The federal government and several states are sparring over a couple of inches of real estate on the blue interstate highway information signs that tell motorists what gas stations, restaurants and lodging are at the next exit.
Letting those businesses declare themselves “RV friendly” is responsible for the debate, which focuses on where the “RV friendly” logo should appear on the signs and what the logo should look like.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) wants states to “experiment” with placing the logo on signs and go through what could be a lengthy regulatory process. Oregon, where the “RV friendly” idea originated, currently is testing a program under the FHwA’s supervision.
Meanwhile, Louisiana has declared it doesn’t want to deal with the red tape and delays, and has approved the “RV friendly” signage and logo without federal approval. State legislators in Alabama and Washington have introduced bills that appear to follow Louisiana’s lead, while a proposed law in Tennessee would acquiesce to the FHwA’s wishes.
“Part of it has to do with who gets to take credit for a very good idea,” said Matt Wald, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) director of government affairs.
RVIA is not taking sides in the dispute, but is providing states with a “how-to-kit” containing recommended guidelines and model legislation.
“Since each of these states is implementing this initiative independently, it is critical that advocates attempt to keep the ‘RV friendly’ criteria and logo consistent throughout the states,” said RVIA Vice President of Government Relations Dianne Farrell. “In addition to the convenience this consistency will provide for RV tourists, the Federal Highway Administration may at some point issue federal standards for this initiative. If uniformity is maintained, it is anticipated that no state will have to make changes to their program to conform to any potential eventual federal standards.”
The signs themselves are under the authority of the FHwA, but the agency concedes the information contained inside the borders of the business logos can be determined by the states.
Louisiana regulators decided to include the letters “RV” with a curved underline representing a smile inside the logos, which meant the state wasn’t required to wait for FHwA’s approval.
In Oregon, signs being used in the FHwA experiment have the letters “RV” overlap the logo’s border and extend into the main area of the sign, which is FHwA’s purview.
FHwA determined that “RV friendly” businesses are required to have paved surfaces free of potholes and overhead wires with a minimum swing radius of 50 feet, allowing RVs to enter and exit the facility. Restaurants and other business requiring short-term parking must have two or more spaces 12 feet wide and 65 feet long, while fueling facilities must allow pull-throughs with a 50-foot swing radius. For campgrounds, two or more spaces must be 18 feet wide and 45 feet long.
The criteria was developed by the FHwA and Oregon regulators before the state adopted the initial “RV friendly” law.
“The FHwA’s process doesn’t allow a really good idea to be implemented just on its face,” Wald said. “They have admitted that and apologized for it, but they say they must follow what their procedures call for.
“Once the FHwA deems enough states to have had successful experiments, they propose an amendment to the federal regulatory rules. That can take a year, or that can take 10 years.”