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Hey folks, been lurking here for a while. I have my Class A, but it's not what I do for work anymore. I mostly dealt in local dirt work. We're looking at probably buying a fifth wheel between 38-45' (three kids, Labrador and a cat plus us two). I plan to convert the sleeper on the truck to an office, so I can actually have a quiet place to conduct business. I love cabovers, but it doesn't seem like most are quite big enough, cab-wise.

 

Anyway, the meat of it all is this: I know most states technically limit RV's to 65', but are any of you folks longer? Have you ever been measured? I'd love to be able to stretch a truck so that an SUV could fit on it, plus the fifth wheel. We have a Suburban now, but that alone is 18.5'. We could probably downsize, but we ideally want one more kid, which means third row is not negotiable. But for travel days we'd sure love having everyone in the same vehicle. Plus, not having to buy fuel for two hogs would be awesome. It makes 5-6mpg a heckuva lot more reasonable if I'm not also buying gas for an SUV getting 17mpg. 

 

What are your thoughts, oh wise ones?

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There are some HDT, 5ers that are a little over length.   Most are not bothered.   However,  what you are describing sounds like it will need to be really long.  I carry a Crosstrek on our HDT but it is a small 42" cab and the front of the car extends over the cab some.  Registering the small cab is difficult in many states but not Colorado.  Carrying an 3 row vehicle and a 40' 5er with a full size cab could mean a total length of 80' or more.  That is well beyond the legal limit in every state I am aware of.  I understand not wanting to be separated in different vehicles but it may be less of a problem in the long run.

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Every state sets it's own length limits for non commercial vehicle combinations.  What is legal in one state may not be legal in the next state.  There is no reciprocity between states for length limits for non commercial vehicles.  What you are proposing would be possible, but it would put you over length in pretty much every state.  There would be no getting around that with the sizes of vehicles you discussed.  Having said that, many HDT RV'ers are over length with their rigs.  For the most part, they are not hassled.  I am aware of only a handful of HDT RVer's who have ever been cited or stopped for over length violations and I have been around in this world for 10 plus years, have many friends in this world and host one of the HDT rallies.  That doesn't mean it won't happen to you or that it won't start to happen more frequently to others in the future though.  It is a risk to anyone who knowingly travels with an oversized rig.  The rig you are describing would stand out more than say a rig hauling a smart car cross loaded.  Does that mean you would be more likely to get stopped?  I can't say for sure.  Most of our rigs that are over length are still fairly close in length to a typical 18 wheeler with a 53 foot trailer and a full sleeper cab.  Because of that, even though we are over length for our class of vehicle (RV - non commercial), we don't stand out.  Once you start getting longer than a typical rig an officer is used to seeing traveling down the road, you will stand out and potentially bring unwanted attention to yourself.

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Informal campfire chat at the rallies leads me to believe that about half of us are over legal length, most by only a foot or so.  Some are way over, and don't seem to be concerned.

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In my part of the world, Nebraska we have I-80 and a lot of rural trucks the DOT is kept busy just keeping the junk off the road. Yesterday I saw the DOT have a guy pulled over pulling a van trailer. No DOT number, no name on the truck and I bet he was more than 100 miles from home. I also bet he was not pulling his own product and probably had no CDL. Yes they are busy around these parts.

Keep your rig looking nice and I don't think you will be bothered. Now get in a wreck and someone gets killed and that is another story.

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OK - here is what you could do ( regular contributors with real knowledge on this forum are already rolling their eyes...):

You get a short hood set back front axle day cab truck.  You have a van body on the deck the SUV fits in. You have a flip over 5th wheel "hitch" that gets out of the way for loading and unloading the SUV.  OK while the SUV is loaded, your "office module" is raised above the hood of the SUV for travel. You have windows in the van body with that perforated wrap like city buses so you can see out. The SUV is securely tied to the truck when hauled. Passengers ride in the SUV with radio contact to you in the truck. Tow the trailer.  The SUV passengers are safely seat belted in a passenger vehicle up off the ground away from the traffic. Power the SUV during travel so air bags and other systems operate. Passengers nowadays ride down the road looking at their phones anyways. In bad weather in camp with the SUV on the ground you have another area under roof to spread out in. 

