In recent years, the recreational vehicle (RV) market has greatly expanded. What was once a market for small pull-behind camping trailers later grew to small RVs and has now turned into the sale of $300,000 bus-size motor homes. While these large RVs look to be stable and structurally sound, don’t be fooled by the appearance. The manufacturers of these large RVs usually purchase a chassis from heavy truck manufacturers and then build structures similar to a modular home on the chassis. That ultimately becomes the completed recreational vehicle. The structures are fine for stationary construction but provide little protection when involved in a crash.
The RV industry has been very successful at avoiding the application of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to these vehicles. Currently, for most large RVs, there is no roof strength requirement. As a result, most are made with little or no structural support for the body and roof of these vehicles. They are often constructed from fiberglass, wood and aluminum of various combinations, often held together by wood screws and rivets.
When the RV is involved in a crash, there are heavy pieces of equipment such as heaters, air conditioners, sinks and cabinetry that may break loose and do significant damage to the occupants. If one of these heavy vehicles rolls over, the occupant compartment is usually destroyed because there is no significant support in the body structure to manage the energy of the crash. There is very little safety engineering that goes into the design of these vehicles.
RVs are oftentimes difficult to handle in windy conditions. Surprisingly, many of these very expensive RVs do not incorporate Electronic Stability Control (ESC). ESC is an inexpensive mechanism that has been on the market since 2006 to help control the vehicle in case of an emergency avoidance maneuver. It is used in heavy trucks, vans and passenger cars.
Large RVs usually have anti-lock brakes but not ESC. While anti-lock brakes can be very helpful to prevent an out-of-control skid, anti-lock brakes do not have the computer yaw sensors necessary to help prevent the skidding or swaying of an out-of-control vehicle.
There have been many catastrophic RV crashes around the country, and they will continue to occur until the federal government starts regulating this industry and mandating safety features that will minimize the danger. This industry needs to be regulated by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
For more information, contact Greg Allen, the Lead Products Liability Lawyer at Beasley Allen.
This story appears in the August 2020 issue of The Jere Beasley Report. For more like this, visit the Report online and subscribe.