Thursday, August 14, 2014

Clear as Mud

The question of licensing requirements in regards to operating an RV seems to come up periodically. In fact there was a post on a Facebook page today and I had been looking into it because I was wondering if I could use a semi tractor to tow my 5th wheel. The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) is responsible for overseeing commercial vehicle operation. Like any other federal department it is rife with innuendo and bloated, confusing regulations/rules. Further confusing the issue is that each state is responsible for the enforcement and interpretation of the rules. It would greatly simplify things if the FMCSA would issue a rule exempting vehicles used for recreational purposes from its oversight. That is not the case  and, since the states are responsible for enforcement, the law/rule varies. Further compounding the problem are ignorant law enforcement and DMV personnel. While we're on that, NEVER accept the word of someone from the DMV without double checking it. Laws and rules are subject to interpretation and they are human, after all. As a trucker I lived a life of confusion and frustration trying to comply with laws that varied from state to state while operating under federal rules. CDL's or commercial driver licenses are issued for folks who operate vehicles weighing 26,000 pounds and over (combined or total weight). Commercial adds to the confusion as the requirement for the license is weight based. Most CDL's also have endorsements to cover the wide variety of commercial vehicles; such as tankers, air brakes, doubles and passengers. Some states also have varieties of their "regular" licenses. such as a "B" that are issued for Recreational Vehicle operation. So, the final answer and/or determination of whether you need a special license to operate your RV remains murky. You should seek out someone very knowledgeable in the DMV to get a straight answer. Basically, the vast majority of recreational drivers will never have to worry about it. If you are operating one of those monster Class A diesel pushers, I would make some inquiries. Finally, it is my opinion that some sort of CLEAR regulation should exist in regards to RV's. At the very least you should be required to go through some sort of training or a course should be available for neophytes in the RV world. No one should be able to hop into a 40 foot motorhome or 5th wheel combination and drive on public roads without some sort of familiarization. After years of over the road trucking experience I was fairly confident operating a diesel pusher. When we converted to a 5ver I was (and am) very uncomfortable with the whole hitching procedure and operation of the combination. Perhaps we are safer due to my uncomfortableness, as I am constantly checking the connection and other things. Think about that.

1 comment:

  1. August 16, 2014

    Hi Mark
    You could check Escapees forums for medium and heavy duty trucks or ask a question there for feed back on people that are using heavy duty trucks to pull a fifth wheel trailer.