RE: REPORT ON EXPERIMENT USING "RV FRIENDLY" SYMBOL
November 18 , 2003
Travel Information Council
Shelley J. Row, P.E.
Dear Ms. Row:
Attached is our report of final results from our experiment using the "RV Friendly" symbol. This is submitted as per section I of the Request to Experiment dated April 23, 2003 where we agreed to submit final results within three months of the scheduled completion of the experimentation (by November 30, 2003).
As per the Request to Experiment submitted under the authority of Mr. Edward L. Fischer; P.E., State Traffic Engineer; the Travel Information Council is responsible for completing this evaluation. Hence, our direct submission of this report to you.
Thank you for granting our request to conduct this experiment. We believe the results of the experiment merit consideration for a continuation of the experiment over a larger area and over an extended period of time. The Travel Information Council will further consider the use of the RV Friendly symbol at its next meeting and may, in consultation with Mr. Fischer, request further experimentations in the future.
If you have questions or require more information about the experiment using the RV Friendly symbol, please contact me directly at 503-373-0870, or at jim!c~uoregontic.com.
C: Ed Fischer. ODOT
Fred Ranck, FHWA
Ernest Huckaby, FHWA
Cheryl Gribskov, TIC
Frank Brodersen, FMCA
The Oregon Travel Information Council conducted an experiment using "RV Friendly" symbols on logo signs along a 45 mile portion of Interstate 5 from June through August, 2003. Though limited in range and duration, the experiment demonstrated the acceptance and potential of a powerful idea - use a simple symbol to help motorists driving oversized vehicles find their way to easily accessible businesses that cater to their needs.
People traveling in RVs and pulling trailers responded strongly and favorably to the RV Friendly symbol concept with 87% saying it was a "Great Idea".
92% of the managers of businesses that participated in the experiment felt the program was worth continuing and said they want to continue participating.
The strong and positive reactions of motorists and business managers to the "RV Friendly" symbol supports making a request to the Federal Highway Administration for a continuation of the experiment over a larger area and over an extended period of time.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), on behalf of the Oregon Travel Information Council (TIC), submitted a request to experiment using the "RV Friendly" symbol to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in May, 2003. The purpose of the experiment was to test a pre-approved symbol sign that would provide motorists driving RVs or pulling large trailers notice of facilities that provided large parking spaces and other amenities that cater to over-sized vehicles.
The time period of the experiment occurred from June through August of 2003 on Interstate 5 between exit 233 (Albany) and exit 278 (Aurora). Existing TIC customers with logo signing on Interstate 5 between Albany and Aurora were screened to see if they met the qualifications necessary for their businesses to be considered RV Friendly.
Qualifying standards to be RV Friendly consist of the following. For all facilities, roadway access and egress must be hard surface, free of potholes, and need lane widths 12' wide, and never less than 11' wide with a minimum swing radius of 50' to enter and exit the facility itself. For facilities that require short-term parking, such as restaurants and tourist attractions, the facility must have two or more spaces that are 12' wide and 65' long with a swing radius of 50' at both ends to enter and exit the spaces. For fueling facilities, canopies must have a minimum 14' clearance and those selling diesel fuel to RVs must have non-commercial nozzles on pumps. For campgrounds, there must be two or more spaces that are 18' wide and 45' long.
Qualifying businesses were asked if they would like to participate in the experiment. Those that did were administered a test application. At the beginning of June, TIC sign crews installed RV Friendly symbols on the business' logo plaques and delivered to each business a follow-up RV Friendly symbol to guide RV motorists to the on-site location of their RV Friendly services, such as parking spaces, or diesel fuel pumps with noncommercial nozzles.
In the lead-up to June, TIC issued news releases to major RV magazines and local media announcing the "RV Friendly" symbol experiment. A variety of publications printed articles about the test in June and July issues.
A short customer questionnaire card was administered by participating businesses in late June, late July, and late August. The questionnaire asked whether the customer observed the RV Friendly symbol on the business' logo plaque and if they knew the meaning of the symbol. Also at the conclusion of the experiment, the manager of each participating business was interviewed to assess whether they found the symbols to be beneficial to their business and whether they thought the symbol should become a permanent offering.
In September, all symbols were removed from logo plaques and taken down at participating facilities.
