The RV Friendly symbol—a bright yellow circle with the letters RV—is now used by 15 states on those familiar highway signs that announce gas, food, and lodging at upcoming exits. The symbol alerts motorists to businesses that welcome RVs and have room to accommodate them. This saves RVers the trouble of getting off the highway to go into a gas station, only to find that it is not accessible to a big vehicle like a motorhome, or that there is no place to turn around with a trailer.
Frank Brodersen conceived the idea of the symbol when he had trouble finding businesses where he could park his 34-foot motorhome. He worked with the Oregon Travel Information Council to initiate the RV Friendly program in Oregon in 2003, winning federal approval for a pilot project. Since then, with the help of the Family Motor Coach Association and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, the program has been expanded to 14 other states. But now, Brodersen believes, new sign regulations under consideration by the federal government could hamper further expansion.
The situation is complicated. In 2005, the Federal Highway Administration gave all states interim authority to put the RV Friendly symbol on highway signs. The symbol that received interim approval is a 12-inch yellow circle with the letters “RV” eight inches high. But the proposed 2008 revision of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, establishing permanent regulations, would decrease the symbol’s size to 10 inches with six-inch letters.
Brodersen said the revised, smaller RV symbol would be harder to see. But, he says, that’s not the worst part of the proposed new regulations. They would also mandate that the symbol, or as an alternative the words “RV ACCESS,” be enclosed within the business logo. So instead of just adding the RV Friendly symbol, most businesses would have to redesign and replace their logos, at a cost Brodersen believes could be up to $1,000. By comparison, he said, you could add the RV Friendly symbol to an existing sign for about $100.
Brodersen said the only reason he can see for the change is to increase the revenue of sign makers.
Interstate Logos, which operates or manages highway sign programs in 19 states, says there is a good reason to incorporate the RV symbol within the business logo. The interim standards have allowed the RV symbol to be placed on the lower right-hand corner of a business logo, and extend into the sign panel’s background. In a letter to the Federal Highway Administration, the company said this arrangement is confusing on signs with more than one business logo since it is not always clear which one is welcoming RVs. Putting the RV symbol inside a business logo would eliminate any confusion.
Besides putting the RV symbol inside business logos on highway signs, the proposed permanent regulations would require that the logo—with the RV symbol—be duplicated on any supplemental or “trailblazing” signs erected to guide motorists after they exit the highway. But, again that could add to the cost.
Brodersen believes this kind of sign program would discourage businesses from adding the RV symbol since they would have to bear a big expense for new signs.
Moreover, he said, the program has been working well as it is. No state using the RV symbol has reported any complaints about the signs being confusing.
Just to make matters a little more complicated, the proposed new regulations also recommend against the use of more than one “supplemental message” in a logo panel. For example, if a gas station wanted to say it had “diesel” or was “open 24 hours,” it might not be able to add the RV Friendly symbol too. We say “might not” because on this point the proposed regulations merely offer guidance to the states, leaving it up to them to set their own standards.
Nevertheless, Brodersen said, this recommendation could pose another giant obstacle to expansion of the RV Friendly program.
Matt Wald, who handles government affairs for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), which is pushing for every state in the union to use the RV Friendly symbol, agrees that the proposed new sign regulations are a setback.
“We think it could have a chilling effect on states adopting the program,” Wald said. He would like to see the government make the interim standards permanent instead of accepting the proposed new regulations.
The RV Friendly symbol is currently found on highway signs in Oregon, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, Washington, Texas, New Mexico, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Idaho, Illinois, California and Georgia.
Brodersen, the Family Motor Coach Association and the RVIA are urging RVers to join them in a campaign to persuade the Federal Highway Administration to keep the current sign standards and reject the revisions.
If you would like to support this effort, you can do so by going online to www.rvact.com and reading the “Featured Alert.” By clicking on “Read More,” you will find a response that you can copy, add a comment of your own, and submit to the Federal Highway Administration. The deadline to submit comments is July 31.