California Moves to Resolve Fifth-Wheel Length

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October 10, 2013 by   2 Comments

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law legislation backed by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) that “brings clarity to the state vehicle code and will allow longer fifth-wheel travel trailers in the state,” according to a press release.

RVIA, working closely with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and the RV Dealers Association of California, was able to get legislation enacted that permits fifth-wheel trailers to be up to 48 feet in overall length, provided the kingpin to rear axle length is 40 feet or less for a fifth-wheel with two or more axles. If there is only one axle, the kingpin to axle length may not exceed 38 feet.

The legislation clarifies an ambiguity in the law that arose in late 2012 by instituting a uniform process to measure fifth-wheels. The issue surfaced last October when the California DMV issued a “Vehicle Industry News” bulletin to its field offices instructing that a registration application form for a fifth-wheel trailer must include its length and width in inches, and that any unit exceeding 40 feet in length from the “foremost point of the trailer hitch to the rear extremity of the trailer body” would not be considered a vehicle.

At that time there was no measurement standard for fifth-wheel trailers included in any California statute or regulation, and the new DMV enforcement position created problems for the RV industry because models in excess of 40 feet – measured according to the method in the DMV bulletin – could no longer be titled or registered as a vehicle with DMV.

As part of the new law, a manufacturer of a fifth-wheel trailer of any size must include in the delivery documents to the dealer the information necessary to register that fifth-wheel travel trailer, including the vehicle’s overall length and a declaration that the vehicle is in compliance with the kingpin to rear axle length provision. An RV dealer would have the right to refuse acceptance of the trailer if this information is not provided.

“Officially, the law takes effect on January 1, 2014,” said Director of Government Affairs Mike Ochs, who led the effort for RVIA. “However, since we worked closely with DMV and CHP in crafting this bill, it is not likely that a DMV field office will refuse to register or title a fifth wheel that falls within the new length requirements prior to the effective date.”

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2 Responses to “California Moves to Resolve Fifth-Wheel Length”

  1. Rocky on October 11th, 2013 12:13 am

    This doesn’t say if this new law will erase the 65′ total limit for RV’s, and if it doesn’t, it actually makes it more unsafe by demanding a smaller truck to pull these 48′ long trailers.
    There should be a distinction between total length and what you are pulling with; pickup truck, medium duty truck or heavy duty truck.

  2. Dave on October 12th, 2013 12:52 am

    Actually I have been trying to get my 43 ft 11 in. Cyclone 4000 registered in Susanville Calif with no luck. The DMV office actually took my taxes and reg fees then they called me back the next day and told me that it was an illegal coach in Calif. Hopefully a copy of this article will help the ladies at DMV figure out how to legally register my trailer.