansas anymore.

ET Air Hitch

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Thank you all for your input. It looks like I may have to reconsider seating arrangements in the sleeping quarters. 

If it's not too much of an inconvenience to someone with a 730 or 780 accessible, would it be possible to get the following measurements?

  • Length across the bottom bed (so I can determine how wide of a bench seat or jackknife sofa I could squeeze in)
  • Width of bed
  • Headroom height (measured from bench without cushions to the bottom of the top bunk). Also, anyone know how much this measurement varies from the 730 compared to the 780?

I'm trying to determine if a four wide bench seat arrangement or 2x2 arrangement would be better.

The attached picture may help detail the dimensions.

Thanks so much!

 

780 Sleeper.jpg

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This is for the new VNL and I believe it is the same for the gen 2 volvo's. This is only part of the spec you want but may help.

https://www.volvotrucks.us/trucks/vnl/specifications/

 

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2017 DRV Fullhouse JX450

2020 Volvo VNR 42-640, D13, 455hp, Ishift, 189"wb, factory single, ET Junior Hitch @ 195", Jacklopee, Directlink

2016 GMC 3500 Denali DRW, CC, LB, Curt 25k, Sold

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