A. The participants
Thirteen businesses participated in the experiment: at exits 233 and 234 in Albany were Chevron Food Mart, Blue Ox RV Park, and Knox Butte RV Park; at exits 253 and 256 in Salem were Dairy Queen, Salem Campground, and Arco AM/PM, at exit 271 in Woodburn were McDonalds, Super 8 Motel, and Woodburn RV Park; and at exit 278 in Aurora were Shell, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, Leathers Texaco Truck Stop, and Isberg RV Park. By facility type, the experiment included four fueling facilities, three restaurants, one lodging facility, and five campgrounds/RV parks.
A total of 125 businesses with logo signing at 12 exits were screened to see if they met the qualifications necessary for their businesses to be considered RV Friendly. The most common disqualifiers were the criteria requiring the facility to have two or more parking spaces 12' wide and 65' long and a swing radius of 50' at both ends to enter and exit the spaces or fueling positions. Some facilities, such as tourist attractions or motels had large parking lots with many open spaces, but without clearly designated areas marked specifically for over-sized vehicles, "RV Friendly" status was withheld. A few facilities were also disqualified for low canopies and another for having large potholes. A fourteenth business did qualify and could have participated in the experiment, but elected not to.
B. Customer questionnaire cards
Participating businesses were asked to administer questionnaire cards to their customers driving over-sized vehicles on the last weekends of June, July, and August. Because of the difficulty that restaurants would have recognizing customers by their type of vehicle, volunteers were sought to intercept customers in restaurant parking lots and ask them to fill out a card.
Survey cards and pencils were provided monthly in advance to each participating business and surveyor. Depending on the willingness and conscientiousness of each business, the collection of survey cards was mixed. Some businesses were dutiful; others forgot or didn't want to bother. But in the end a total of 167 survey cards were collected.
The cards asked five questions. One, did they see the RV symbol? Two, where did they see it? Three, what did they think it meant? Four, was the symbol one of the reasons they pulled into the business? Five, what did they think about a symbol like this to help drivers find RV friendly businesses? An area was also provided for comments.
Survey Question #1 provided an illustration of the RV symbol (the letters RV within a circle) and asked, "As you traveled today, did you see a highway symbol that looked like this?" with boxes to be checked either yes or no. The results were evenly split: 83 customers answered "Yes" and 84 answered "No". Thus, 50% noticed the RV symbol.
Survey Question #2 asked, "If you did, where did you see it?" with lines provided for a written response. 73 customers responded to this question. 60 (82%) gave answers that indicated they saw the RV symbol on the highway logo signs with responses such as, "on signs along freeway," "I-5", and "at Woodburn exit". 10 (14%) said they saw the symbol on site with responses like, "on your property" and "at the station". 3 (4%) said they saw it in the media such as, "magazine".
Survey Question #3 asked, "What do you think the symbol means?" with lines provided for a written response. 95 customers responded to this question. 10 (11%) said that they specifically knew that it meant "RV Friendly". 22 (23%) believed that it indicated easy access and big parking with responses like "easy means of access" and "RV parking". 26 (27%) believed the symbol indicated that services for RVs were available with answers like "RV services" and "facilities and fuel for RVs". 20 (21%) believed the symbol meant "RV Park" it should be noted however that 19 of these respondents were customers at RV Parks when they answered this question. 8 (8%) believed the symbol referred to an "RV Dump" and 9 (9%) give miscellaneous "other" answers. Adding up the first three categories of "RV Friendly," "Easy Access," and "RV Services," shows that 58 respondents (61%) correlated the symbol to the desired meaning of amenities for over-sized vehicles.
Survey Question #4 asked, "Was this symbol one of the reasons you pulled into this business?" with boxes to be checked either yes or no. 150 customers answered this question with an overwhelming majority of 115 (77%) answering No, versus just 35 (23%) answering Yes.
Survey Question #5 asked, "What do you think about a symbol like this on roadside signs to help RV drivers find RV-friendly businesses?" with boxes to be checked selected from the following: Great idea; Mostly good idea; So-so idea; Not such a good idea. 163 customers answered this question. 142 (87%) thought this was a "Great Idea". 17(10%) thought this was a "Mostly good idea". And the remaining 4 customers (2%) thought it was only a "So-so idea"_
Lines were provided after question #5 where customers could add "Other comments". Some of the comments include the following.
