Unless you're new to RVing, or you've been living under an 'RVing rock', you know there's debate about if it's OK to park your RV in a semi spot at a 'truck stop'.
There are other places for RVs to park, and there are a FEW other places for truckers/professional drivers to park, too. But are you upsetting those working drivers for taking up a space that they depend on while working?
Can I Park My RV in a Truck Spot?
Well, at most travel centers, the owner of the company doesn't state that RVs cannot use these spaces. The truck stops are not owned by professional drivers. They are independently owned companies who cater to travelers.
This means that they want money from ALL of us. Many of them have even changed the names from 'truck stop' to 'travel center', as they are made for anyone, not just for truck drivers.
Keep in mind that some 'truck stops' have spots dedicated for RVs. You can see exactly which Pilot and Flying J do in this guide (PDF), as far as where they do and do not have dedicated RV spots. If they have them, USE these spots, not the truck spots.
Well, Yes or No??
The short answer is that yes, it is technically OK to park in a large truck spot. But, be aware that you might piss off some professional drivers. We only advise you to park there at your own risk.
The angry truck drivers might be justified in their anger. How so?
The Trucker Life
They may be angry because THEY ARE WORKING. A professional truck driver has strict hours that they must abide by when it comes to drive time and rest time.
If they are at the end of their shift and come into a truck stop and can't find a place to park, yet you parked your 32' class A motorhome in a spot that they needed, they now have to put their careers and licenses on the line, and potentially even their life to go another 10+ miles up the road to the next truck stop to HOPEFULLY find a spot to park.
If they don't park by the time the golden hour hits, they will incur hefty fines and the infraction goes on their record for up to 5 years. This puts their job in jeopardy and could even make them basically un-hirable. For them, not having an available spot to park puts their job in jeopardy. Seems unfair.
We talked to one of our previous full-time RVing friends who is now a professional driver about RV parking at truck stops. We really appreciate Ash's thoughts, as an insider, seeing as he has been a full-time RVer and now he's driving for a living. Below are his insights.
"The subject of RVers parking in truck spots is discussed A TON among truckers and the responses are always negative and often threatening violence or property damage. This seems aimed more at the RVs that park at truck stops than at rest areas. Folks really need to know they're being talked about and really disliked for taking truck spots.
Truckers are regulated VERY stringently. We have more Federal and state regulations than even doctors. We cannot cheat or fib, as they're all based on computers and GPS trackers required in each truck. These regulations tell us when we must park. And you better have your butt parked before that timer hits zero! Otherwise major fines and possibly losing your job, also makes you almost unhirable. All infractions are recorded and logged for 5 years.
The wonderful thing about being a full time RVer is you have control. I would never tell an RVer to go pay for a RV park site instead of parking at a truck stop. That's idiotic, but it's what I hear most truckers say. However, I do encourage RVers to stick to Walmarts, rest areas and the auto side of truck stops whenever possible."
Semi trucks are regulated by the DOT. They cannot park in the same alternative spots that RVs can such as some Walmarts, Cracker Barrels, and such. If you can fit your RV into a regular car spot (or two) at a truck stop, why not be considerate and do so, so you don't take up the limited giant spots?
Sure, many travel centers clearly state that RVs are welcome there. However, we have to share the road with truck drivers who are trying to make a living. We both may be driving long hours. (Truckers DEFINITELY are.) We both need to pull over to sleep. We have campgrounds, Walmarts, boondocking sites and more, but truckers do not.
Professional drivers have a very tight schedule to keep, and rules to abide by. We usually have more flexibility than they do. Can you park elsewhere? Likely, yes, you can find a place.
Just Be Considerate
Remember, a working truck driver has a limited, REGULATED amount of time to drive, a limited amount of time to sleep, do laundry, shower and to eat.
If they pull into a truck stop and it's busy with RVers or worse, there are no spots available for them, they are now in a pinch.
You, on the other hand, are probably on vacation and have wiggle room. It would just be nice if we would be more considerate of the limited parking spaces that truck drivers have.
They move the goods that we all buy every day to places all across the United States. We hope that the RVing and professional driver communities can mutually respect one another's needs and will work together to allow everyone to be happy.
So if you don't already know of other places to park, will now share with you some alternative RV parking options to taking a giant semi spot.
Is Daytime Parking OK?
