Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Actual federal weight law rules, some questions and answers


I have per the request of a few members, stickied this post. Please note, this is not a place to argue whether a law makes sense or not, just what the laws are. If you have a question about wt laws, that appears to be NOT answered in some way shape or form, please ask, and hopefully some of the ACTUAL weights and measures LEO's will answer, or those with some actual knowledge.

In the mean time, I do thank the OP for starting this thread, altho I have taken the liberty to change the title to one I think and hope will be a bit more informative in name.

TV moderator

Some on this forum suggests that RAWR per the door sticker is legally binding by federal law. Specifically by para f of FMCSA:

(f) Except as provided herein, States may not enforce on the Interstate System vehicle weight limits of less than 20,000 pounds on a single axle, 34,000 pounds on a tandem axle, or the weights derived from the Bridge Formula, up to a maximum of 80,000 pounds, including all enforcement tolerances. States may not limit tire loads to less than 500 pounds per inch of tire or tread width, except that such limits may not be applied to tires on the steering axle. States may not limit steering axle weights to less than 20,000 pounds or the axle rating established by the manufacturer, whichever is lower.

The argument is that the last half of the last sentence "the axle rating established by the manufacturer, whichever is lower." is referring to the door sticker RAWR.

It is my contention that this actually refers to the "steering axle" which according to my English classes is the subject of the sentence. My contention is to find a standard relating to the rear axle in para f you have to refer back to the first sentence:
"States may not enforce on the Interstate System vehicle weight limits of less than 20,000 pounds on a single axle"

I would like to hear from LEO's who might have a comment on this subject. I would also love to hear from anyone who can post a copy of a citation issued for exceeding door sticker weight ratings. A link to the violated code would be nice also.

My only agenda here is to find out what really is and what really is not. I have intentionally omitted the names of those who make these claims because I want this to be about the law not people's claims.

2006 2500HD CC SB 4X4 Duramax/Allison
Prodigy/16K Reese/265E Tires/Bilstein Shocks
RM Active Suspension/RDS 60gal Toolbox combo

2008 Big Country 3490BHS by Heartland
248 REPLIES 248

Perhaps someone will post the citation they received after being pulled over, inspected and weighed in their recreational vehicle, be it travel trailer or 5th wheel.
I'm going to guess it doesn't happen.
Just say no to the payload police :C

Interesting videos from an Indiana State Trooper.



Chuck & Ruth with 4-legged Molly
2007 Tiffin Allegro 30DA
2011 Ford Ranger

Explorer II
Explorer II
Oh Brother.
Too many geezers, self appointed moderators, experts, and disappearing posts for me. Enjoy. How many times can the same thing be rehashed over and over?

I have always wondered why registration and motor vehicle enforcement laws seem to be the only things people are worried about. If you are involved in an accident where there are serious injuries or death, you could be charged with a felony virtually anywhere and go to prison!

Just as I would charge someone with a felony for driving double the speed limit on the wrong side of the road, I would seriously consider charging someone with a crime if they were overloaded, especially knowingly overloaded, and their operation of the vehicle caused serious bodily injury or killed another human being.

I think we all know that being 20 pounds overloaded isn't going to result in these circumstances, and driving safely is about more than weight. But what do you think the community is going to think if they know your vehicle is rated for 8,800 pounds and you were loaded to 11,000, and you weren't able to stop in time and killed a minivan full of children? And if you even had one beer before you got behind the wheel of that combination, God help you.

My state also does not allow me to register any vehicle, including my trailer, above its GVWR. Every vehicle I've registered to date, the motor vehicle division has inspected the sticker and registered it for its GVWR. That was not the case in Illinois and Indiana when I was there. If I recall correctly, my vehicle was registered for 12k pounds in Illinois and 9k pounds in Indiana. But since you all seem concerned about getting a citation for being overweight, that is possible as well. Although for me, a fine assessment is the least of my worries compared to going to the pokey if something horrible happened.

Most all crashes are preventable, but all aren't. I leave the capacity judgments to the engineers. I buy insurance against the remote possibility I might have to pay a large money judgment. But none of that will help you if you're in prison for your recklessness--and knowing you're grossly overloaded and operating that vehicle anyway is reckless.

