What size trailer can I tow without a trailer licence?

In today’s blog post, we will discuss: What size trailer can I tow without a trailer licence? We will explain why and when you need a trailer licence. We will also discuss other requirements and laws regarding towing a trailer. 

What size trailer can I tow without a trailer licence?

In the US, you are allowed to tow a trailer up to 45-feet without a trailer licence. However, keep in mind that federal laws differ regarding the weight of the trailer. Thus, you can tow any trailer without a special licence as long as its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is less than 10,000 lbs.  For towing a combination of vehicles, you need to make sure that the GVWR is less than 26,000 lbs. 

If you are towing a trailer heavier than 10,000 lbs, you will need a Class A, B or C CDL. 

What is a CDL?

A CDL, or commercial driving licence, allows operating certain types of vehicles, such as cargo transport vans, various types of trucks and buses, among others.

  1. A Class A commercial license is required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more, as long as the towed vehicle weighs more than 10,000 pounds. With a Class A commercial driver’s license (CDL) and the corresponding endorsements, you can drive the following types of vehicles:
  • Tractors-trailers
  • Truck and trailer combinations
  • Tank vehicles
  • Cattle transporters
  • Platforms
  1. You will need a Class B commercial driver’s license to operate a single vehicle with a gross combined weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more or to tow a vehicle that weighs no more than 10,000 pounds. With a Class B commercial driver’s license (CDL) and the corresponding endorsements, you can drive the following types of vehicles:
  • Straight trucks
  • Large passenger buses
  • Segmented buses
  • Cargo trucks
  • Trucks with small trailers
  • Tractors-trailers
  1. You will need a Class C commercial driver’s license to operate a vehicle that can carry 16 or more occupants (including the driver) or transport hazardous materials (HazMat), that is, materials that are classified as hazardous under federal law. With a Class C commercial driver’s license (CDL) and the corresponding endorsements, you can drive the following types of vehicles:
  • Small HazMat Vehicles
  • Passenger vans
  • Combination vehicles, not covered by classes A or B

CDL license: process and requirements to obtain it

You can apply for a commercial driver’s license at a local DMV office. However, before starting your management, it is important that you know that there are strict federal guidelines to obtain a CDL License in the USA. Additionally, each state has its own requirements that must also be met. You will have to pass a written knowledge test and a driving test, which have been designed in your own state.

The minimum age to apply for a commercial driver’s license is generally 21 years old. However, some states allow drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 to apply for a single state CDL.

A single state CDL allows the driver to operate a commercial vehicle within his state of residence. When the driver turns 21, that restriction is automatically removed.

Steps to obtain a business license (CDL)

  1. File the CDL application with your state licensing office and pay the appropriate fees.
  2. Present your identity verification and social security number (check your state’s requirements).
  3. Provides proof of residency in the state and in the United States.
  4. Submit a completed medical examination report form and a medical examiner certificate form.
  5. Pass the vision test.
  6. Pass the knowledge test.
  7. After passing, you receive the Business Learner’s Permit (CLP).
  8. Wait a minimum of 14 days and schedule the driving test.
  9. Pass the pre-tour inspection.
  10. Pass the driving and road skills test (you must bring your own vehicle on the day of the test).
  11. After passing, pay the fees necessary to obtain your commercial driver’s license.

IMPORTANT: If you are a military veteran with experience driving military buses or military trucks, you may not be required to submit some written tests, such as CDL General Knowledge, Passenger, Tanker, or Hazmat. Similarly, depending on the state, you may not be required to take the driving test.

What size trailer can I tow without trailer brakes?

In most states, you can tow up to 3000 lbs without trailer brakes. There is an exception to this rule only in a few places across the US. Lightweight trailers do not have to be braked since the braking of the vehicle towing them is sufficient. It is also necessary to check that the trailer’s mounting bracket is rigid enough to absorb the braking without the vehicle and the trailer colliding.

Before setting off, practice turning, stopping and backing to familiarize yourself with the handling and reactions of your vehicle-trailer combination. To turn, take wider turns so that the trailer wheels do not hit the curb or other obstacles.

On heavier trailers and trailers, which exceed half of the vehicle towing unladen, consider getting a braked trailer. Its role is to assist the vehicle’s primary braking and relieve it of the trailer’s weight.

The goal is to reduce the braking distance to ensure better passenger safety. But it also makes it possible to extend the life of the brakes of the towing vehicle and the contents of the trailer.

How fast can I go with my trailer?

If the Maximum Mass of the Set (vehicle + trailer + load) exceeds 7700 lbs, it is mandatory to limit the speed to 50 mph on roads and 60 mph on highways.

All trailers can be towed fully loaded at the maximum speed allowed. However, your driving behaviour will need to be adjusted, due to altered stopping distance and road conditions.

Important tips for towing a trailer

Before setting off, make sure that:

  • you have chosen a vehicle large enough to tow your trailer, especially if it is heavy.
  • that if the GVWR of your trailer exceeds 1100 lbs it must have its own licence plate. Otherwise, you have the same license plate as your vehicle.
  • your trailer is insured for at least a third.
  • you have your reflective lights and triangles indicating braking as well as an illuminated license plate.
  • you are equipped, if necessary, with other lights and reflective devices required by the Motorway Code according to its width, length and weight.
  • you have closed your gas bottles and put all the equipment away in the drawers and cupboards.

Driving with a trailer, some rules of conduct

  • All passengers must be in the vehicle as it is prohibited to transport people in a trailer or trailer when driving.
  • Driving: Adjust your speed especially as soon as you feel a “blur” in the direction. Slow down when there is wind or severe weather turbulence. Do not accelerate on the descents. If you feel swaying, slow down and brake jerkily. This phenomenon can also be controlled on flat roads: slow down, brake firmly in spurts and finally downshift to “retighten” the hitch.
  • Also, limit night travel as much as possible and adjust your headlights if the vehicle allows it.
  • To avoid aspiration when passing by a heavy truck or coach, try to “lift-off” by pulling slightly to the right. On the contrary, if you’re the one overtaking, shift down and accelerate firmly. Stay at high engine speed while remaining “off” from the overtaken vehicle. Upshift when the vehicle has been overtaken.
  • Before you reverse with your trailer, make sure you can do it by looking in the rearview mirror.

The bottom line

Before hitting the road, we recommend you read the laws and requirements for towing a trailer in your state. As mentioned, towing laws differ by state and it is best to be informed before you start your vacation. 

We also hope that our tips on how to tow a trailer will come to be helpful. If you have any other questions or comments on the content, please do not hesitate to let us know. 

FAQ on What size trailer can I tow without a trailer Licence?

What is a CDL?

The CDL, called ‘commercial driver’s license‘, allows operating certain types of vehicles, such as cargo transport vans, various types of trucks and buses, among others.

How big of an RV can I drive without a CDL?

You can drive an RV of 6500 lbs or less without a CDL. However, this will vary across states, as in some places (Illinois, Arizona, Alaska, Nebraska, Mississippi for example) you don’t require a CDL for an RV no matter its size!

What driving Licence do I need to drive an RV in the USA?

In the USA, you will need either a CDL or Non-CDL type of licence depending on the state you registered your RV in, also on its weight, length and height.

Can I tow a trailer with electric brakes without a brake controller?

No, you cannot tow a trailer with electric brakes without a brake controller, as it would be useless. Electric brakes need a brake controller to work!

How much weight can you tow without trailer brakes?

You can tow up to 1100 lbs weight without trailer brakes, or even more as long as you are not driving more than 30 mph!

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