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Special Licensing for RV's


Kirk W

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We often seem to get into discussions about special driving license requirements, which states have them and not infrequently debates over the need for them. Just this morning my son and I had a similar discussion via text and so I did some research to see what states have them. While there are probably more sources for that information, I found 3 very quickly and all 3 lists were the same except in the case of New Mexico, 2 states put them with commercial license required for some RVs and 1 includes them with the 10 other states that specify RV driving requires a special license. The weight where it becomes required is 26,000# but some states also have a length at which one is required.  All 3 sources agree that 16 states have some type of RV related special licensing, with Michigan being the most unique for their RR rating to tow a trailer behind a fifth wheel. 

The following states have laws on the books requiring a commercial driver’s license for vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds

Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, New Mexico, Washington, D.C.

Wisconsin: SPECIAL NOTE -- this state requires a CDL for vehicles over 45 feet in length.

In these states, you may need special licensing to drive vehicles over the 26,000-pound weight limit, but not a CDL. 

California, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Wyoming

My source for each of these lists are not official government sites as I took the easy way and depended upon the work of others, but with all 3 pretty much in agreement, I believe that they can be relied upon. 

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If you have a valid license from one state, you can generally use it to lawfully drive in other states that you visit. This includes all RVs that are legally registered and the state issuing your current driving license allows. 

Edited by Kirk W
Add the last bold statement.

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I know this is not a poll, and I also know my opinion about this is not going to be popular or appreciated here, but I am very much in favor of some level of proper training and then special licensing for legally driving any large, heavy vehicle, over and above the normal operator or car drivers license.

 

 

 

 

Edited by podwerkz

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Kirk - nice research! 

Readers should be aware *if* their state (only) requires a NON-Commercial driver's license to drive or tow certain vehicles (or combinations of same ) rather than a "CDL". (Commercial Drivers License). 

Example,  CA = Non-Commercial - Of course a "CDL" works also - if you wish to jump thru more hoops to acquire it.

Also CA - towing 5th wheel between 10,000 & 15,000 GVWR requires a "Restriction 41" - which is in reality a "restricted" Non-Commercial Class A, ( which is req'd for towing a 5th wheel over 15,000 GVWR - or a travel trailer over 10,000 GVWR).

New CA rig buyers - beware of DL requirements!

Just like a CDL, a Non-Commercial Class A requires a written, and driving test - with an appropriately rated trailer to take the desired test.  For the driving test, the applicant *must* arrive accompanied by a driver with either a CDL or Non-Commercial Class A DL.  Also, not all of the state DMVs are testing sites.

The restriction 41 only requires passing an (extremely easy) 25 question written.

.

Edited by Pappy Yokum
correct typos
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3 hours ago, agesilaus said:

Does that 26K include the truck?

Generally yes, but as mentioned in all 3 sources, you need to check with the state DMV for specifics to that state, if you are seeking a license there. Since every state and Canada accept the license and registrations of all 50 states, you only need comply with the laws of the state in which you are licensed.

16 minutes ago, Pappy Yokum said:

However - readers should be aware *if* their state (only)requires a  NON-Commercial driver's license to drive or tow certain vehicles (or combinations of same ) rather than a "CDL". (Commercial Drivers License). 

I suppose that I should have included a statement to the effect that you only need to be concerned about meeting the requirements of the laws in the state which you are licensed in. I thought that was obvious, but it may not be, especially to a new RV owner. I had also thought that the 3 sources stated that, but in going back to read all 3 again carefully, I find that it does not make that clear so will edit to add that comment. 

Good travelin !...............Kirk

Full-time 11+ years...... Now seasonal travelers.
Kirk & Pam's Great RV Adventure

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A few years ago there was an irv2.com thread concerning the state of Maryland having a law on the books requiring vehicles over 10,000# to  stop at weigh stations. Naturally there was much debate, until one man posted a letter he wrote to the state and the reply, which referenced the existing law requiring such weight station requirement and acknowledging it was not enforced.