If you stay out of cold country you could rig a curtain side. Big view for everyone in the SUV. Bear in mind well meaning public hall monitors will report you for having someone ride seat belted in a tested passenger vehicle... 

Before everyone breaks their keyboard I could be wrong but I think California allows people to occupy a vehicle on the deck of a recovery truck (rollback) if everyone has seat belts on. 

Chad could verify... I could be wrong... often am... 

Option 2 - to keep the main rig short as possible use the shortest sleeper truck you can for office space and seats for everyone while in transit, flat tow the SUV behind the trailer. If you get busted un hook it and someone drive it. My "baby Kenworth" seats 4, has a 160" wheelbase. Towing a 39ft toyhauler I'm 56ft long. 

Option 3 - drive the SUV. Don't move base camp so much. Tow your motorcycle trailer... 

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We're 65' overall with a 37' fifth wheel.  Our length goal was driven by an interest to get into as many locations as possible versus any concern with state length limits.  We know lots of folks running much longer and don't recall anybody having been "talked to" by an LEO.  If our usage requirements were to accommodate a family, I wouldn't be concerned going to 75'.  Much beyond that would give us pause to make sure the requirements couldn't be otherwise satisfied.

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That HDT pulling the cyclone with the hitch slid back (profile pic is in the short position) to put 3 atvs' on the deck had the total length at 67' and change.  Double towing (without the HDT) had us in the lower 70's.

We traveled all over the middle of the US (ND to TX, AZ to TN), had a few conversations with officers of the law and total length wasn't a topic of conversation.  Lighting, rolling through stop signs, expired tabs, just wanting to chat about the rig were topics of conversation.

Technically we were out of compliance when in certain locations.  I did have the conversation about liability with our insurance provider.  It wasn't characterized as, if you are an inch overlength your done, rather it was more in the realm of don't be stupid, operate with caution and you'll be fine.  We do carry a significant liability umbrella just in case which does include the RV's.

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There are some good thoughts on here for sure. We would also consider a shorter 3 row vehicle, not just the Suburban ('cause it is honkin' huge). 

My wife's largest concern is that lately she doesn't seem to be able to drive farther than about an hour without starting to want to nod off.

 

I don't want to triple tow, because that's very illegal in some states behind a fifth wheel. Much more noticeable than being a few feet over the limit 

 

Here's a question that might help me plan a little better: how much space at the end of the frame do I need to plan on leaving for the hitch and to have clearance from the trailer?

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My understanding is that 65' is the "Magic Number" re Over All Length (OAL). There may still be a state or two with a 60' OAL limit (KY ?). As already mentioned, LEOs (Law Enforcement Officers) generally have NOT been interested in RVs (whether powered by HDTs or something else) UNLESS there is some other factor involved (ie accident, stuff falling off your rig etc). With both CA & UT looking to go after BIG RVs for emissions, I fear it's just a matter of time before some politician decides / realizes that RVs are ripe targets for "enforcement actions" (ie tickets). I've seen more than a few Weigh Stations that are placarded by GVWR rather than by Commercial status. I've seen at least one Weigh Station placarded "requiring" vehicles  weighing 8,000 pounds or more to enter said Weigh Station. Heck, that number would require many (most?) pick up trucks to pull in. Right now, I doubt that's being enforced BUT, states could just be planning for the future. With the HUGE deficits being run up, politicians and all levels of government WILL be looking for ways to increase revenue. LOTS of things that in the past, did NOT get much attention, are likely to get a closer look. My big fear is that, with all the "newbies" entering the RV lifestyle, MOST do NOT get ANY RV driver training (or even realize said training exists and, that they NEED it). A spate of major accidents could bring unwanted attention to RVers. I regularly recommend to RV newbies I meet to find and attend an RV Boot Camp as well as tell them that RV Driver Training Classes exist. Most were clueless about these learning opportunities.

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An HDT large cab with a Smartcar will be right at 65'. True a daycab can be shorter or a larger vehicle. I am just a touch over. My Teton is a little over 39'. All my encounters with leos is praise for towing with my truck. No one questioned length. We have been Texas, Louisiana, NC, SC, Ohio, Kentucky, CO, NM, Georgia, Kansas, Tennessee, WY, and never an issue. 