Would be a great investment. This is a great service to RVs. Once people become familiar with the symbol, it will be a big help.
Need to get this info in the RV campground directories and RV magazines. It will help when it becomes known.
Why haven't they done this before now? Every state needs them.
Need this very much.
We need more. Thanks so much. Now we will look for this sign.
C. Interviews with managers
At the conclusion of the experiment, interviews were conducted with the managers or supervisors of each participating business to gather their impressions and feedback about the symbol and the test. A total of twelve interviews were conducted with one manager representing two of the participating businesses. A questionnaire with eight questions was used to collect information.
Interview Question # 1 asked, "During the course of this experiment, did you get any feedback from customers commenting on the RV symbol signs? Types of comments?" Seven of those interviewed could not answer this question, mostly because they did not have much direct contact with their customers, but one never got any feedback because they never administered the questionnaire card to their customers. Of the remaining five managers, all reported getting positive feedback. One manager said their customers thought it was "fabulous" and the "best thing ever", and that some customers from the east coast said they "wished the symbol would go national." One manager of an RV park said that customers often shared stories of their bad experiences for the lack of having advisory signing. Another RV park manager said that many customers were already knowledgeable of the symbol's meaning because they had read about it in magazines and newspapers.
Interview Question #2 asked, "Did your business experience any difference in activity that could be attributed to the RV symbols? Examples?" Six managers said that they could not tell any difference in their business because of the RV symbols. Two of the restaurants reported doing remodeling over the summer that made it difficult to say whether the symbols made a difference. Another restaurant said they couldn't tell a difference, but did report an RV caravan of football fans who said they pulled in because of the RV Friendly symbols. Three businesses, all fueling facilities, reported definite increases that they attributed to the RV symbol. One advised a 13% increase in business with "a lot more RV's coming in". Another said they had a "definite increase and saw more traffic in the store".
Interview Question #3 asked, "Did you use the RV symbol delivered to your business? How and where did you display it?" One RV park never displayed the symbol wondering if they ever received it or if they had lost it. Two RV parks attached the symbol to their signs located at the intersection of the access road to the park. The other two RV parks placed the symbols on display in their registration offices. Two of the restaurants mounted their symbols in their parking lots, one on a light pole, and the other on a metal post beside its two RV parking spaces that were also labeled by paint on the pavement. The third restaurant mounted the symbol on a metal post at the driveway entrance to their eight RV parking spaces. The lodging facility placed their symbol on an existing "RV and Truck Parking" sign at the driveway entrance to their big spaces lot. Two o£ the fuel facilities placed the symbols on existing signs at their driveway entrances. One fuel facility placed the symbol on the crash posts before a fuel island with an arrow to direct RVs to the correct pumps. The fourth fueling facility placed he symbol next to their diesel price on a portable sign; this station (which had the 13% increase in business) said that posting the RV symbol by the diesel price reduced the customer complaints and confusion that is caused by Oregon's two-tiered price system for diesel fuel.
Interview Question #4 asked, "Could you have used additional RV symbols on-premise to guide vehicles or mark parking spaces? How many and where would you have placed them?" Only one of the five RV parks thought they could have used additional symbols. Because RV parks require guests to register in the office to be assigned a numbered parking space, there is no purpose in having RV symbols showing customers where to park. The fifth park would have wanted extra symbols for advertising purposes on their on-premise signs. The restaurants and the lodging facility felt their current signing was sufficient. All four fueling facilities said they could have used more symbols to guide large vehicles around their property and to the correct islands and pumps for RVs.
Interview Question #5 asked, "Did you see the RV symbol on your logo plaque on 1-5? What was your impression of it?" One manager never looked at the symbol on their logo sign. All the others, except for one, liked the symbol and thought it looked good. Five commented specifically on its good visibility saying it was "easily recognizable," "eye catching," and could be "seen at night." Four managers wondered if the symbol could be made a little bigger. One manager was very critical of the symbol saying that "RV" meant nothing and felt it should be abandoned in favor of a symbol that would say "BIG RIGS" so that their customers would know that they catered to RVs 36' and longer in size.
