5 Reasons We Tow Our RV with a Semi-Truck

Towing an RV with a semi-truck draws a lot of attention.

When you’re running a heavy-duty truck with an oversized 5th wheel RV, you’re hard to miss whether you’re running down the interstate or parked in at a spot in a campground.

We get asked lots of questions about our set-up when we’re out over the road – some think we’re a transporter, others ask if we’re full-timers, and a few even ask to take photos to share with their friends.

The most frequent question, however, is WHY?

What path led us to want to travel around in a tandem axle sleeper with a 43′ long camper in tow?

Our current home on wheels – ’99 Freightliner FLD120 | ’22 Grand Design Momentum 397TH

How it Started

Like most RVers, we started out smaller and then upgraded our rig over time.

Our first RV was a 36′ bumper pull travel trailer.

That’s a pretty big RV for someone just starting out with RVing – but with his background as a truck driver by trade – hauling and parking a trailer wasn’t a concern when upgrading to the RV world from tenting.

Our first RV set-up | ’96 Ford F350 | ’17 Forest River XLR toy hauler

We loved our bumper pull toy hauler. That camper fit our lifestyle, as did the F350.

And then, we made plans for our first long road trip.

We already owned the Freightliner. She’s a working truck.

As we considered the miles ahead of us and the hours we were about to spend traveling and towing the RV it just made sense to pair the travel trailer with the semi.

Swapping out the F350 for the FLD120

Why we upgraded

We always knew that we eventually wanted to upgrade to a 5th wheel RV and the dually was already set up for that next step.

However, after that first long trip in the Freightliner we knew that we didn’t face any limits on the size of the next RV and fell in love with the floor plan and storage options in the Momentum 397TH model.

We upgraded our set-up and the dually is our back-up tow rig.

Now that we’ve experienced towing an RV with a semi-truck, there’s no going back.

5 Reasons we Chose the semi over the F350

There are pros and cons to the HDT (Heavy Duty Truck) RV lifestyle, however, for us there are many reasons that we prefer the semi to the traditional truck:

Our rig facing a Wisconsin sunrise

1) Power

It’s pretty obvious that the semi-truck has more power.

It’s built to haul heavy loads.

We never have to worry about our 43′ camper overpowering the truck.

We can fill our RV tanks, load the toy hauler garage, and pack the cast iron cookware without worrying about overpacking.

We’ve got the power to run into headwinds, accelerate onto the highway, and navigate up the roughest hills with ease.

More importantly, we’ve got the power to stop.

Unexpected road hazards, stopped traffic, and downhill runs can be pretty scary if you don’t have stopping power. We have it.

Our camper isn’t going to swallow up the tow vehicle if hard braking becomes a necessity.

Tow police approved.

Early morning sunrise in West Glacier, Montana

2) Comfort

Semi-trucks are built for long travel days.

We’re not a couple that follows the 3-3-3 travel rule (no more than 300 miles, arrive by 3pm, stay at the destination for at least 3 days).

We don’t mind putting in more miles on our way to our destination, and the semi makes it a lot more comfortable to do so.

We’ve got air ride seats.

We’ve got legroom.

We’ve got a bunk where we can stretch out or rest when needed.

And remember that heavy camper we’re towing? The ride is so comfortable that we can almost forget it’s back there.

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traffic, construction site, road-3141926.jpg
Safety is one of the most important factors on travel days.

3) Safety

Safety is a huge factor for many people when shopping for tow vehicles.

In our set-up, safety goes hand-in-hand with power.

As noted above, we can accelerate, navigate, and stop in a much safer fashion due to the towing capacity of our heavy-duty tow vehicle.

Beyond the power aspects, we have better visibility and clearance than traditional full-size pick-ups.

We use a CB radio and an RV GPS during our travels and stay alert for potential traffic issues.

None of these items alone make us bulletproof, but they do go a long way in elevating the safety of our ride to our destinations.

West Glacier RV Park, Montana

4) Cost

Yes, you read that right.

For us, it’s cost effective to run the HDT.

Travel costs are rising all around, and making sure that we’re able to budget appropriately for our RV trips is more important now than ever.

With recent supply and demand imbalances for tow vehicles since the pandemic, buying a new pick-up to tow our 5th wheel didn’t make sense.

We pay close attention to our fuel mileage and are always dialing in ways to gain efficiency.

Our fuel tank capacity allows us to travel longer distances between fill-ups and fuel pricing apps help us decide where to top off.

Maintaining the vehicle, finding the sweet spot for our highway speed, and paying attention to what works and what doesn’t have all taught us to make smart decisions and budget appropriately.

Is it inexpensive? No. Fuel costs are insane right now.

But making constant efforts to improve and prioritizing based on what we find to be important makes it worth it.

Devils Tower, WY

5) Looks

This is the easy one.

It’s a pretty cool set-up and we love the look of it.

This isn’t a show truck, but it’s a well-maintained and customized semi surrounded by lots of FLD nostalgia.

It’s a conversation piece.

We love seeing little kids smile when we drive by.

Many current and former drivers love to tell us their stories about their FLDs and it’s impossible to miss the sparkle in their eyes when they see us using our truck for recreation.

We just plain enjoy traveling even more since we’ve set-up the semi to tow our RV and love seeing other HDT set-ups in Facebook groups, on YouTube, and out in public.

It’s impossible to sneak around when you’re riding this large, and for us, that’s part of the fun.

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Is towing an RV with a semi for everyone?

Absolutely not.

There are a lot of factors to consider if you’re interested in joining the HDT RV world.

The driver needs to have the right skills and training. This isn’t your average tow vehicle.

HDT set-ups are BIG. You’re not going to be able to fit in everywhere – for us, that’s ok.

Vehicle maintenance on an HDT is a skill of its own that needs to be considered.

Knowledge, shop space, time, parts, and tools all need to be ready when the truck tells you it’s time for repairs.

For us, we had the bases covered – and if it’s right for you, we’d love to hear your story and see your set-up.

Go big AND go home – that’s how we roll in our HDT RV.

Safe travels!

Hill City, South Dakota sunset

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