State Regulations Regarding Travel Trailers and Driving Laws

Airstream Camping in Grand Teton National Park

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If you plan to drive your RV or trailer on a state by state camping road trip, you'll want to know the laws of each state. We RVers go to great lengths to choose an RV that meets our needs and budget. We learn to drive or tow them with care. We insure them, make sure they’re registered and that we’re abiding by all the laws.

But one thing most of us don’t give much thought to is that when we cross a state line not only might the traffic and driving laws be different than in our home states, but the legal specifications for our RVs might be different, as well. These tips on regulations for RV laws and trailer by the state are intended to be helpful, but regulations change often and it is up to you to know and follow the law. 

Some General Differences in State Driving Laws

In California, the speed limit on freeways is 55 mph for any vehicle towing a trailer and 70 without a trailer.

In New Jersey, if you are pulled over and found to have a firearm that was not purchased IN New Jersey, you are breaking the law.

The speed limit maximum in Texas is 70 mph during the day, and 65 at night. If you don’t take notice of this they will ticket you. It’s easy to do when leaving a state like Colorado where the speed limit maximum is 75 mph. I was pulled over in Texas one morning for going 72 mph. 

New York doesn’t allow trailers at all on most parkways. 

Some states don’t allow right turns on red lights, anywhere. Others allow them as a rule, and with only specific streets restricted. 

Most speed laws become immediately apparent because they are usually posted prominently along the highways. But the right turn, towing regulations, propane limitations, and other types of laws are harder to know, because those are in the drivers’ handbook, but not necessarily posted so that out-of-state drivers would be aware of them.

But these aren’t the only differences in highway laws that can get you a citation and a fine. 

Width Limits

Our older Airstream is only 8 feet wide. But newer ones are 8 feet 5.5 inches. But, did you know that these newer Airstreams are illegal, by a mere 5.5 inches, on highways in some states?

Alabama, Arizona, Washington D.C., Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, and Tennessee each have a width restriction for trailers of 8 feet.

In Connecticut width for RVs is limited to 7.5 feet, 8 feet high, length 24 feet and weight 7,300 pounds on the Merritt and Wilbur Parkways.

Length Limits

Alabama, in addition to having an 8-foot width limit also has a trailer limit of 40 feet.

If you plan to tow a trailer and a boat, or any combination of two tows, stay out of California. 

Contrary to California, Arizona allows, with some restrictions, more than one trailer.

Trailers are limited to 32 feet on Mississippi’s Natchez Trace.

Brakes, Hitches

Several states have trailer brake and hitch requirements. Iowa requires equalizing hitches, sway control and brakes on all trailers over 3,000 pounds. 

Minnesota requires trailers of 6,000 pounds or more to have breakaway brakes.

North Carolina requires an independent brake system for house trailers of 1,000 pounds or more. 

Utah requires breakaway braking system if over 3,000 pounds. 

Other Restrictions

If you’re traveling from Illinois to Iowa, route around the bridge between Fulton, IL, and Clinton, IA. Trailers are prohibited on that bridge. 

If you have propane tanks (don’t we all?) you cannot pass through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel or Fort McHenry Tunnel in Maryland. 

If you’re planning a trip to Montana’s, find out what RV restrictions are in place first.

In Virginia, you’re limited to two portable bottled gas tanks of 45 pounds with valves closed in the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and the Norfolk-Portsmouth Tunnel.

And Wisconsin, under limited conditions allows riding in a fifth wheel.

Sorting It All Out

Planning a cross-country trip could be more work than you’d originally planned to do if you want to stay street-legal in all the states you’ll be traveling through. To be sure, look up the department of motor vehicles websites in the states you plan to travel through. Most have a way to apply for a permit or waiver if your rig doesn’t meet their laws. Having these on file as you travel through each state will make your trip go more smoothly. It is also good to know whether there are no waivers, too, so you can reroute your trip.

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