We asked Ash about day parking in a semi spot for an hour or so just to eat and do whatever. He says this IS ok to do. Nighttime 'rush' doesn't start until around 4:00, and he said it's "totally fine" if you have a large rig to use a semi spot. We thought this was really good additional input and food for thought.
Alternatives to RV Parking at Truck Stops
Oftentimes you can make your own RV spot at a travel center. Truck stops are usually spacious enough to allow manuvering for semi trucks.
If you can find a spot off to the side where you will not be blocking any traffic flow, this can be a workable compromise to taking up a full truck spot. After all, when making a quick stop, RVers will often park wherever an area is available while they go inside and get what they need.
At some stops, there are even empty lots next to the truck stop where some trucks and other travelers will park. If others are doing it, it's likely a 'known' place to stay that's allowed, whether it's official or not.
Some travel centers have spots dedicated for RVs. If where you are has it, USE it. Don't use the truck spots, it may not be permitted.
If the car park spots will fit you, use one of those before taking up a full semi spot. Who cares if your ends don't perfectly fit into the space. Again, typically there is PLENTY of room to maneuver.
Other Places To Park Your RV Overnight
There are many places that RVers can use to park overnight. A trucker doesn't have so many options. If you are smaller, and you CAN find a spot that isn't taking up a giant truck spot, why not do it?
It's simply about being aware of others' needs. Not just your own. Really, it is. Can't we all just get along? It can be a beautiful thing.
Interstate Rest Areas
Yep, it's true. A good old rest stop can be the perfect place to overnight in a pinch. They are designed for RVs and Semi trucks to come through and park so there's plenty of maneuvering area to feel safe to pull in. This is ALSO not the place to take up a giant semi spot if you don't have to. Especially if it's very full.
You pretty much are never permitted to 'camp' at a rest area overnight. Duh, it's not a campground. Also, many states have laws disallowing 'overnight' stays in rest areas. But the reality is, have you ever seen someone taking note of the time each vehicle pulls in and pulls out? Nope and nope.
So what's the rule? Of course it's not that easy. Different states have different rules about overnight stops. Individual rest stops have their own rules as well. Watch for and read the signs. Decide then what looks feasable to do according to what is going on at that rest stop.
For simplicity's sake, just keep in mind that it's hard to pinpoint what constitutes 'overnight'. A full eight hours? Nine hours? Three? It's a pretty grey area.
It's better to pull over and get some shut eye (as truck drivers will do) then try to keep driving when you are exhausted. No one wants to die on the road just because you were afraid to use a rest stop to get some sleep.
So what we are saying is that it's probably OK to stay at one in a pinch, so that you aren't dangerous on the road, or just for a quick overnight stay, much like what you would do at a truck stop. It's what the truckers do, and what your fellow non-RVing drivers do. Likely no one is going to bother you.
Rest Stop Unwritten Rules
Just like at a Walmart or other business, the same rules apply. DO NOT put out your slides or chairs. If you HAVE to put out a slide to even be able to access the bed, the least you can do is to try to park somewhere along an 'edge' or an island, putting your slide over grass. Try not to take up more than one space.
Don't disconnect from your tow vehicle. It's OK if you want to relieve your tow vehicle of its load by dropping your jack, just don't disconnect.
Rest Stop Safety
Are you safe? Most states no longer have a security guard at their rest stops. So it's simply up to you to use your head and your intuition. If you don't feel comfortable, DON'T STAY THERE. Listen to that voice! Nine times out of ten, you will be perfectly safe.
If it's a busy rest stop, you are almost guaranteed to be safe. If there's hardly anyone there, then it's a little bit more possible that someone is there who is up to no good.
Rest Stop Function
Remember, Interstate rest areas exist to keep the Interstate highways safe. Each one has different rules depending on the needs of that corridor and the budget of the local area ruling it. You may use them within reason.
Just don't abuse it and you should be fine sleeping at rest stops here and there on your way to your destination!
Some people love to stay overnight at the places that this membership provides. It's all about whether it fits into your travel style or not. Read more about how Boondockers Welcome works.
Out West, more than in the East or the Midwest, there are tons of places on public land to stay overnight for free. There are places on BLM land, National Forests, nature preserves, and more.
However, these aren't good places to stay if you plan to arrive after dark. It's VERY difficult to navigate and scout these areas with just headlights. If you plan to go this route, we suggest doing so in the daytime. You will almost definitely enjoy a much more peaceful night than you would at any truck stop.