Interview Question #6 asked, "Do you think this RV symbol program is worth continuing? What would you do to improve it?" Eleven of the managers felt the program was worth continuing, with five saying emphatically so with remarks of "definitely" and "absolutely." One manager felt the program was a "total waste of time and money" because it did nothing for their RV park to attract "big rigs." To improve the program, six managers recommended launching advertising and customer education campaigns to promote the meaning of the "RV Friendly" symbol. Suggestions were made to get the message out through RV publications like Trailer Life and Family Motor Coaching magazines and Woodall's Campground Directory, to provide information to RV dealers, to use web sites for message promotion, and print brochures and road maps with the locations of RV Friendly businesses.
Interview Question #7 asked, "If the RV symbol program does continue, would you want to participate? Would it be worth paying an annual fee to have the RV symbol on your logo plaque? What would be a reasonable fee to pay? If no to an annual fee, would it be better for TIC to follow the same pricing as it does for "riders" charging a one-time installation fee of $100?" Eleven of the twelve managers said they would want to participate in the RV Friendly program if it were to continue. Four managers felt that an annual fee would be appropriate, but only two would venture to suggest what an annual fee should be with one saying $15/yr and the other not more than $100/yr. A third suggested making the cost of the symbol proportional to the size of the plaque. One manager spoke in favor of charging a one-time installation fee of $100, the same as TIC charges for riders under logo plaques that carry messages like "diesel" and "24 hours". Another manager thought the symbols should be free, and four others deferred to higher management to make such judgments.
Interview Question #8 asked "To qualify as an "RV Friendly" business, the program set certain standards for businesses to qualify for the symbol sign. Here is the list of qualifications from the application form - are there any of these that you think should be different?"
* Road to facility must be a hard surface free of potholes. Lane widths should be 12' wide and never less than 11' wide.
* Facilities that offer short-term parking (Lodging, Food and Tourist Attractions) must have two or more spaces that are 12' wide and 65' long with a swing radius of 50' at both ends to enter and exit the spaces. Fuel stations without restaurants are exempt.
* Fueling stations must have swing radius of 50' at both ends to enter and exit their fuel islands.
* Facilities with canopies must have a minimum 14' height clearance.
* Facilities selling diesel to RVs must have non-commercial nozzles on pumps.
* Campgrounds must have two or more camping spaces that are 18' wide and 45' long.
Six managers offered comments about the qualifications. The manager of the lodging facility remarked at how difficult it is for motels to make large spaces in their parking lots and that frequently guests driving trucks and pulling trailers use parking along side streets. The manager of a restaurant offered a similar comment and asked if the two 65'x12' parking spaces requirement could be met if they were located nearby or adjacent to the facility's on-premise parking. The managers of RV parks felt that the 18'x 45' size of RV Friendly camping spaces could be increased in length. One felt that 45' was a minimum length, another believed that 50' should be the minimum, and two others said the length should be increased to 65'.
The short-term experiment of the "RV Friendly" symbol has produced sufficient results that would merit additional testing in an expanded market over a much longer duration of time. People traveling in RVs and pulling trailers responded strongly and favorably to the RV Friendly symbol concept (87% thought it was a "Great Idea"). With only modest public information released about the test program, most people intuitively knew that the symbol meant something to do with easy access, parking, and services for RVs (61%).
Continue refining of the "RV Friendly" qualifications. Should two parking spaces that are end-to-end satisfy the minimum standard, or should they be side-by side pull-through spaces? If a parking lot has acres of empty space, but lacks markings for 65' long spaces, should it still qualify? What should the minimum length of spaces be in a campground to qualify as RV Friendly - 45', 55', 65'?
Involve volunteers from Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) and other RV organizations to help determine the qualifying eligibility and on-going compliance of facilities claiming to be RV Friendly. Having Frank Brodersen ITom the FMCA involved throughout the RV Friendly experiment demonstrated the value of having an RV advocate involved. Mr. Brodersen advised on the determination of the RV Friendly criteria, participated in the on-site screening of potential participant businesses, and aided in the interviews with business managers. His experience and understanding the needs of RV's was a crucial component of the experiment's success. There are approximately 200,000 licensed RVs in Oregon - a significant market segment that would be served by RV Friendly signage. Enlisting the support of more volunteers like Mr. Brodersen would add quality assurance to the program where the volunteers could help assess whether businesses applying for R V Friendly symbols met the qualifying criteria and whether those with symbols were living up to expectations of easy accessibility and parking.