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CT Car Guy

PA trailer hassle

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On my way to Charlotte driving my 06 Dodge Ram 3500 towing an open trailer with my car on it, I was approached by a PA DOT Officer who asked for my DOT number. This is my truck, my trailer and my car. He told me that any vehicle over 10,000 lb GVR must have a DOT number if transporting for commerce purposes. The issue is the interpretation of "commerce". If you go to a meet and travel inter state with a vehicle of over 10,000 Gvr, any item you receive is considered commercial use. For example if you receive your first junior, you used your towing vehicle for commercial purpose!

Violation is a $300 fine. This applies to ALL heavy duty towers, RVS and such. This is a federal law and each state decides how to enforce. They decide what is commercial use even if everything is your property.

Oh... You have to stop at weight stations and may be required to present your log book.

Anyone else had had this experience?

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Yes that is very true. My buddy had been stopped by the AZDPS and was told the same thing. I put one on my truck after he told me. I always have my 16' box trailer or utility trailer behind me. Just another way for big brother to cash in. Oh and it has to have a specific size numbers too. At least getting the number is free. How nice of them.

Edited by Laughing Coyote
correction (see edit history)

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I hadn't heard of needing a DOT number, but I had a similar experience in Ohio with my 2002 F-250 (non-com plates), open trailer and my car on the way to a a meet and I was only 25 miles from home when I was stopped. Only it was local cops who had set up a temporary roadblock to try and catch guys hauling cars for commercial purposes without commercial plates. After checking titles confirming everything was mine they let me go without further problems. They were just out trying to make easy money and evidently didn't have anything better to do.

I'll keep it in my mind, but if I were to put a DOT number on they would probably get me for having non commercial plates and I don't use my truck for commercial purposes. Guess I could be stuck either way, so I'll stick with non com plates, no DOT number and risk it.

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I went all the way from here in NY, to California and back last year with my old Suburban and trailer. Picked up a 1915 parts Buick. I guess because it is considered a passenger car instead of a truck they don't bother you. It does not take much to have a combined weight of 10,000 LBS. I could easily been on the edge. Don't dare leave the yard with a dump truck, or box truck without numbers. Don't even think of leaving the farm with a cattle/ horse trailer and half ton pick up with out them. Dandy Dave!

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A friend from Pennsylvania was towing a single-car trailer and got stopped and fined for not having a commercial license... towing for personal use. I think he was in Virginia at the time. He discovered that if you use an RV to tow your trailer, there is no problem. So, instead of using a 45-foot-long-truck-and-single-car-trailer-rig, he got a GREAT deal on a like-new RV tractor with a 4/5-car double-decker trailer... quite a bit longer than a regular semi-truck and trailer overall. No CDL needed.

Perhaps SEMA's action network/legislative arm needs to get involved in this somehow....

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This is news to me that you must count the truck weight in the overall weight as the total weight would easily be over 10K with a trailer carrying a vehicle? My enclosed trailer weighs 4,300 pounds alone.

I pull with a ¾ ton Chevy pickup. I just got back yesterday from a 2,800 mile tow with a 24’ enclosed trailer with car from PA to Florida with no issues (again). As usual I did not stop at any weigh stations and most saw me drive by. Trailer is rated 10K and with car it is right at 10K. I have over 60K miles towing and have never been stopped. As per the federal DOT a private carrier must have “not for hire” with 4” lettered signs on each side of the trailer to identify it as a non commercial carrier.

Edited by Ron Green (see edit history)

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I have been stopped for the same reason a number of times including twice in the same day once in Massachusetts. The Truck is an F-350 pulling a 22-foot x 7.5-foot tall enclosed trailer. I will not haul a car long distance anymore w/out proof of ownership because, if they choose to, they can make you park the whole rig on the spot until the matter is straightened out to their satisfaction.

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I got stopped because my race sponsor wanted his advertising on my race trailer.

State cop called it a 'financial endeavor' and said I should have a CDL, Health certificate, DOT number and a bunch of other crap. He weighed me and found that part to be legal. No ticket just a verbal.

I went home and pulled the sponsors name from the trailer. A race car on an open trailer is a whole other can of worms.

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What a bunch of cr*ap. Been towing my toys for over for 30 years to tours all over the country. Never a problem not even in California with a Great Race car on an open trailer full of signage. Have towed with a van, SUV and a Motorhome. Just a private person enjoying our hobby.

I'd be really mad too if some Barney Fife stopped me.

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For those of you interested, please check the following website; www.fmcsa.dot.gov.There are several EXEMPTIONS to the DOT NUMBER rule.When you log on to this website,scroll down to section 390 -"FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY REGULATIONS; GENERAL". 390.3(F) lists the EXEMPTIONS.It might be a GOOD idea to print the regulations and keep a copy with you to show an officer.The officer is counting on you NOT knowing the regulations!

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For those of you interested, please check the following website; www.fmcsa.dot.gov.There are several EXEMPTIONS to the DOT NUMBER rule.When you log on to this website,scroll down to section 390 -"FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY REGULATIONS; GENERAL". 390.3(F) lists the EXEMPTIONS.It might be a GOOD idea to print the regulations and keep a copy with you to show an officer.The officer is counting on you NOT knowing the regulations!