To find spots, check out Campendium.com. Search using the 'free' filter.
If you fear boondocking, check out our boondocking guide on losing your fear.
Walmart RV Overnight Parking
Many, many Walmarts across the country will allow overnight RV parking. This is SUCH an easy place to stay for the night. And bonus- you can get a lot of what you need right there- in Walmart. It's a known courtesy to buy something there as a 'thanks' for the free stay. But it's not like if you don't, anyone's going to notice. As in, we wouldn't say NOT to stay if you really just don't need anything.
Some Walmarts cannot allow overnighters due to city ordinances. Trust us, these cities will definitely enforce their rules. Some cities will have cops come through and force you to leave, even if it's 3am. Some have security that they hire to keep people from staying the night.
A good way to find out if overnight parking is allowed at a particular Walmart is to get the AllStays Camp and RV app. They have filters to choose Walmarts where 'ask to park' is OK.
People will review and let you know what kind of experience they had. You can read the reviews and find out, and/or as a last resort, call ahead and ask if they allow overnight parking.
Some people hate staying at Walmart, as the noise levels are too much for them. For example, Camp Addict Marshall hates overnighting at Walmarts. Camp Addict Kelly LOVES to overnight there on the way to the next boondocking spot.
You will have to decide for yourself if this is your kind of overnight stop or not.
Walmart RV Parking Rules
These rules applies to all business that allows parking overnight for RVs. Other sometimes RV friendly places are Cracker Barrel, some large outdoor stores, gas stations that aren't truck stops, some casinos, etc. You can always call and ask if it's OK to stay.
We're just gonna start off with this:
You should already know by now, if you are old enough to drive, that you SHOULD NOT LITTER in ANY parking lot. However, there are VERY GOOD reasons (litter being one of them) that certain cities have disallowed overnight stays anywhere within a certain area. It's because some people have ruined it for the rest of us by leaving trash outside their space, basically setting up camp, and grilling and partying outside, among other things.
Some 'wonderful' RVers have even gone as far as to dump their human waste into parking lots such as in THIS case. So it's no wonder that there have to be rules sometimes.
That said, let's review some of the rules:
*Unwritten* Overnight Parking Rules:
Abide by these and act like a decent human being, and hopefully we can all enjoy staying overnight in our RVs at a Walmart or at other businesses in the very distant future!
RV Street Parking
Some cities allow RV street parking in certain spots. Some cities are harder than others to find this information and some have more than others. Believe it or not, even in Los Angeles, you can find legal street parking. (Though many of these spots are NOT going to be very desirable to stay in because of the homeless population/the area not being very safe places to stay.)
Other Parking Alternatives
There are many strange places that RVers have found to stay that may not technically be 'legal'. We don't necessarily condone doing this, but many RVers and nomadic people do it.
However, if you get good at this, it can work. Empty lots. Schools. Church parking lots. Busy hotel parking lots. Mall parking lots. RV dealerships. RV dealerships with service centers. You name it, it's likely been overnighted before.
Know that these places are probably chanced, and you may be asked to move. Still, sometimes it's worth a try and you might just find the perfect spot for one overnight!
Just be smart about it. Don't play loud music. Keep your lights off or to a minimum. Don't park anywhere that you are blocking traffic. Just stay as stealthy as you can and there are lots of places that you can probably find to overnight successfully.
Truck stops are great for overnight stays if you can stand the noise. However, we should be considerate of the needs of the truckers who use truck stops as more than just a place to park.
They also need to use the toilets, showers, and laundry at these places in addition to needing a place to park their trucks. They can't just easily find a place to park at the local laundromat.
Should you park in one of the giant truck spots? You can. But we would kindly suggest doing so only if you have zero other options. Even if there are a ton of spots available, just remember that it could easily fill up overnight.
Just do your best to not be 'that guy' that parked his little travel trailer in a huge truck spot when it's obvious that there are big trucks looking for a place to stay since the lot is full.
It's really just all about being considerate of one another on the road! In the end, it's your decision as to whether you should take up a truck spot at a truck stop, based on your size, availability, and whether you have other options for a place to park.
Author: Kelly Beasley
Kelly Beasley is co-founder of Camp Addict and loves sharing her enthusiasm for the RVing lifestyle. As a full-time RVer since May 2015, Kelly's playful writing style helps make learning about the sometimes dull subject of RV products a bit more interesting.