Do you love pushing the limits of modern mechanics? If so, you’ll probably love RV triple towing. Just because many states allow it, does that mean it’s safe? Take a closer look to find out if this toy-hauling method is right for you.
Some facts about RV triple towing
While commercial truckers call it “hauling doubles,” RVers call it “triple towing” (sometimes “double towing”). You’ll know it when you see a vehicle pulling two trailers, usually a fifth wheel and a utility trailer. Additionally, RVers often tow boats or ATVs behind the first trailer.
RV triple towing is illegal in most states along the East Coast. However, in the wide-open West where it’s not prohibited in most states, you’ll see RVers doing it from the Pacific Ocean to Colorado’s highest peaks and beyond.
When you see triple towers on the road, consider moving out of the way. Heavy truck crash expert Doug Rowland explains why.
“For commercial drivers desiring to haul two or more trailers, additional education and training are required. Most states require a separate endorsement on the driver’s license before a driver can haul doubles or triples. There is no such requirement for non-commercial towing,” says the associate from Robson Forensic, a consulting firm providing the technical expertise needed to resolve litigation and insurance claims.
What’s the difference between a bus and an RV?
To further illustrate his point, Rowland shares a vivid example:
“Take a single 45-foot, 102-inch wide and 12-foot high vehicle, powered by a rear-mounted diesel. Install seating for more than 15 people and it’s classified as a bus, a commercial motor vehicle. As such, its operator must be a trained professional, required to maintain a valid commercial drivers license (see above) including an endorsement for passenger carrying.
Now, take the same exact vehicle, by the same manufacturer, and install a kitchenette, beds, cabinets, bathroom and more. Its classified as an RV and requires no special education, training or experience to legally operate. Is it legal? Yes! Is it safe ? It can be or possibly not, depending on the driver.
What’s more is the the same applies to RV triple towing. Is it legal? Yes! Is it safe? It can be or possibly not, depending on the driver and/or the equipment.”
As thousands of RVers triple tow every day (but without official triple towing accident statistics available that we know of), it doesn’t mean wrecks don’t happen. Before you decide to risk it, ask yourself:
- Are my combined weight and towing capacity within safe and reasonable limits? You’ll find the answer if you read towing guidelines in your owner’s manual.
- Do I have enough driving experience? Many variables play into routine RV driving under normal conditions. For instance, if bad weather or an RV tire blowout occurs while you’re RV triple towing, do you know exactly what to do?
State laws vary
If you’ve answered yes to these questions and still want to proceed, do your research. You’ll see that state laws for non-commercial triple towing drivers are often vague.
For instance, some state vehicle codes clearly say “triple towing allowed,” while others simply give a maximum combined length for the setup.
Here’s another perfect example of how laws vary. Let’s say you’re driving through Nebraska, Illinois, and Indiana. RV triple towing is legal in all three states, but look closely at each state’s vehicle code.
How will you travel through three states with conflicting requirements?
NEBRASKA: Maximum RV width 102 in.; maximum motorhome length 45 ft.; maximum RV height 14.5 ft.; maximum combined length for two- or three-vehicle combination 65 ft.
ILLINOIS: Maximum RV width 102 in. (some roads 96 in.); maximum motorhome length 45 ft.; maximum trailer length 53 ft.; maximum RV height 13.5 ft.; maximum combined length of two- or three-vehicle combination (with fifth-wheel trailer only) 60 ft.
INDIANA: Maximum RV width 102 in.; maximum motorhome length 45 ft.; maximum trailer length 40 ft.; maximum RV height 13.6 ft.; maximum combined length of two-vehicle combination 60 ft.; three-vehicle combination 65 ft
Ready to research?
Subsequently, the only way to know exactly what you need to comply with the law is to research RV towing laws for every state you’ll visit. Begin your investigation by visiting each state department of transportation’s website where you’ll travel.
As a result, you may find that RV triple towing isn’t worth the pre-trip hassle, risk, driving stress or that it’s too great a mechanical burden on your primary tow vehicle.
Keep in mind that there are other choices such as renting outdoor toy rentals at your destination or if you’re a water enthusiast, there are new outboard-powered inflatables available on the market that you can easily fit in an RV.
Nonetheless, after learning about all of the aspects of triple towing, you may or may not find that it fits into your camping lifestyle.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.