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California DL towing an Exactly 10,000 lb GVWR trailer

jthrv
Explorer
Explorer
Can I tow an Exactly 10,000 lb GVWR trailer ?

The DMV Handbook says No, as it has to be "under 10,000".
The Vehicle Code says Yes, as it is "Not exceeding 10,000".

Why would they be different ?

DMV Handbook, Page 9 https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/uploads/2020/06/dl600.pdf
Class C DL - ...."With a vehicle weighing 4,000 lbs. or more unladen, you may tow a: — Trailer coach or fifth-wheel travel trailer under 10,000 lbs. GVWR when towing is not for compensation."

Section 12804.9 of the Vehicle Code https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=12804.9&lawCode=VEH#
(3) Class C ... (F) (i) "A two-axle vehicle weighing 4,000 pounds or more unladen when towing either a trailer coach or a fifth-wheel travel trailer not exceeding 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating, when the towing of the trailer is not for compensation."

(edited to fix url)
15 REPLIES 15

jthrv
Explorer
Explorer
LLeopold, "Restriction 41" is very interesting, thanks for the explanation.

LLeopold
Explorer
Explorer
A few years ago, I went through adding a restriction (yes, I said restriction) upgrade in California for my RV endorsement. Read on.

For California, one can tow a fifth-wheel 10,000 lbs or less with a Class C (standard) license.

10,001 to 15,000 lbs. requires an RV endorsement, but the key words to ask the DMV is "Restriction 41", which is the endorsement. This endorsement requires a non-commercial Class A written test, but not the road test, nor the medical form. The DMV workers do not know what the RV endorsement is, but they do know what Restriction 41 is, so if you go for this, make sure that you use these words, otherwise you'll be there for 2-3 hours like I was while they look it up and argue with you that there is no such thing (even though I showed them the manual from the web site).

15,001 and over requires a non-commercial Class A license, which includes the written test, a road test with trailer (and I found there might be a parallel parking portion with trailer - a former moderator DianneOK had this happen to her a few years ago, and a medical form submittal every two years.

Finally, if you want to double tow (tow vehicle, fifth-wheel, boat trailer), you must get a Commercial Class A with the double towing endorsement. There is no non-commercial license for this type of towing in California.

The precise wording on the back of my Class C CA drivers license read as follows:

CLASS C - Veh w/GVWR <= 26000. NO M/C
ENDORSEMENTS: None
RESTRICTIONS: 41-ClassA restricted to operating fifth-wheel travel trailer between 10,001 and 15,000 GVWR

There was no cost to add the endorsement and it was renewed automatically when my CA license expired.

So, if you're at that "edge" of 10,000 and 10,001, go for the endorsement and sleep well at night.

PS: Now that I'm living in Colorado and awaiting my DMV appointment (December was the earliest appointment I could get), I'm checking into CO RV endorsements along the same line.
Lou Leopold
Between RVs at this point
but I continue to tent camp!

DrewE
Explorer
Explorer
Employees of parks, storage yards, repair shops, etc. have no reason to see your driver's license and know what type of license you have. They are not in the business of enforcing driver's licensing laws, and might only get involved to interfere if you're trying to do something patently unsafe.

The DMV (at some level) presumably does know about and know the statute. The DMV handbook, however, is not infallible, and was written or edited by someone who didn't read the particular statute carefully, or who was slightly careless with their use of language. It doesn't take too much imagination to see how "not exceeding x" could become "under x" without someone noticing that they aren't precisely the same thing mathematically speaking.

I honestly believe you're overthinking this, and worrying excessively. Any possible legal liability, beyond any fines and fees for lacking the proper class of license which would not apply as you'd be properly licensed, would be covered by your liability insurance; that's basically why you have insurance.

jthrv
Explorer
Explorer
azdryheat wrote:
How are the authorities going to find out how much your trailer weighs? You're exempt from the scales. I doubt anyone is going to messing with you. I did hear that the CHP are pulling over triple axle toy haulers to see if the driver has his non-commercial Class A since those trailers are all over 15,000 pounds GVWR and easy to spot.


The gross vehicle weight Rating is on a sticker on the outside of trailer, it is the maximum weight, not the actual weight.

I keep on thinking I must be missing something. The trailer I would like to buy is manufactured by a California company, they must know about the DMV handbook. And DMV must know about the statute.

There are any number of people who could stand in my way and they could point to what the DMV handbook says. The Forest Service, the Park Service, BLM, Army Corps of Engineers, State Parks, County Parks, campground hosts, tow truck drivers, storage yards, repair shops, DMV employees all could say that I have to hire someone to move the trailer and pay to store it until I got a special license. I could be hundreds or even thousands of miles from home. But that is minor compared to the potential legal liability.

