By Cindy Zomar, Contributing Writer
Boylston – For Sheri and Bob Fuller, owners of Fuller RV in Boylston, the COVID-19 lockdown and “stay at home” orders took a bite out of their recreational vehicle rental business.
Sheri Fuller explained, “After 9/11, more people began to rent or buy their own recreational vehicles to avoid getting on a plane… they would rather drive themselves.”
She noted that some of their units have even been used as permanent residences.
“We sell a lot of units to people who are tired of paying rent or a mortgage and would rather be able to travel wherever they wanted,” she said.
Now, however, everyone is forced to stay at home, traveling is for essential purposes only, and the travel and hospitality industries are suffering. The trickle-down effect reaches RV rentals, too.
“Right now, short-term rentals that have been scheduled keep pushing the date out, while long trips seem to no longer be in the budget,” Fuller noted.
Yet, business is far from dead.
”It’s crazy right now! Mainly it’s the utility companies who are looking to set up a Plan B, to find a place to let their workers sleep if they must leave their offices,” Fuller said.
The LG Exelon Mystic Generating Station and Liberty Utility, both in Fall River, are good examples.
“If they had to evacuate the building because of the virus, to limit exposure, they can’t just be down for a while. They need back-up with sleeping quarters. The units they are reserving hold four adults, which would be for those who normally work together as a crew anyway,” she noted. “National Grid as well likes to have some on hold for use as a command center to dispatch the linesmen in case of emergency.”
“I have a roofer who is heading to Texas with one of my units as he’s considered an essential business, another one is on hold for a doctor who is trying to schedule a trip to visit her mother in Maine so she can park in her driveway without close contact. Nahant Police and Fire have expressed a need if they are told to evacuate their stations, and a mother whose daughter is a doctor on the front lines wants to rent one so the woman can stay close but separate.
“A Visiting Nurse will be using one to visit a patient’s home in Vermont for a few days. It is cheaper and perhaps safer than a hotel, she can bring her own food, and just park it at the patient’s house,” Fuller said. “The trailers are being used for a lot of different things as people wait for orders to shut down or evacuate out of an abundance of caution.”
Fuller noted that the industry is changing in another way because of the COVID-19 restrictions.
“I don’t keep these units registered all the time; it would be a fortune. I used to be able to offer a 24- hour turn-around but now some registries are closed, and it’s tough to get appointments,” she said. “I think a better way would be to let people get a number in the parking lot and sit in their cars until called. They could take five customers at a time in the building. The other issue is that there are no pre-stamped insurance forms, I must download it, fill it out, email it to the company, she stamps it, and sends it back via FedEx. Everything takes so much time!”
Running with just a winter skeleton crew of she, her husband and son right now, Fuller is still optimistic about the summer.
“Let’s be real here…we need to get some sense of normality back. If we can get the campgrounds open for just three months, starting in July, the campers would be self-contained, in their own space, with their own food. Keep the bathrooms closed, but allow hook-up to water and electricity, which is easy to disinfect between customers. That’s what I am hoping is going to happen.”
She also added that she rents two units to Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port for the bands to use that weekend, and the event has been moved from Memorial Day weekend to late September but is not yet cancelled. “These charities depend on still having their events, so I am optimistic it will be happening.”
For more information call 508- 869-2905 or toll free 800-338-2578, or visit www.fullerrv.com.