The Recreation Vehicle Safety & Education Foundation
There for the individual RVer and the entire RV Industry
by Gary Bunzer
Not often does an entity come along that positively impacts all segments of a given industry equally. It’s a breath of fresh air when it does happen, for sure. The RV Safety & Education Foundation, RVSEF for short, fits that bill nicely within the RV Industry. RVSEF, headquartered in Merritt Island, FL, is not only the RVing public’s best friend, many coach builders in the RV Industry have benefited from its services and dedication over the years too. Compared to yesteryear’s menu of recreation vehicle offerings, today’s coaches are much safer thanks to the efforts of RVSEF and its predecessor, A ‘Weigh We Go, (AWWG).
The brainchild of John Anderson, AWWG first appeared in 1993 when John discovered that many RVs leaving the factory were decidedly overweight; many even before the owner loaded that first can of soup. It’s not easy to make friends by pointing out a deficiency in vehicles produced by veteran manufacturers, but with product and personal safety at risk, John pushed on and began weighing RVs of all types in order to record and analyze the extent of the issue. Weighing is still one of the main tenets of RVSEF activities to this day and they still gather data at many RV shows, conventions and rallies across the country.
(As a side note, many leading experts have long professed that the only way to determine how much air to carry in recreation vehicle tires is by accurately weighing each tire position individually. It’s also the only way to tell if a given axle is overloaded to one side, so the importance of weighing every RV on the road cannot be overstated!)
After collecting and analyzing the information, AWWG quickly found an interested sponsor in Michelin Tires. Michelin, dealing with the evidence of overweight and under-inflated RV tires on a daily basis, quickly partnered with AWWG and the first safety seminar program was developed. Though often refused admittance to some RV shows, Anderson also continued weighing as many RVs as possible as the data continued to accumulate.
It may shock readers to note that the data actually reveals that over 50% of existing RVs exceed at least one safety rating, typically due to owner overload and mishandling of their stowed cargo. Going over the limit of the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and/or the Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) is simply dangerous! Factor in under-inflated tires, the number one cause of tire failure, and the results can be catastrophic! This is not meant to scare readers, but simply to create an awareness. And to realize that through the early efforts of AWWG and now RVSEF, the industry has taken steps to distribute the dry weight more evenly as the coach leaves the factory and RVers can be more knowledgeable and effective when adding in the cargo carried during RV excursions.
The end result is that every RV must now be equipped with a safety and weight label stating just how much cargo can be carried along with other pertinent information. And that’s a good thing for the RVing public. An educated consumer is a wiser consumer; one who knows that proper weight distribution is paramount to safe travels. Prior to AWWG and RVSEF, there was no requirement to declare the cargo carrying capacity, sleeping capacity, etc. Many sub-par recreation vehicles were delivered to dealers in a pre-existing, overweight condition. Thankfully, that era is behind us now!
As the 1990’s closed out, additional safety topics were added to the slate of seminars offered by RVSEF, which formed as a 501(c), non-profit corporation. And by 2001, RVSEF had taken over all the programs and services of AWWG. Since then RVSEF has participated in many RV shows, rallies and conventions all across the country providing safety seminars, driver’s training and continually weighing recreation vehicles.
In addition, RVSEF works closely with the RV Industry Association (RVIA) and the RV Dealer’s Association (RVDA) in coordinating safety programs. Not to be construed as a consumer advocate, RVSEF is decidedly and purposely, a “safety advocate” and a champion for all involved in the RV lifestyle. Their efforts and dedication have improved the products created by RV builders as more manufacturers became aware of weight limitations and most now design their coaches with weight distribution and cargo carrying capacities in mind. But don’t look to RVSEF for endorsements of brands or types of recreation vehicles; they stick simply to the facts. They allow the data to speak for itself.
Though RVSEF presents many seminars and coach weighing activities at various RV venues across the country each year, their main focus since 2010 has been its annual RV Lifestyle, Education & Safety Conference, a three-day event held in Bowling Green, KY. Picking up the trail blazed by Gaylord Maxwell and the popular Life on Wheels Conferences, RVSEF now produces a similar event each year at Western Kentucky University’s Carroll Knicely Conference Center. Since Gaylord’s passing, it is the only national event with RV industry support that features purely consumer education. Educational experts and technical authors from all facets of the RV industry form the nucleus of the instructional staff.
The RV Lifestyle, Education and Safety Conference, much like Life on Wheels, is designed and presented like a college-based program. Participants (students), rotate from classroom to classroom for each hourly session. Well-planned, many of the classes are repeated at different times on alternating days so everyone has a chance to attend their specific classes of choice. Enrollment is limited and classes fill up quickly, so if you are a serious RVer and would like to attend, contact RVSEF at: 321-453-7673 soon! Additional venues in other geographical areas will be added as demand increases for this type of RV consumer training.
The entire industry owes a debt of gratitude to AWWG and RVSEF for the exemplary work they have done and continue to do in the name of RV safety and education. Walter Cannon, the Executive Director of RVSEF is known throughout the industry today as the tire and safety guy. After working closely with John Anderson since the late 1990s, Walter became RVSEF’s Director of Operations in 2001 and named Executive Director in 2003 when John decided to take a well-deserved retirement.
A tireless proponent of safety at all levels of the industry, it’s not uncommon to find Walter personally weighing RVs all morning at an event, only to change into business attire in order to lobby for funding support from a major supplier in the afternoon and then stand before a class of interested RVers, teaching a safety lesson in the evening. Here, he consults with an RVer after weighing his motorhome at a recently held major RV show.
RVSEF is supported financially only through industry appreciation and participation. If your company is interested in partnering with RVSEF in the name of RV safety and consumer education, feel free to contact them today. If you are an active RVer and have never had your coach professionally weighed using certified individual scales, or if you are seeking solid information regarding the RV lifestyle, technical maintenance or just want to know how much air to squeeze into your tires, give RVSEF a call. Because of their expertise and unwavering labors on behalf of the entire industry, RVSEF is the only trusted safety and weighing organization fully endorsed by RVIA and RVDA. For more information, please visit www.rvsafety.com, or call 321-453-7673.