Every state has their own criminal law and defines these terms differently. I see some posts above asking what careless or reckless means. Well that depends on the state. Reckless within the criminal law means, very generally, you're aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk and you take it anyway. Reckless could simply mean "conscious wrongdoing." Reckless could mean wanton and total disregard for the health and safety of other people.

None of this is legal advice and how the rule might apply to YOUR situation could be very different, depending on the circumstances. But the sources of law and rules are many, and probably unknowable for even the most educated of people. Operating any vehicle in excess of its design limits, especially grossly in excess, is a dangerous gamble. The chance of getting caught is probably low. But for the one person who causes serious injuries to someone else and gets caught, the consequences could end up being life changing for both sides of that crash. That's not a risk I would ever take.

That 20,000 lb maximum is for any individual axle. I am a commercial driver for 4 decades. The limit gets reduced to 17,000 per axle when 2 or more axles are in a close group. A single axle can go to 20,000 lb, but it has to be rated for it. Thus the manufacturers rating applies. Also, the type of tires on the axle applies. One can have a 20,000 lb rated axle, but if they are running tires only rated to 17,000 lb, then the tires set the maximum axle weight.

One can always buy permits that allow for going over the maximum axle limits, but they have to be made to support whatever you are permitting for. FMCSA has little to do with any of this. The limits are established by the NTSA thru Title 23 USC 127 and ISTEA froze those limits from further changes.

Not really complicated.

The citation in the OP, "para f of FMCSA" is completely worthless, it tells you nothing about where to find the referenced text. The quoted text is found at 23 CFR 658.17(f). It's not part of the FMCSA, but the Federal Highway Administration act.

I find nothing which limits the quoted part to only commercial vehicles. Some sections, like the definitions and length sections, specifically reference "commercial motor vehicles," but not the quoted section, which references simply "vehicles."

But, it really doesn't matter, because the OP's interpretation is wrong. The section prevents states from imposing unreasonable roadway axle weight limits (I think most have seen axle weight limit signs, common on bridges) on Interstate highways in general. It's not there to force states to allow you to tow an RV with 20000 lbs on an axle/tire combo rated for 3500.

Referring to the enabling legislation makes that clear - it penalizes any "State [which] does not permit the use of [Interstate Highways] within its boundaries by vehicles with a weight of twenty thousand pounds carried on any one axle...". It's there to insure consistency within the Interstate system.

You can disagree. Come back after you successfully fight an overweight ticket in federal court.

What I would recommend ....

Call the DOT of the state(s) you're going to be driving in and ask. The laws for RV's in each state are varied and across the board.

For Idaho (where I am) you're exempt from weight when pulling an RV, and can pull an RV with regular car plates. The kicker is you can pull doubles (RV plus a boat and trailer, or ATV/UTV and trailer. However, if you pull only a trailer they enforce the GCWR, which in my mind is dangerous and stupid.

I have what we call "T" plates, which are the Idaho plate/tag with a "T" as the last character. I'm registered for 14 thousand pounds, which I believe is the minimum.

2008 Keystone Energy 260FS
2014 Commander 800XT - RacerTech Lift/Shock Relocation

Towed by ....

2008 Dodge Ram 3500 QCLB SRW
H&S Mini Maxx - DPF Friendly Tow Tune
Titan Fuel Tank - 52 gallon
Aero Muffler 4040XL
Nathan AirChime K3LA

Wadcutter wrote:
Once more, this forum is about towing trailers, 5ers, etc. FMCS regs don't apply. ...

What is it about people that they simply can't get it through their heads that FMCSA doesn't apply to RVers????? I know nothing of this topic and I freely admit it. But for God sake read and understand the name vice spewing the FMCSA acronym. They are the "Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration". Then read their "Who We Are" page. Unless you're a MOTOR CARRIER they don't apply to you and endless quotes of their regs are pointless.

As I learned during my time as a teacher/instructor some students have steep learning curve (meaning they learn quickly) and some have flat learning curves (meaning they don't ever learn). I think we found the flat liners.
2012 Ram 2500 4x4 Lariat Longhorn 6.7 CTD HO, Edge Evo CTS, Extreme Tow/Haul brakes, aFePower Diff cover, LL 5000 bags, 285/70R17, Reese Q20 w/slider. 2005 Montana 2955RL w/400w solar, Renogy MPPT, 4 x 6v @ 12VDC (450AH), 3000w Inverter, King VQ4100.

