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Special Endorsement for Fifth Wheels


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I have owned a 40' Alpine (15,500 Lbs GVWR) for two years and tow it behind a Silverado dually (13025 GVWR). I recently learned by reading several different forums that I have been driving out of class all this time.

Apparently some states have a law if the combined Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings for your tow vehicle and fifth wheel exceeds 26000 Lbs you must have an R endorsement to legally be on the road.

I took my road test today in New York for my R endorsement. There is no written test. The cost for this part of the endorsement was $10 which allowed me to take up to two road tests. This is obviously not about making money, I cant imagine they put money in their pocket on this one.

When I got to the road test site in Northern NY the DMV test administrator came up to me and said "I don't think you need and R, you need an A-O for this" I told her according to NY motor vehicle regulation a personal use vehicle is exempt CDL. She said she had placed a call to Albany NY licensing and enforcement bureau to clarify. She told me in her years she has never given a road test to someone pulling a fifth wheel.... only motorhomes. Around 10 minutes later, she came over and said lets go, they tell me you need an R endorsement. She was actually very nice during the entire process.

We went for a tour of the town, down a side street where she had me parallel park, then back the rig up along the curb for approximately 50-100 feet. We then went into the busier section of town and drove through some traffic and ended back where we started.

She proceeded to write me a 10 day temporary license and I guess I now go to DMV to get a new one.

I think the whole process will cost around $25 and I think it is probably a good thing the state does it. The problem is most people towing these rigs don't know they need anything other than their regular D license.


Here is a state by state listing where endorsements are needed. I understand that most states honor reciprocity and if you are legal in your home state, you are legal where you are driving.







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In CA you can pull any trailer with a GVW up to 10000 lbs on a regular driver's license (a Class C in California).


If you pull a trailer that has a GVW of more than 10000 lbs you need at least a non commercial Class A license.


The only exception to this is if the trailer is a 5th wheel RV. If the trailer is a 5th wheel RV and it has a GVW of between 10000 lbs and 15000 lbs then you can get a 5th wheel endorsement on your Class C license.


If the 5th wheel RV has a GVW of more than 15000 lbs, then you need at least a non commercial class A license again.


Most people have no idea of this requirement (including LEO's) and many are driving out of class in CA because of it.


These licensing rules only apply if you are a CA resident with a CA driver's license. If you are licensed in a different state then you must comply with that state's licensing requirements and would be legal in CA as long as you are in compliance with your state of origin's requirements even if they are different than CA's requirements. This is because of reciprocity between the states for licensing and registration.


On edit: here is a link to the CA DMV handbook that describes these requirements.

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Michigan - RV is a normal license (OP-operator). I have a CY (cycle) and a R (recreation double). I do NOT need the R (but might want it, so I got it).


With a 20K motorhome (Volvo) and 21K trailer - I am legal on the OP.


Every state is different. (I carry the MI CDL manual just in case).

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In Idaho, where I live, they are concerned about the gross weight of the tow vehicle. They don't consider the weight of the trailer because the registration fees are much higher. Trailer registration is based upon current value.


A wrinkle on the tow vehicle weight is they will include the weight of a non RV trailer (lesser value/cheaper registration). The clerk said for example I am registered for 16K lbs. My truck weighs 13K. I could pull a utility trailer hauling ATVs up to 3K lbs. If a trailer of ATVs weighed more, I would have to up my licensed weight.


As I roll down the road my gross weight is 30K as my 5th wheel weighs 17K. No special license or endorsement is required for this weight.


I asked for a hard copy of the policy in-case I was stopped by a LEO in another state. They had to call their head office to find the policy. It took a while to get but I carry this in my cab binder.


Annual cost of my truck license is $56 and $201 for the 5th wheel. Very reasonable compared to other states.

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There are many RVers that are not aware of the license requirements. By the same token, many of the license testing staions and DPS officers in Texas do not have a clue.


One fellow we spoke with got pulled over in Texas with his motor home and a small trailer. DPS officer told him he needs a CDL. He spoke with the office in his home county and they said no, just a non-commercial class A. A year later he was back through there and the same DPS office pulled him over and he got another ticket for not having a CDL. Now he has to go back and fight this again.


He also got tagged for no inspection sticker on the trailer. Lots of trailers in Texas without the proper inspection sticker. Over 4500# has to be inspected annually.



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From Illinois Rules of the Road:

Driver's License Classifications

Illinois driver's licenses are classified by the GVWR of a vehicle (and any towed


Class A — Any combination of motor vehicles with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more,

providing the GVWR of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds. Also

allows for operation of Class B, C and D vehicles.

Class B — Any single motor vehicle with a GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or any

such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds. Also allows for operation of

Class C and Class D vehicles.

Class C — Any motor vehicle with a GVWR of more than 16,000 pounds, but less than

26,001 pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds. Also

allows for operation of Class D vehicles.

Class D — Any motor vehicle with a GVWR of 16,000 pounds or less. Does not include

A. B, C, L or M vehicles.

Class L — Any motor-driven cycle with less than 150cc displacement.

Class M — Any motorcycle or motor-driven cycle.

These are non-CDL classifications, I believe a number of other states are similar. You need to be legal in your home state no matter where you travel. Class D is the normal operators license. I carry the Ill. Class A, non-CDL.

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Regular drivers license for ALL RV applications in Oregon. Seems strange that I can jump into my 32,000# pusher or a MDT/fiver combo at the same weight with no special endorsements but if I get on my motorcycle, I have to have a special endorsement!


Because I am legal in Oregon, I am good everywhere.


Now if I paint a sign on my MH or a trailer advertising my (which I don't have) business, I need a CDL a I am considered commercial. And have to stop at the scales, keep a log book, etc. I think that business thing gets some people into trouble with the LEOs.



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Len, same for Louisiana. No issues whatever weights or trailer. Normal DL and cycle endorsement needed for motorcycle. I also am getting anElio and some states require a cycle endorsement and classify the yet to be built Elio two seater three wheel car as a motorcycle. Strange twist on laws state to state and some of their "classifications." It is obvious a deskbound bureaucrat is responsible in each case of the overcomplicated rules for increasing their rice bowls.

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In Texas Class A


  1. Not described under a Class B or Class C driver license
  2. With a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds including vehicles in Class B or Class C

So my truck is 10,000 GVWR and my FW GVWR is 13,750 lbs for a total CVWR of 23,750 lbs and I can get by with my Class A. I could go up to a GVWR of 12,250 on the truck as long as I don't go up in the FW GVWR, so confusing.

Never mind I have a class C license first line would mean a vehicles with more than 26,001 lbs

Class C

Authorizes an individual to drive any single vehicle:

  1. Or combination of vehicles that are not included in Class A or Class B
  2. With a GVWR of less than 26,001 pounds towing a farm trailer with a GVWR that does not exceed 20,000 pounds
  3. Designed to transport 23 or less passengers including the driver; vehicles rated as 16-23 passengers including the driver require a Class C CDL unless exempt
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  • 4 weeks later...

I live in Colorado so I thought I better go check out my local regulations. After waiting for about 20 minutes the clerk came back and said 'R' stands for 'Regular' and I was not required to get any additional licensing. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

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