Personal Vehicle Towing Liability for RV’ers

As summertime approaches, campers, RV’s and travel trailers start to appear on highways once again. Drivers of towable travel trailers are not required to have a special license to tow or drive RV’s in most instances (see below for exemptions), however, this does not make them exempt from certain legal requirements designed to keep road travel safe for the passengers and other vehicles traveling on the road with them, that’s why it would be important to always have a liability insurance policy.

While states laws regarding towable RV’s and motorhomes vary, federal law applies country-wide.  There are also manufacturer recommended standards that should not be ignored; failure to adhere to these recommendations is not only dangerous, but could increase the judgement or award in the event a lawsuit is filed against you. Negligent towing could also leave you open to criminal charges and your insurance claim being denied, so its best you be sure you get the right tow truck company when need it.

Federal Laws that Apply to RV’ers

The U.S. Department of Transportation regulates rims and tires for RV’s over 10,000lbs.  Federal guidelines also regulate items like tail lights, manufacturing standards, and RV lemon laws.

State Laws

Most states require brakes on trailers over 3,000lbs or weight of trailer exceeds 40% of tow-vehicle weight. There are some exceptions.  Find the laws in your state at

Washington, DC, Wisconsin, and Hawaii require drivers of RV’s over 26,000lbs (Some Class A Motorhomes) to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Class A and Class B Motorhomes require a special license, depending on state (more info here).

California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wyoming require drivers of towable RV’s longer than 45′ to have a special permit. Most states do not allow you to tow a trailer longer than 35′ (NC) or 40′, but some states allow trailers as long as 45′.

Manufacturer Towing Capacity

Vehicle manufacturers designate a number of capacity limits; Payload, (total weight the vehicle can carry in the bed of a truck or in the interior of a vehicle), Gross vehicle weight rating , (total weight of vehicle , passengers and cargo), tongue weight (total weight applied to the vehicle’s hitch), and Towing capacity, (with and without weight distribution).  Understanding the difference between “weight-carrying” and “weight-distributing” maximum towing capacities is essential; a “weight distributing” maximum is the most you can tow with an appropriate weight distribution hitch. “Weight Carrying” maximum load is is the most you can carry without a weight distribution hitch.A Weight distribution hitch is recommended when the trailer you are towing exceeds 40% of the vehicles weight.

Towing in excess of the vehicle manufacturer’s weight limits could not only prove dangerous, but could even be considered negligent. In the event of an accident with an overweight personal vehicle, you could be held responsible for higher awards in a lawsuit for damages to other people, vehicles or property.

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