Edited by Ray,IN

 

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2 hours ago, Pappy Yokum said:

New CA rig buyers - beware of DL requirements!

Just like a CDL, a Non-Commercial Class A requires a written, and driving test - with an appropriately rated trailer to take the desired test.  For the driving test, the applicant *must* arrive accompanied by a driver with either a CDL or Non-Commercial Class A DL.  Also, not all of the state DMVs are testing sites.

I don't believe that's true.

After arriving in CA last November, we found the RV License classes very confusing . . . and apparently so did the CA DMV.

For starters, this is a Summary of the Various License Classes as well as the Non-Commercial Class A Requirements and the Non-Commercial Class B Requirements.

Lots and lots of tests . . . skill test, vision test, physician report, etc.

Our 41-foot Newmar DP straddled the line between Class A & B (toughest standard), so we went for the Class A. 

As mentioned our local DMV office didn't provide testing, so we drove to the Modesto DMV where my wife (the one applying for a license) ended up getting the commercial tests because this DMV was clueless about RVs.

We didn't need to bring along a driver with CDL or non commercial Class A license, but I think the commercial license applicants did.

Anyway, after this experience we decided to sell our DP & get a 26,000 pound (or less) RV so that we could use our ordinary Class C driver's license.

Lovely.

Edited by Zulu

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When I purchased my toy hauler, prior to my Class A, I was still a CA resident. I went to DMV in San Diego  to get a 5th wheel endorsement, kinda like a motorcycle endorsement, only a written test, no driving test, to my existing CA license. No one at the DMV knew what to do. They had to call Sacramento to find out what written  test to give me. After completing the written test I was giver a 5th wheel endorsement. No driving test or medical exam required. 

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5 hours ago, Kirk W said:

Generally yes, but as mentioned in all 3 sources, you need to check with the state DMV for specifics to that state, if you are seeking a license there. Since every state and Canada accept the license and registrations of all 50 states, you only need comply with the laws of the state in which you are licensed.

Happily Florida where we are residents, has no such requirements. One has to wonder if these laws contain a large dose of revenue extraction from the public. I recall having a CDL license years ago, at the time the test was just on a few rules and the meaning of all those extra lights on commercial trucks. I never had cause to use it and I let it lapse years ago. Should have paid the extra fee and kept it.

Edited by agesilaus
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 In Florida I was under the impression that if your truck had a load carrying hitch (fifth wheel) that the truck had to be registered commercial with the license to follow.  If it had a "bumper" hitch and ball it was OK with a regular license.  Can you shed any light on that theory or fact?

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That's news to me, if true and if it is true it isn't enforced.

"According to Florida Statute 320.01(26), a 'commercial motor vehicle’ is a vehicle not owned by the government, with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 26,001 lbs. or more, or has three or more axles regardless of weight, or is used in combination (vehicle plus trailer) when the weight of such combination exceeds 26,001 pounds gross vehicle weight."

But it does not seem to enforced by anyone. Has nothing to do with the hitch according to the above from St Lucie tax Collector. But a lot of Class A's might fall under it along with big fivers.

Looking at that section mentioned above and one that is referenced in that section I 'think' commercial vehicles are those for hire and not privately owned. BUT both of those sections are very long and written in legalese so I'm not sure. I used to read that stuff at work when I was a Lab Tech Director but I prefer not to anymore.

 

Edited by agesilaus
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FWIW. Some years back we were at the Holiday Rambler factory having some work done on our motorhome. A DP pulled into their camping area. A 90 year old male got out. As we talked he mentioned getting a ticket for speeding. He was caught doing 90mph in a 40ft DP. It was his first trip in a motorhome!!! Next day a 35ft gas A class pulled in. He was in his 80s. First ever motorhome. He was their because the motorhome could not maintain 80mph up hill.

These are just 2 examples of who is in that RV who just flew past you on the road.

