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When does a tow dolly become a trailer?


Lou Schneider

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I've seen tow dollies that can carry one or two motorcycles, an ATV or a golf cart on a platform ahead of the dolly pan that supports the trailing car.

At what point does a tow dolly legally become a trailer, making the car a second trailer double-towed behind it?

Is it carrying cargo on the dolly (a motorcycle, etc)?  Or is it if you enclose that cargo in a box?

How about if you raise the box to standup height so you can walk in alongside when you're loading and unloading the motorcycle? 

Or if you lengthen the box to 10 or 12 ft. for a little more room, keeping the car dolly platform at the rear?

This is a serious question as most of the motorcycle carrying dollies I've seen use a ball hitch like a standard dolly to connect to the motorhome, while many states that allow double towing require a fifth wheel hitch as the primary connection.  I'm interested in doing something like this but I'd like to stay on the right side of the law.

Where is the dividing line between a tow dolly and a trailer?

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I decided to look up the Vermont defanition. Looks to me like a double dolly would be a trailer in Vt,

51) "Single-axle tow dolly" is a vehicle towed by a self-propelled motor vehicle and designed and used exclusively to transport another self-propelled motor vehicle which shall not be required to be registered and upon which the front or rear wheels of the towed self-propelled motor vehicle are mounted, while the other wheels of the towed self-propelled motor vehicle remain in contact with the ground. These vehicles shall not be subject to registration or titling nor shall they be treated as a separate vehicle when used in combination with another vehicle. They shall be subject to equipment safety requirements.

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Leave it to escapees to know the definition of double-towing. Other RVing forums call it triple-towing, which is wrong, the power unit is not being towed.

As I read that Vermont definition, pulling a car dolly without a car on it is not legal unless it is licensed as a trailer,  since that passage  states "exclusively".

 

2000 Winnebago Ultimate Freedom USQ40JD, ISC 8.3 Cummins 350, Spartan MM Chassis. USA IN 1SG retired;Good Sam Life member,FMCA ." And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.  John F. Kennedy 20 Jan 1961

 

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This year while traveling I have looked at two different extended tow dollies in CGs we were staying at.  Both of these had the larger platforms to haul either a golf cart or trike.  Both of the ones I saw were using them to haul Harley Trikes and I visited with each owner.  One was from Tennessee and I can't recall where the other one was from, but neither one said they were required to be titled or registered.  

 

Joe & Cindy

Newmar 4369 Ventana

Pulling 24' enclosed (Mini Cooper, Harley, 2 Kayaks)

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I know Vermont can word things a little odd sometimes and I only use Vermont as that is were I am from and were I did my limited stint as a Leo. My understanding is that the term exclusively is to mean for no other reson.  You can use it empty, as the exclusive intent is to move a car, but you can't put your motorcycle on it and drive it down the road unless one wheel is on the ground. If you put a couch on it it becomes a trailer. We have other vehicles that have the same type of wording such as a wood splitter and a poll dingy they have to be used exclusively for there intended purpose.  We don't have to register things like manure spreaders but if you start using one as a utility trailer you would.

All that said unless you are braking some other law or look unsafe any officer that was raised in Vermont would only stop you to see how to copy what you have done and they would probably figure out how to one up you.

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Good point and that makes perfect sense.  Just because the campers I visited with said they didn't have to register their dollies certainly doesn't mean they really weren't suppose to.  If someone were to purchase one I would suggest they consult with their own state reference what is required.

I watched one load and unload his trike and car a couple times.  His had short ramps that fit together a certain way to get the Trike on and off, then they stored out of the way on the inside face of the dolly.  All in all it was a pretty nice set up.  

Someday we may decide to stop towing a 24' enclosed trailer.  Our options are limited to either one of these dollies or a large hydrolic lift with regular dolly or towing 4-down.  One of these set ups would probably be the cheapest way to go.

Joe & Cindy

Newmar 4369 Ventana

Pulling 24' enclosed (Mini Cooper, Harley, 2 Kayaks)

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