Travelnman wher do you get this from ? The Feds have forced manufactures to reduce the sise of tanks ? Was this a salesman ?
2012 F250 XLT
4x4 Super Cab
8' Tray 6.2lt, 3.7 Diff.

SO does this mean that if you exceeded the GVW which is much
lower now that your liable in a accident because you were over
weight? The feds have forced manufacturers to reduce the
size of the holding tanks. Especially troubling is the fresh
water tank. Many of the new tanks only hold 30gals much to low
for our purposes as we stop at parks with only electric hookup
most of the time. Five gallons of water is no easy thing to
carry around or haul to a campsite. I'm glad we were thorough
before we bought a new RV with small holding tanks, sales people
do not volunteer this information.

The tires are sometimes the lowest rated part that determines the GAWR but not always. The axle housing/bearings, springs, wheels, and frame also come into play. The most important is tires and wheels because the axle it self is usually rated much higher than the rest. Also air bags will help the springs rating. Find out what axle you have and then it's easy to look its rating up on Google.

Here are a few different ones that are common.

Dana 30 2,770 lbs Dana Corp.
Dana 35 2,770 lbs Dana Corp.
Dana 44 3,500 lbs Dana Corp.
Dana 50 5,000 lbs Dana Corp.
Dana 60 6,500 lbs Dana Corp.
Dana S 60 7,000 lbs Dana Corp.
Dana 70 10,000 lbs Dana Corp.
Dana 80 12,000 lbs Dana Corp.
Dana S 110 14,706 lbs Dana Corp.
Ford 9-inch 3,600 lbs Ford Motor Company
Ford 8.8 axle 3,800 lbs Visteon
Sterling 10.5 9,750 lbs Visteon
10.5 14 Bolt 8,600 lbs American Axle
11.5 AAM 10,000 lbs American Axle
10.5 AAM 9,000 lbs American Axle
Saginaw 9.5 6,000 lbs American Axle
2015 Heartland Gateway 3650BH
2017 F350 CCLB KR FX4
2005 F250 CC FX4
77 Bronco, 302,C4,PS,PB,A/C,33" KM2s,D44/Lock-Right,9"/Grizzly locker

wow some reading.
my GM 1500 came with p rated tires and the plate showed rear axle at 3950
I have replaced tires with Mich 10 ply rated at about 3000 each. have installed air bags.
I see everyone says don't exceed axle ratings, but when adding better tires does it increase axle rating.

was the 3950 rating for the stock P rated tire?

what would the rating be from AAM be for my truck. .
BB from California
2015 Ram 3500
2001 Cardinal
best friend is my wife 🙂

Good questions. My understanding is that AAM rates my rear axle at 10,800#s. GM then rates the axle down to 6084#s which is the tire rating total for the two stock tires on the rear axle.

this /\

and then this below...

I know that here in TX the state codes say that a load on an axle can not exceed the combined tire rating for the tires on said axle. I have 265E's which have a rating a little of over 3400#s each. That would limit me to a little over 6800#'s. I am currently under that by about 1300#'s.

I believe that the above two quotes brings us to the Tires...regardless what your axle is rated at...that information is meaningless unless you have tires rate ABOVE that rating...which aint gonna happen.

Logic dictates that if you load up an axles to say 8500 lbs and then blow a tire because you exceeded the tire manufacturers rating - and cause an accident - YOU are liable...regardless of the axle rating

My truck has 17" 265/70R17 BFG Rugged Trails

As per= jmramiiler states both him and I are maxed out at ~6800 lbs on the axle/tires. This at the maximaum rated pressure of said tires which is 80 lbs..I do believe that figure will drop as the tire pressure drops.

I live in Calgary Alberta. There is little enforcement of anything like this in our Province..and to be fair there is little anywhere in Canada...but as Noted previously, if your rig looks unsafe, thats when you are going to get pulled over...and from what I have heard from speaking with others, they will in fact go with the door sticker information if you are told to go a scale.

For me, I am likely OK as far as looking good, I added a set of Roadmaster Active suspension springs and it improved the stance of the truck when hooked up. But I am also pretty certain that although my rear axle weight is under the tire rating, I am over my total truck about 350lbs - All to do with pin weight.

I'm Ok with that..its just the beer.!


M'self and the Bride...of 32 yrs

'06 GMC DMax CCSB 594,545 km

(368,890 miles)

2003 Citation 26RKS