So should there be a test? In Australia anything over 4ton needs a different license. Over 8ton. etc etc. License is based on weight and axles. You can't turn 70. Go out and buy a 40ft anything and hit the road unless you have the appropriate license. And you need to have x amount of experience before you step up to another level.

So think how lucky you are with so few regulations in the USA.

 

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Very few states require any licensing to drive large Rvs, just like the Coast Guard has little requirement for a piloting a boat too large for ther operator.

Way back in 2006 when Maryland tried to enforce the Class B requirement for RVs that had been passed in 1996, I was in a meeting with the legislature, dealers  and the RV standards folks uncovered the problem of how to license.  Dealers do not want licening as it would deter sales.  A CDL test requires you to be accompanied by an already licensed CDL driver and to have accompnied by a licensed CDL driver while learning to drive.  Not hard for a company hiring you and having you learn, or a driving school.  Real problem for an RV.

There is no question that some kind of license endorsement, like a motorcycle endorsement, should be required for large RVs.  Knowing the dynamics of 40.000 lbs in stopping is only reasonable.   And the knowlege of the dynamics of trailer in tow should be known.  You know how many diesel pusher drivers do not know what the buzzer alarm for air brakes mean? 

These enddorsements should be mandatory and could be implemented with written tests.  No need for driving tests.  The LEOs and the insurance companies with handle the actual driving.

 

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7 hours ago, RandyA said:

In Florida I was under the impression that if your truck had a load carrying hitch (fifth wheel) that the truck had to be registered commercial with the license to follow.

First of all, nothing in the post addresses vehicle licensing requirements, only driver's license requirements for those licensed to drive by the particular state. I'm not sure how to address an impression, but you may want to read the commercial vehicle section of the Florida vehicle laws. The definition of commercial vehicles that I find makes no mention of the hitch or even if the vehicle has a hitch of any kind. Could you share with us what your information source was? 

Florida State Statutes, definitions, commercial vehicles:

Quote

(b) A recreational vehicle-type unit primarily designed as temporary living quarters for recreational, camping, or travel use, which either has its own motive power or is mounted on or drawn by another vehicle.................

(26) “Commercial motor vehicle” means any vehicle which is not owned or operated by a governmental entity, which uses special fuel or motor fuel on the public highways, and which has a gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more, or has three or more axles regardless of weight, or is used in combination when the weight of such combination exceeds 26,001 pounds gross vehicle weight. A vehicle that occasionally transports personal property to and from a closed-course motorsport facility, as defined in s. 549.09(1)(a), is not a commercial motor vehicle if the use is not for profit and corporate sponsorship is not involved. As used in this subsection, the term “corporate sponsorship” means a payment, donation, gratuity, in-kind service, or other benefit provided to or derived by a person in relation to the underlying activity, other than the display of product or corporate names, logos, or other graphic information on the property being transported.

 

Edited by Kirk W

Good travelin !...............Kirk

Full-time 11+ years...... Now seasonal travelers.
Kirk & Pam's Great RV Adventure

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3 hours ago, bruce t said:

He was caught doing 90mph in a 40ft DP. It was his first trip in a motorhome!!! Next day a 35ft gas A class pulled in. He was in his 80s. First ever motorhome. He was their because the motorhome could not maintain 80mph up hill.

 

I think I found one of them.

 

Edited by durangodon
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I for one am all for requiring a special license class for larger vehicles, including RVs.  You need a written test as well as skills test.  My wife and I both have the Texas Class A license for our rig.  

I see way too many people pulling into RV parks and they really should not be driving a pedal car with a little red wagon in tow.

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5 hours ago, bruce t said:

FWIW. Some years back we were at the Holiday Rambler factory having some work done on our motorhome. A DP pulled into their camping area. A 90 year old male got out. As we talked he mentioned getting a ticket for speeding. He was caught doing 90mph in a 40ft DP. It was his first trip in a motorhome!!! Next day a 35ft gas A class pulled in. He was in his 80s. First ever motorhome. He was their because the motorhome could not maintain 80mph up hill.

These are just 2 examples of who is in that RV who just flew past you on the road.

