Advice on DOT and CDL for Towing Horse Trailers

If you think you’re confused about trailer laws, ask the Department of Transportation!

It appears that if you are a bonified rancher or farmer, you are exempt from having a CDL.

For everyone else either get a ranch or a farm or get a CDL license and buy a log book. The log book is no big deal, you need to track your truck mileage anyway for for the tax deduction.

But since The Department of Transportation, (DOT) doesn’t enforce the rules the same from state to state, you should protect your drivers license. I’m getting reports from the West Coast of folks pulling horse trailers getting pulled over. And it doesn’t seem to matter if your towing vehicle is a 1-ton dually or a 2-ton Freightliner, the law enforcers want to know if your horses are heading to an event were you would make money, whether it’s jackpots, cutting, reining or rodeo. It seems the money you earn or win, well it’s more like earning, makes you commercial. Now there are as with most laws, loopholes. With more folks using 2-ton trucks to pull the bigger horse trailers and RV fifth-wheels, there will be more interest from the DOT in enforcing Commercial Drivers License’s which are supposed to be uniform from state to state. I hope it doesn’t get to the point of Nebraska were everyone goes through the Port of Entry with their trailers.

I know some people who get tickets because they are over 26,000 GVWR and don’t have a CDL and log books and I know people who have never been pulled over with rigs that look totally commercial. And even with national CDL’s you would think there is some kind of constant rule but each state DOT seems to not know what to do. 10 years ago when I pulled everyday, I never stopped in a port with a loaded trailer even when I hauled large round bales 12’ wide but I was a farmer. But when I went threw Nebraska even with a stock trailer, I had to stop at the ports. Now the portable ports in Colorado would stop everybody. The newest trend of truck is the 2- ton trucks that are 26,000 GVWR but you add a trailer and you are over again.

The one thing the DOT does agree on is RV’s. Pull a fifth-wheel RV or a horse trailer with Living Quarters and I haven’t seen where they require a CDL or logbook, is that a loophole? A Living Quarters in your horse trailer like a RV trailer maybe considered a second home or a vacation home and may have tax deductible interest. Check with your accountant.

If you do haul into other states, getting a CDL might save some headaches latter. Truck manufactures are taking turns putting out more power from the diesels. Trailer manufactures in turn are making bigger trailers. Here in Colorado the mountains cause some unique problems with big trailers chasing you down the fast side of the mountain. I would think some education about driving and controlling one of these bigger rigs may be a good idea. We have laws about wearing seat belts, having airbags and ABS brakes on trucks over 10,000 GVWR, but in the mountains our only protection from inexperienced drivers loosing control of 3/4 ton truck pulling a 20,000 trailer is the runaway ramps on the side of the road. I’ve pulled some big trailers in the mountains at night and between dodging the deer I was keeping track of were the next runaway ramp was located just in case. For learning more about using the big trucks to pull your trailer, I suggest you join my “MrTruck’s Insider Club” but then I think education about trucks could save you money or something more valuable!

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