California Approves Legislation Resolving Fifth Wheel Length Issue

By: RV PRO Staff
Thursday, October 10, 2013
California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law RVIA-backed legislation that
clarifies the state vehicle code and will allow longer fifth wheel travel trailers in the
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, or, 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.”