So should there be a test? In Australia anything over 4ton needs a different license. Over 8ton. etc etc. License is based on weight and axles. You can't turn 70. Go out and buy a 40ft anything and hit the road unless you have the appropriate license. And you need to have x amount of experience before you step up to another level.

So think how lucky you are with so few regulations in the USA.

 

This reminds me of an ambulance call I ran many years ago. Got called for a "heart attack" at rest stop along I-5. Elderly gentleman with his wife in a 40' DP pulling a trailer. The guy was obviously postictal (post seizure). Wife said he had a hear attack but he acted like he did when he had one of his seizures, "but it couldn't have been a seizure because he only has one a year and he just had one a couple weeks ago". Fortunately they were stopped for the night when he seized, I can only imagine the damage that could have done if he locked up driving at highway speeds. 

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8 hours ago, medicmike said:

This reminds me of an ambulance call I ran many years ago. Got called for a "heart attack" at rest stop along I-5. Elderly gentleman with his wife in a 40' DP pulling a trailer. The guy was obviously postictal (post seizure). Wife said he had a hear attack but he acted like he did when he had one of his seizures, "but it couldn't have been a seizure because he only has one a year and he just had one a couple weeks ago". Fortunately they were stopped for the night when he seized, I can only imagine the damage that could have done if he locked up driving at highway speeds. 

It isn't just RV'ers with medical issues that can put the public at risk. Back in my towing days, I was called out in a near blizzard to recover a truck hauling doubles after the driver ran off the road on I-90 in upstate NY. He had an epileptic seizure, and after an investigation it was found that he had a history of seizures and had not taken his anticonvulsant meds that day. He should not have passed a CDL medical with his history, but apparently doctors are not tested for integrity. It took a helper and I about six hours to get the rig back on the road and hauled off to an exit parking area. Fortunately, he didn't take anyone else out with him and only took down a couple of mile markers before a snow bank pulled the rig off the road, but it could have been a lot worse if there had been more traffic.

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On 9/25/2021 at 1:25 PM, podwerkz said:

I know this is not a poll, and I also know my opinion about this is not going to be popular or appreciated here, but I am very much in favor of some level of proper training and then special licensing for legally driving any large, heavy vehicle, over and above the normal operator or car drivers license.

Need one of those *like* buttons for this!  Just because someone can afford a huge rig or an HDT does not mean they can handle one, especially in an emergency situation.  I have a CDL class A, some ppl I see driving big rigs untrained make me shiver!

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12 hours ago, TXiceman said:

I for one am all for requiring a special license class for larger vehicles, including RVs.  You need a written test as well as skills test.  My wife and I both have the Texas Class A license for our rig.  

I see way too many people pulling into RV parks and they really should not be driving a pedal car with a little red wagon in tow.

Ken

I'll second that! Ask most any DP driver when was the last time they performed an air brake check and you get the deer in the headlights look.

 

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FWIW. Again! I told the story above of our meeting 2 drivers at the campsite provided by Holiday Rambler for folks getting service. Well wait, there's more. The campsite was no more than a vacant lot. Flat gravel. No fences. Had a driveway at each end. So no issues getting in or out. Or so you would think. The lot was adjacent to a residential lot. Nice house with a nice flat mowed grass yard. No fences. Yeah you guessed it. A 40ft DP drives straight across their nice grass to get to the camping lot. We watched him in amazement. Just a few yards short of the camping lot the rear end of the DP dropped 4-5ft. Yup. He had found their septic system. The weight of the DP had been too much for the septic tank. He was really in it. Well 2 wreckers came. They wet themselves with laughter. No way were they going near it. Long story short. A mobile crane came and lifted him up and over the camping lot. Er yes there was 'stuff' everywhere.

Yes it's a true story. And we worry about needing a license? How about a license for common sense?

