Tips on How to Drive a Rental Truck
If you’ve chosen to save a little money and move yourself across the city or across the nation, odds are you’ll be using a rental truck to get the job done. And if you’re new to driving a big truck, there’s a lot to learn before you get behind the wheel. Take a look at these important tips and you’ll be driving like the long-distance moving pros in no time!
Understand Your Rental Agreement
Long before you hit the road, review the rental agreement you’ll be signing. If possible, ask for a copy at the rental group’s office to bring home. Once you understand the basics, you can build a customized insurance plan that covers you best, so be sure to contact your agent to discuss how to carefully insure yourself for the trip.
Know what’s covered and what’s not. Don’t count on your current auto insurance policy to cover your truck rental since there are likely exclusions that rule out certain rental vehicles. It’s important to be aware that using your credit card will probably not cover you for rental trucks, even if it does provide some coverage for rental cars. You’ll need to get separate insurance for your rental truck.
The Basics of Driving a Moving Truck
Here’s a quick beginner’s guide to driving a moving truck safely. Before heading out on the road, take some time in an empty parking lot and get a feel for how the truck moves.
Know your height. One of the biggest mistakes drivers who are new to rental trucks make is that they forget that the truck extends higher than an average car. Often, the height of the roof is posted in clear view, either through a rear-view mirror or in the cab. Be on the look-out for low-clearance warning signs while driving, and approach gas stations, drive-through overhangs and bridges with caution.
Secure your load. Don’t assume that twine or thin cord will be enough to tie down your items in the truck — use ratchet straps for a more secure hold and moving blankets to cover furniture or belongings you want to keep from getting scratched during transit. Remember, just because you've got your belongings in a box doesn't mean they won't be damaged. Take a look at our smart packing tips to be sure you’re getting the job done correctly.
Start by loading the heavy and large furniture into the truck first, placing it towards the back. This will spread the weight more evenly across both axles. If you’re unsure about your ability to safely secure your load, hire a local moving company to load your truck for you. More details on selecting movers and planning for your move can be found in our section on stress-free moving tips.
Driving Your Rental Truck
In addition to always wearing a seat belt and paying close attention to road signs, there are a lot of other important things to keep in mind when you’re driving your rental truck.
Approach intersections carefully. Because you’re going to need more time and room to stop, use caution when you’re moving through intersections.
Practice the five-second rule. Driving is very different in a fully loaded moving truck than it is in your car. Keep a wide distance — five seconds worth — between your truck and the vehicle in front of you. Pick a spot on the road as the car ahead passes it, and your truck should pass that spot five seconds later. This rule helps because you’re going to need time and distance to break if traffic suddenly comes to a halt.
Make frequent stops. Take advantage of rest stops to get out and stretch. Go for a quick walk every three or four hours and be sure to change drivers regularly. Pay attention to signs of fatigue when you’re driving too. Make the safe choice for you and other drivers and stop when you first start to feel tired.
Gas up at a quarter-tank. One great way to be sure you’ve got enough fuel is to stop for gas when your tank’s at one-quarter full. This is really important on more remote stretches of highway.
Pass vehicles carefully. Check your mirrors often when passing and be sure to use your turn signal. Don’t pass when approaching a curve or while going uphill.
Travel in Your Rental Truck Strategically
Before you hit the road with your truck take some time and be sure you know where you’re going. And definitely have a plan for moving safely in to and out of parking spaces.
Map out your trip. Instead of just relying on your phone to guide you on your trip, take a look at your route on an online map so you’re aware of road conditions, construction delays and other issues. Think about where you’re going to stop for the night along the way.
Park like a pro. Consider how you’re going to get out of a parking spot before you get into it. Taking a little time before you park can save you a lot of trouble when it comes time to exit. Will you be comfortable backing up? Is another spot available that allows you to just pull forward and get back into traffic easily? Be sure to have answers to these questions before you dedicate yourself to a parking spot. If you’re going to be towing a car or trailer behind the truck, take a look at our segment on how to back up a trailer for some great pro tips.
Congratulations! You’re well on your way to mastering the fine art of driving a moving truck. Best of all, you made informed, up-front decisions about your coverage that protected your investments along the way. And once you’ve decided to move to a new location, remember to inform your American Family Insurance agent to update your coverage and contact information. You’ll be glad you did with every mile you drive.