Opponents outnumber the supporters on a proposal by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) to increase the size limit on fifth-wheels beyond 400 square feet, according to the latest RVBUSINESS.com Industry Poll.
The issue was brought to the table earlier this year by RVIA’s board, which contended that market demand warranted the move. It quickly spawned criticism – most notably from the Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) and the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) – claiming that most campgrounds couldn’t accommodate larger units and the change would encourage more residential-style use, inviting government oversight.
Fully, 47% of respondents expressed concerns with raising the square footage cap, which has been in place since the early 1980s, while 35% were in favor of the change and 18% undecided.
Weighing in on the opposition:

  • “Customers will want to tow these rigs with their undersized trucks and many dealers won’t stop them,” offered a retailer. “And I believe this will open the door that New Jersey is dealing with now, where the state is trying to control all RVs parked in campgrounds the way they started to control the park models.”
  • Another retailer noted: “There is already an existing problem in RV parks to provide enough room for 400 square feet. Adding more length or width would only compound the problem. Not to mention, some of these drivers are downright scary on the highways. If they want a house, (they should) buy one.”
    Several other responses alluded to safety issues, including a manufacturer who said: “Units that are 400 square feet are too large for the general public to handle safely now. The industry is already pushing the limits on height, and going beyond the current limits for sake of more sales is just not safe. Will the insurance industry embrace larger units?”
    Many poll participants supporting the increase noted that the added square footage would primarily be applied to sliderooms, and not affect the overall dimensions. Responses included:

  • “It is the natural progression of things to get larger as abilities advance,” said a retailer. “They don’t really have to make them longer to get the higher square footage, they can do it through more, larger slides to increase interior room. And the campground certainly has control over what will fit in their facility – units that are too large simply need to go somewhere else and they can also impose length of stay restrictions. The only organization with a legitimate gripe is the RPTIA. If fiver’s go up, so too should the park units be allowed to increase.”
  • “Should slide-outs even be considered in the square footage since they do not really increase the length of the trailer?” asked an OEM representative. “The limit should be placed on towed width and length. That way manufacturers could place more emphasis on slideouts without worrying about square footage. Campgrounds should already be able to accommodate currently lengths and widths.”
    Others maintained that upping the square footage would spark added creativity in floorplans while helping fuel the surge in the toy hauler sector.
    “Eliminating the 400-square-foot limit expands the opportunities pertaining to design and function on conventional fifth-wheels, but especially the ‘toy hauler’ arrangements,” said a member of the manufacturing sector. “This is in no way, shape, or form a threat to the park trailer segment of the market. It also allows for proper codes and standards regulation on some products currently being built that don’t really fall into any current category. I don’t see any substantial perils with this change.”
    RV Business is owned by Affinity Group Inc., which also publishes Woodall’s Campground Management.