There has got to be a good reason for this.

azdryheat
Explorer
Explorer
How are the authorities going to find out how much your trailer weighs? You're exempt from the scales. I doubt anyone is going to messing with you. I did hear that the CHP are pulling over triple axle toy haulers to see if the driver has his non-commercial Class A since those trailers are all over 15,000 pounds GVWR and easy to spot.
2013 Chevy 3500HD CC dually
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Grit_dog
Traveler II
Traveler II
Actually they don’t.
Go back and read. It’s 10k on a class C license
2016 Ram 2500, MotorOps.ca EFIlive tuned, 5” turbo back, 6" lift on 37s
2017 Heartland Torque T29 - Sold.
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Grit_dog
Traveler II
Traveler II
So Cali has a 9k towing law, not 10 like the rest of the world?
To be specific 10k trailer is not a limit for non commercial driving most other places either.
Just over 10k Truck commercially requires DOT numbers and drivers file. Combo under 26k = no cdl.
2016 Ram 2500, MotorOps.ca EFIlive tuned, 5” turbo back, 6" lift on 37s
2017 Heartland Torque T29 - Sold.
Couple of Arctic Fox TCs - Sold

Second_Chance
Explorer II
Explorer II
jthrv wrote:
wgriswold wrote:
The Handbook also states for a regular class C license:

If the towing vehicle weighs 4,000 lbs. or more unladen, you may tow a:
Trailer coach not exceeding 9,000 lbs. gross.

I suppose the law says the same thing but don't know how to check that.


"(B) Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), a two-axle vehicle weighing 4,000 pounds or more unladen when towing a trailer coach not exceeding 9,000 pounds gross."

Maybe this url will work better:
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=12804.9&lawCode=VEH#


Made your link clickable: Click
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jthrv
Explorer
Explorer
wgriswold wrote:
The Handbook also states for a regular class C license:

If the towing vehicle weighs 4,000 lbs. or more unladen, you may tow a:
Trailer coach not exceeding 9,000 lbs. gross.

I suppose the law says the same thing but don't know how to check that.


"(B) Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), a two-axle vehicle weighing 4,000 pounds or more unladen when towing a trailer coach not exceeding 9,000 pounds gross."

Maybe this url will work better:
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=12804.9&lawCode=VEH#

Alan_Hepburn
Explorer
Explorer
DrewE wrote:

As an aside, I'm rather surprised that they codified it based on the GVWR rather than the actual weight, but that's not really relevant to the question.


By specifying GVWR it can be checked during a traffic stop by simply reading the data placard on the vehicle; if it were codified as actual weight then all stops would require a scale to be available in order to determine the actual weight.
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wgriswold
Explorer
Explorer
The Handbook also states for a regular class C license:

If the towing vehicle weighs 4,000 lbs. or more unladen, you may tow a:
Trailer coach not exceeding 9,000 lbs. gross.

I suppose the law says the same thing but don't know how to check that.
2016 Ram 2500 4x4 Laramie
Arctic Fox 25Y

Grit_dog
Traveler II
Traveler II
It’s a good question and the “rules” are contradictory in other states as well.
Many say “under 10k” when they really should say under 10.001k or “over” 10k.

Don’t sweat it. It’s the 10klb law which is a federal DOT standard.

If it wasn’t, the “standard “ 3/4 tons would be rated 9999lb gvw and same with trailers.
(Yes I realize there are many class 2 trucks now rated over 10klbs as well in recent years. )
2016 Ram 2500, MotorOps.ca EFIlive tuned, 5” turbo back, 6" lift on 37s
2017 Heartland Torque T29 - Sold.
Couple of Arctic Fox TCs - Sold

Old-Biscuit
Explorer
Explorer
You can tow 10K or Under with your Class C Drivers License

You can NOT tow a 10,001# with your Class C DL

SIMPLE....
Is it time for your medication or mine?


2007 DODGE 3500 QC SRW 5.9L CTD In-Bed 'quiet gen'
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RoyF
Explorer
Explorer
The online DMV handbook contains the following disclaimer:

"The state makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the absolute accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of this website and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of this website."

So the vehicle code should hold up in court. This is an amusing exercise for lawyers.

It seems to be OK to overload a trailer if the weight rating is less than 10,000 lbs.

DrewE
Explorer
Explorer
The vehicle code is law. The DMV handbook is not law, just a (mostly) authoritative informational publication. If you are cited for not having the correct license and go before a judge, the vehicle code is what the decision will be based on.

As an aside, I'm rather surprised that they codified it based on the GVWR rather than the actual weight, but that's not really relevant to the question.