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The OP asks; how much room do I need at the end of the frame for trailer clearance?


RV 5th wheel trailers are generally 102" wide and the pin is at or near the front of the trailer.    A good rule of thumb is about 65" from the front of the trailer to any object on the truck in the swing zone.   

 

A three row vehicle is going to be challenging to say the least, a mini van?    A truck with a short hood/small sleeper would have a BBC of somewhere around 155~165" that is 13 to 14 feet at best.   With a 16 foot vehicle on deck add the 65 inches for trailer clearance and you are looking at a 30 foot trailer to hit the magic 65 feet.

 

The car on deck idea really stretches out a rig, while double towing sounds like a big deal, it has worked for many.    Double towing also gives you more flexibility.    The rig is far more maneuverable and, in nearly any case simply detaching the car solves the problem.   

 

Steve   

 

edit to add,

My truck is a short hood with a big sleeper.    With my 41' Teton the overall length is 62'    With my 48' Kentucky I am right at 65' plus a couple inches if you add the DOT bumper.

Edited by Steve from SoCal
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As Steve mentions above you are asking for what is called “swing clearance”. It is the distance from center of the king pin to the farthest corner of the trailer that is at 90deg to the pin or ahead of the pin. So going 90deg from the pin or any bodywork ahead of the pin whatever is longest measurement - front corner or whatever. 
This number plus 6” is a good minimum clearance.

If you own the trailer measure this distance by compassing a tape measure from the pin. Add 6” to the measurement and cut yourself a stick to use on the truck to imagine the clearance you need.

”Jack knife” clearance is minimum clearance before anything on the tow vehicle contacts the trailer when you put the tow vehicle past 90 degrees to the trailer - this would be stuff like sleeper fairings contacting the trailer. 

Another thought on deck loaded vehicles - a low clearance vehicle (van or smart needs a shallower ramp angle than a 4x4 with more ground clearance. The big vehicle needs a stronger ramp. 

Google for a “ramp calculator” - you can plug in numbers to solve ramps needed.

Heavy duty truck oems can have “body builder” manuals in their websites which give precise vehicle dimensions for you planning and dreaming pleasure. 
 

Fun project

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Looking at some quick rough numbers on my goofy auto van idea above. The shorter hood class 8 daycabs are in the 112” bumper to back of cab (BBC) range so:

9.5 feet BBC

22 feet van

5 feet 5th wheel deck

39 feet trailer 

minus 1 ft king pin setback

= 75-1/2ft - 

truck is good at under 41ft but overall rig is getting a bit long still...

The Suburban is up and tied down where it’s safe and you aren’t double towing. 
 

There are maximum “box lengths” which is the distance from center of rear axle(s) to rear end of a truck. This limits body swing of the rear as a truck makes a sharp turn.

 

 

 

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To the OP regarding the proposed length

An HDT which can enclose a Suburban and pull a 40' fifth wheel is going to visually look very long and out of place.  If anyone is going to get checked, it will be that rig.  Will you get checked, probably not in the near term, will that change in the future, perhaps.

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11 hours ago, Parrformance said:

I am 64 feet as well Jon👍

I pondered shorting the truck to get a longer trailer but with 2 boys that will soon be teenagers I foresee a pair of 4wheelers on the deck in near future.

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We are the odd balls here. We have a custom built Toyhauler that is just under 47' long that we can put a full size van in or carry our 7 seat Dodge Journey SUV. We are at just under 73' long with a truck long enough that we can also put our smart car sideways on the truck. 

I feel if I did not need the smart car, I could shorten up the truck to get close to the 65' length but I would lose some storage capacity. GBMTLqcl.jpg

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OK, to be fair, we are just 64 feet and 58 inches in length so I am just under 65 feet long.....

Having said that, take a look at double towing your Sport Ute behind the trailer. Just make sure the frame is reinforced well enough to handle the additional stress. If you are pulled over, it's a simple matter of unhooking the car and letting your wife drive it for a while. There are many rigs that run that way and it will not draw the same attention as a 40 long HDT will get with a full size vehicle sitting on the back. Just remember that you need to disconnect the car before attempting to back up.

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