My guess is you are referring to: "The occasional transportation of personal property by individuals not for compensation nor in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise;"

Looks like a more direct link would be: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/section/390.3

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I'd think the easiest way to prove the personal property part is to have a copy (not the original) of the title in your name, of the vehicle that's in/on the trailer.

This is a real eye opener to me, I've towed all over and never had an issue, but will be prepared from now on.....

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Wouldn't the insurance certificate/card along with license plate registration be enough? Why the need for the title?

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Sure that should work, just trying to think "positive"...

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Actually you do not have to show any proof of anything when pulled over unless you were pulled over for a violation like speeding or not using a turn signal. Police are not allowed to go fishing for violations. If you get pulled over you do not have to give any information at all to the police unless you are being cited for a violation.

As stated police are doing more fishing now days things like sobriety check points are popping up all over. Just tell them you are not giving any info to them and be on your way. I have a go pro mounted and turned on whenever I travel.

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Race cars don't have titles or insurance.

And I am sure that some loads that our old car kind of people haul don't either.

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I have reached out to my contact at Penndot and asked for an official explanation. I will post here as soon as it is received but I will not be in the office for several days. I use to tow a 43' custom trailer with a one ton pick up. I was only stopped a couple of times in the 30 years I have towed and it seems to me that DOT officials in different states do not always understand the law themselves. Sometimes these regulations go on the books and no one knows about them. While towing the big rig thru WV a trooper told me that I had to go thru weigh station and when I did they were upset that I did!

Last year one of our members was stopped by a DOT officer due to having his trailer tied down "incorrectly". He demanded that the member criss cross the tie down chains one his open trailer. That was the first I heard of the law and the member was from Ohio and how was he supposed to know?

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One of my pet peeves. If we have to have trailering laws they should at least be uniform nation wide. Will be interesting to see if Steve gets a straight answer from PennDot.

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Criss-cross the tie down chains??? or criss-cross the safety chains on the hitch?? It makes sense to criss-cross the hitch's safety chains, but the tie-down chains!! If one of the criss-crossed tie-down chains breaks, that would leave your car free to slide the other direction quite easily.

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This is one of those issues that perhaps a well worded inquiry to the right people in PA at least may be all it takes. Between Hershey and the multiple Carlisle events taking place in Central PA, I would think showing the hobby some kindness might make sense, the dollars injected into the local economy has to be significant.

So the issue is commercial/combo plates and type of tow vehicle? Or just another example of hassle that can take place state to state more likely?

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Criss-cross the tie down chains??? or criss-cross the safety chains on the hitch?? It makes sense to criss-cross the hitch's safety chains, but the tie-down chains!! If one of the criss-crossed tie-down chains breaks, that would leave your car free to slide the other direction quite easily.

Chains or tie downs have to have a DOT Rating. Chains have it printed every third or fourth link. Do not get caught hauling with low grade unmarked chains. And by all means make sure they are heavy enough for the load. If you dig deep enough you will also find that screw type binders are the way to go. Old style over the center binders are no longer legal for many loads. When you cross the chains, it will stabilize the load a lot better. The closer you get to a 45 degree angle, the better. Dandy Dave!

Edited by Dandy Dave (see edit history)

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Since I started this thread, I have read the FMCSA regs cover to cover. CFR 390.3(f)(3) clearly states that the rules for personal use do not apply unless noted. I read and searched and there are no notations I could find that 390.3(f)(3) does NOT apply. I am driving to Carlisle in 2 weeks with the same Dodge 3500 rig (12,200 GVR) with combination (Connecticut combination covers both commercial & private. CT required this combination plate or I could get just a passenger plate but not be able to use the truck bed at all.)

I made magnetic signs with my DOT Number, "Not For-Hire" and I put "Ref: FMCSA 49 CFR 390.3(f)(3) at the bottom. I may not put them on unless I am stopped or questioned. I will have the FMCSA book with me. I do not plan to stop at weigh stations. The key is the definition of interstate commerce or commercial use. Some enforcement people define these as receiving any item such as an award since it "increases" the car's value - Hogwash! In my non expert opinion, if I take a car to auction and it is my personal car and I am not a dealer, than it is not commercial or commerce. It is simply a sale of private property. If they wanted, they could stop any vehicle over 10,000 GVR in other than your home state, and claim anything bought or sold found is "commerce". FYI - On the way back from Charlotte, we still had the car on the trailer and did not stop at weigh stations. No problem on the return trip.

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This is one of those issues that perhaps a well worded inquiry to the right people in PA at least may be all it takes. Between Hershey and the multiple Carlisle events taking place in Central PA, I would think showing the hobby some kindness might make sense, the dollars injected into the local economy has to be significant.

So the issue is commercial/combo plates and type of tow vehicle? Or just another example of hassle that can take place state to state more likely?

They look at the statement in the FMCSA that states ANY vehicle over 10,000 GVR must have a DOT number. However, the exclusion in 390.3f3 says the regulations in FMCSA do not apply for occasional personal, non-commerce or non-commercial use. Just do not have any company name on the truck or cover it.

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