 

Edited by bruce t
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One day last year we had a ball watching a guy pull into a pull through site.  The sites are nice an wide(16 ft) and long (70 Ft) and a nice angle from the road.  Sites and roads are all concrete.  It took him 45 minutes to get a 38 foot long 5er and 1 ton truck into the site reasonably straight.  He did not swing out and allow room for the trailer and was in the grass,  In getting straight, he had the truck in the grass on both side of the drive and had trailer ruts on both side of the drive.  Naturally ir was wet and there were ruts everywhere.

Then when he left, he cut back against the angle and put ruts in the site across from him as well as the corner of his site.  He had zero clue as to where the trailer was going, much less his truck.

RV sites and boat ramps are always a source of entertainment.

Ken

Amateur radio operator, 2023 Cougar 22MLS, 2022 F150 Lariat 4x4 Off Road, Sport trim <br />Travel with 1 miniature schnauzer, 1 standard schnauzer and one African Gray parrot

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On 9/25/2021 at 6:43 PM, Twotoes said:

When I purchased my toy hauler, prior to my Class A, I was still a CA resident. I went to DMV in San Diego  to get a 5th wheel endorsement, kinda like a motorcycle endorsement, only a written test, no driving test, to my existing CA license. No one at the DMV knew what to do. They had to call Sacramento to find out what written  test to give me. After completing the written test I was giver a 5th wheel endorsement. No driving test or medical exam required. 

 

The *major* problem is the "clueless" DMV !!  However, some of the offices are "up to speed"", some not.

Having read the many, many problems folks were having - when I went to the DMV, I brought along the section describing the "endorsement / restriction 41" with me.  At that time, it was *not* referenced in the Driver's Handbook.  It was on the internet - which I printed out!

The CHP - would routinely check the driver's license of folks towing toy haulers to Glamis and other off-road locations - as the toy haulers were usually over 15,000 GVWR - and the operator needed a Non-Commercial Class A - - or if a smaller 5th - - the operator needed a restriction / endorsement 41. 

At the "check-in" booth where the person would direct you to the appropriate line/s - lady said I needed a Non-Commercial Class A License.  After showing her the requirements page - she capitulated and sent me to the window where the (at that time) written tests were handed out.

That person handed me a test for Motor Homes.  I had to repeat the same procedure - and was given the correct test.  On completing the test (and passing with a 100%),  I watched the person typing up my "new' temporary Class A Non-Commercial License.  (which I already new was incorrect).

Then he said, "Oh you need a medical certificate - but you can bring it in later".   Then - I pointed out his error/s.  On checking with someone (supervisor?) he got it right and issued me my new temporary Class C Driver's license with the appropriate "restriction 41" endorsement (which I still have).

I guess I should have kept my mouth shut, brought in a medical certificate, and walked out with a Non-Commercial Class A license (I'll guess - without taking the driving test).

BTW - I have had a standard CDL for driving fire apparatus in the past (long before Non Com was available) which I didn't need any longer, and dropped it years ago, due to the following.........

Note:  Read and research! *If* you are driving a vehicle in CA - which *requires* a "standard" CDL - the alcohol limits are cut in half.  Also, for *any* violation you may not go to traffic school to negate the "points" against your license. Although I can't verify that for a Non-Commercial Class A - anyone considering a "standard" CDL might do their homework as to which one you want! 

BTW - ALL the "glitches" you hear about at the CA DMV are true!  had CA DLs since I was 15 1/2, and I'm 80 now.   Have your ducks in a row.....and the CHP doesn't care what the DMV told you iif it's incorrect.

If your license is from some other state - disregard the CA requirements.!

~

 

Edited by Pappy Yokum
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On 9/26/2021 at 12:05 AM, RandyA said:

 In Florida I was under the impression that if your truck had a load carrying hitch (fifth wheel) that the truck had to be registered commercial with the license to follow.  If it had a "bumper" hitch and ball it was OK with a regular license.  Can you shed any light on that theory or fact?

Just renewed my Florida drivers license, typical class E.  On the back, it states,  Class: E - Any non-commercial vehicle with a GVWR <26,001 lbs. or any RV"

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