How fast can you drive with a fifth wheel?

In today’s blog post, we will answer the following question: How fast can you drive with a fifth wheel? We will discuss all the rules and laws regarding the towing of a fifth-wheel trailer. 

How fast can you drive with a fifth wheel?

You can’t drive a fifth-wheel trailer faster than 65 mph. In general, the recommended speed for towing a trailer in the US is the speed limit. When towing a trailer or a trailer, the reactions of the car are not the same. In addition, the towed weight has an impact on handling. This is why the speed limits are adapted when driving with a trailer or a trailer. 

So if you are wondering if you can drive a trailer at 80 mph on the highway, the answer is no. You are subjected to a lower maximum speed than ordinary vehicles.  In the table below you can see the recommended speed depending on the size of the fifth-wheel trailer. 

Fifth wheel sizeRecommended speed (MPH)
3360
3960-65
3863
4059
4260
4462

The American Highway Code distinguishes vehicles according to the total authorized laden weight and the total authorized vehicle weight to set maximum speeds. You want to know the speed limits for fifth wheels, this is what the law says. But, in any case, always adapt your driving to your load. You can’t ride the same with a fifth wheel (or trailer) behind you as you do without. Caution and common sense will allow you to adjust your speed!

Mandatory equipment when driving with a fifth-wheel trailer

In addition to their inertia braking devices, fifth wheels must also be fitted with the following mandatory equipment:

  • two red reflective lights and triangles, and a license plate light must be present at the rear of the trailer. Indicators and lights are only obligatory when those of the car are hidden and the GVW exceeds 1200 lbs.
  • if the width of the coupling is greater than 5.2 ft, or if it exceeds the width of the automobile by more than 7.8 inches, two reflective devices and white sidelights must be present at the front.
  • Orange reflective devices must be installed on each side of the length of the trailer greater than 6.8 ft.

Choosing the right vehicle to tow your fifth-wheel trailer

If they want to be able to tow a trailer, it is imperative that drivers choose a vehicle that is capable of it, especially if the trailer is heavy. These users are therefore generally advised to turn to vehicles equipped with diesel engines, which naturally benefit from more torque than gasoline vehicles.

It is also advisable to take a vehicle of sufficient size to tow it. Motorists can therefore turn to vehicles of the SUV, station wagon or even pick-up type to tow their trailer.

Advice on towing a fifth-wheel trailer

Fifth wheels are different from conventional trailers in that they require more maintenance to operate.  Towing a fifth-wheel trailer can be difficult, especially for beginners. These tips should put you at ease:

  • It is important not to be afraid to tow a trailer when operating a vehicle with a fifth wheel. Even if you have no towing experience, remember that you are in control.
  • When driving a fifth wheel, there is a good chance that you are driving a rather long truck-trailer combination. This means that turning can be a bear. You cannot turn left at a four-lane intersection in a tractor-trailer like you can in a Honda Civic. Fortunately, a fifth wheel gives you a huge steering angle. 
  • Mirrors are essential when towing, especially when you have a long trailer. If you don’t feel comfortable using your mirrors, you had better find a way to fix this. When the time comes to drive a trailer in reverse, you will have absolute confidence in your mirrors. Don’t waste time dragging an open door and trying to look around your trailer – it’s dangerous and downright impractical.
  • A fifth wheel hitch operates by locking a central pivot in the locking jaw. It looks like a mafia boss stepped on a rusty nail and got infected with tetanus. But seriously, these two mechanisms are the backbone of fifth-wheel towing. The kingpin is similar to a hitch coupler and is attached to the trailer, while the locking jaw acts as a hitch receiver. Once the lubrication plate is greased and you have carefully inspected the fifth wheel, you are ready to hook up or plug in the trailer.
  • Hitching a trailer equipped with a kingpin is different from connecting a conventional trailer. You do not drop the trailer on the receiver. Instead, you push the fifth wheel onto the trailer. Fifth-wheel trailers come with something called landing gear or jacklegs. 
  • These keep the trailer suspended when it is not hooked to a towing vehicle. Now back your towing vehicle to the edge of the trailer and make sure the kingpin is aligned with the groove, or opening, of the fifth wheel. Then get out and adjust the height of the trailer so that it is about to touch the lubrication plate. 
  • Once you’ve determined that everything is ready, reassemble the truck. You will feel resistance as the trailer will have to slide on the lubrication plate. Once the kingpin slides into the locking jaw, you will feel it and probably hear a thud. Before raising the landing gear, pull forward just enough to make sure the trailer is secure. Be careful not to drag your equipment around. Raise the train and you are good to go!

Advice on how to back up a fifth-wheel trailer

To back up the 5th wheel safely begin by familiarizing yourself with the trailer. Don’t wait for a real situation: instead look for a large, flat area where you can sit quietly to practice – without an audience! – until you are able to “feel” where you are going. Try not to overthink it but just take action.

In a real situation, plan your drive so that the trailer is in the correct direction BEFORE you reverse.

  1. Start by moving carefully so that the whole road is straight, aligned. At this point, half the job is done.
  2. Keep in mind that the steering wheel IS the trailer: the top of the steering wheel is the front end, the bottom of the steering wheel is the rear end.
  3. Grasp the lower edge of the steering wheel (= the rear of the trailer) and start reversing while maintaining a straight path.
  4. Roll a little at a time. If you want the trailer to go to the left, point your hand to the left. Small movements of the steering wheel. If you want her to turn right, point your hand to the right.
  5. Wait for the trailer to follow (the longer the trailer, the more delayed it is). Watch in the outside mirrors.
  6. Straighten up by coming back in the opposite direction. Small fixes.

Remember Hand to the right> trailer to the right. Hand to the left> trailer to the left.

The bottom line

Towing a fifth-wheel trailer takes patience, confidence, and a lot of practice. To read more towing tips on other aspects – including shifting and braking – check our other articles!

And if you have any questions, comments or tips on manoeuvring a fifth-wheel trailer, please feel free to get in contact!

FAQ on How fast can you drive with a fifth wheel?

How fast can you drive a Class C RV?

You should be driving a Class C RV faster than 65 miles per hour (105 km/h). The ideal speed is between 63 and 65 mph. Don’t drive your RV over the recommended speed, as its size and load reduce the braking time and increase the risks of overturning, especially in high winds. 

How fast can you drive a motorhome?

How fast you can drive a motorhome will depend on the size and type of vehicle you are driving. In the US, the speed limit is recommended for driving a motorhome or when towing a travel trailer, tent trailer, caravan or fifth-wheel trailer. 

How fast can you drive a Class A motorhome?

How fast you can drive a Class A motorhome will depend on the size of the vehicle, and frankly, on which state you are driving in. On average, the recommended speed for a Class A motorhome is between 60 to 65 mph. 

How to drive with a trailer?

To drive with a trailer, you have to know the following tips:

  1. Know its dimensions. It is as basic as it is fundamental.
  2. Spread the load evenly. 
  3. Avoid overtaking.
  4. Drive at a steady speed. 
  5. If there is a strong wind, slow down. 
  6. Use the side mirrors. 
  7. Do not leave loose items inside.

References