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Question Of The Week

Cruise Control For Truck Camping

TCM reader, Donald Pryor, asked us to ask you about cruise control.  We did, and over 150 readers wrote in with their truck camping cruise control experiences.

Having read all of the responses, a few patterns emerge.  First, most of us put cruise control between 60 and 65 miles per hour.  Second, we use cruise control to rest our fuel foot, get better fuel mileage, and avoid speeding tickets.

Third, we don’t use cruise control in the hills, mountains, traffic, inclement weather, or really anything but straight and dry interstates.  And finally, no one thought cruise control made driving a truck camper less safe, unless you’re not paying attention.

This week’s Question of the Week was, “Do you use cruise control while driving your truck camper rig?”

“Yes, but only on dry pavement.  I set the speed at 65.” – Tom Berry, 2016 Ford F350, Automatic, 2007 Lance 981 Max

“I use cruise control when I’m in relatively flat country.  If there are a lot of hills I will take control to manage speeds up and down the hills.” – John Ballenger, 2015 F350, Automatic, 2014 Arctic Fox 990

“Yes, I do use cruise control.  It does seem to help a little on the gas mileage.  I found if I keep it around 60 to 65, it’s the sweet spot.  I have squeezed 14 miles per gallon out of it.  As far as safety concerns, keep your eyes on the road and watch what’s going on.” – Jeff Hagberg, 2002 F250, Automatic, 2006 Travel Lite 800SBX

“I have experimented with cruise control on long highway sections.  Due to safety and control concerns, I have not used cruise control on state highways or secondary roads.  On long, fairly level sections of interstate highway I have seen as much as a one to two miles per gallon improvement over manual control.  However, I have seen fuel economy decrease using cruise control on long uphill grades, being able to control the power and turbo boost more efficiently with manual throttle inputs. Given the types of roadways I typically encounter in Idaho, I rarely if ever use cruise control.” – John Terescik, 2015 Ram 3500, Automatic, 2015 Arctic Fox 1140

“I only use cruise control while in states that are flat, like Florida, where it’s easy for the truck to maintain my speed without downshifting.  I find using it where there are any appreciable hills causes the cruise control to maintain a perfect speed and it constantly downshifts on hills.  Like big rig truckers, to maximize fuel economy, we should average out the hills by speeding up going downhill and naturally slow down when going up inclines.

While on cruise control I normally keep my speed around 62 miles per hour which is around 1800-2000 RPM – a sweet spot on my hp/torque curve of engine performance.  I actually believe that keeping it off cruise control in hilly areas and averaging out the hills maximizes my fuel economy.” – Charles Coushaine, 2001 Ford F350, Automatic, 2012 Chalet DS116RB

“We use cruise on interstates and other really good roads.  Cruise lets you move around a bit in the seat.  I set it at 65 or below.  It depends on the speed limit.  I never noticed any mileage improvement.  Never use cruise control in the rain.” – Bob Presto, 2008 Silverado 3500, Automatic, 2008 Lance 1191

“Yes.  I usually set the cruise control at the speed limit except on interstate highways.  There, I set it at 65 miles per hour or the speed limit to prevent speeding.” – Carl Mutschler, 2005 Dodge 3500, Manual, 2005 Lance 1181 Max

“I use my cruise whenever traffic allows.  When the speed limit is 65, I set it at 62.  When the limit is 70, I set at 65.  I prefer 62 because I get better mileage, but 62 in a 70 mile per hour zone, in my opinion, is too dangerous.  I have seen too many drivers not paying attention and almost rear ending me.” – Rick Shofner, 2001 Ford F350, Automatic, 2012 Lance 1181

“I set it at 60 and just on highways.  Miles per gallon varies more on terrain than with cruise control.” – Carlos Armas, 2013 Ford F450, Automatic, 2013 Arctic Fox 990

“I always use cruise.  It is the way I drive.  Cruise doesn’t affect mileage, but speed does dramatically.  I usually set it at 65.  If I go 70, it drops the mileage by 10%, and 75 is even worse.” – Larry Leach, 2008 Ram 2500, Automatic, Arctic Fox 810

“Cruise control is used, and it improves mileage just like when the truck is empty or pulling a trailer.  I set it from 60 to 80 miles per hour, depending on my needs.  62 to 70 miles per hour is the most common.  At 62 to 65 I can see 14.5 miles per gallon with no wind.  I find that to be outstanding for a 12,000 pound rig on a 4×4 crew cab dually.

Cruise should never be used in heavy traffic or on slick surfaces such as in rain, snow, sleet or in areas where patches of ice may be found.  Other than that, if you pay attention and have an extra half second following distance to allow time to get your foot to the pedals, I see no loss of safety.

If you have an automatic truck that insists on downshifting on hills or in gusty winds, you may get better fuel mileage off cruise.  If you are in a zen state with your truck, you can sense when it is about to downshift and let off the throttle some to avoid that.  That’s a lot of work and slows your average speed down some as you have to accept some loss in speed to avoid the downshift, high rpm, and extra fuel use.  This is why I like having a clutch pedal, among about 400 other reasons.” – FE J, 2002 Ford F350, Manual, 1988 Bigfoot C-11.5

“As soon as the road conditions are good, the cruise is on.  I set it at 60 miles per hour.  Towing a 16-foot enclosed trailer with my BMW Z3 behind the camper, that’s fast enough.  I get in between 10 to 14 miles per gallon, depending on the wind conditions.” – Richard C Raymond, Chevy Silverado 3500, Automatic, 2005 Palomino Winter Creek 11.5RS

“I run with the cruise control set at 70 miles per hour.  Depending on the road terrain, I get 12 miles per gallon on flat highway, and 10 miles per gallon on the hills/mountains.  I won’t use cruise in heavy rain.” – Keith Lincoln, 2012 GMC 3500, Automatic, 2014 Host Mammoth

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