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I will give my 2 cents. I’m from PA
just got my class A non cdl a few months ago. For this reason. I’ve been towing everything from. TT fifth wheels all My current one is a 40’ toyhauler. Gvw 17000 lbs. it is 6 years old. Was pulling it with a 2005 3500Srw. Pulled fine. Stopping was the problem lol. Upgraded to a 2020 Denali DRW last year.
I found out last year that it’s not just GCVW over 26,001. It is if the truck and tow vehicle CAN be over that weight and also you must have a class A if your trailer can weigh over 10,001. It can be non cdl if not used for your business. I got it because I was not afraid of getting a ticket from a cop or weigh station. The problem comes in if your ever in an accident you can be sited for not having a license. Even if it’s not your fault. Lawyers and insurance companies will go for that.
hope that helps
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
I will give my 2 cents. I’m from PA
just got my class A non cdl a few months ago. For this reason. I’ve been towing everything from. TT fifth wheels all My current one is a 40’ toyhauler. Gvw 17000 lbs. it is 6 years old. Was pulling it with a 2005 3500Srw. Pulled fine. Stopping was the problem lol. Upgraded to a 2020 Denali DRW last year.
I found out last year that it’s not just GCVW over 26,001. It is if the truck and tow vehicle CAN be over that weight and also you must have a class A if your trailer can weigh over 10,001. It can be non cdl if not used for your business. I got it because I was not afraid of getting a ticket from a cop or weigh station. The problem comes in if your ever in an accident you can be sited for not having a license. Even if it’s not your fault. Lawyers and insurance companies will go for that.
hope that helps
PA is terrible and overcomplicated with vehicle registration and licensing. I say that as someone who just transferred a Class A CDL from NJ to PA. I have registered vehicles in four states (NJ, NC, NY, and now PA) and the process in PA is by FAR the worst. I do not like to heap praise upon NJ but I have to say that the NJMVC is the smoothest-running and least ambiguous licensing/registration entity I've dealt with.

I actually didn't know there was a non-commercial Class A/B license in PA. I learn something new every day...
 

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From the PA license website::::

Do I also need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to operate a Class A or Class B vehicle?
Not in all cases. The use of the vehicle determines whether or not a CDL is needed. If the vehicle is being used solely for recreational purposes a CDL is not required.
For example, there is a truck and boat/recreational trailer that meets the definition of a Class A vehicle and it is used to transport the owner’s boat to the ocean. If the owner is utilizing the boat for family recreation it is not needed. If the owner is charging for deep sea fishing trips the truck would need to be operated with a Class A CDL.

Pls note second and last sentence in this paragraph.


What PA is saying is that the CDL is needed if vehicle is being operated in commercial endeavor. CDL is not required for towing a camper as an owner/user regardless of weight/s.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 · (Edited)
From the PA license website::::

Do I also need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to operate a Class A or Class B vehicle?
Not in all cases. The use of the vehicle determines whether or not a CDL is needed. If the vehicle is being used solely for recreational purposes a CDL is not required.
For example, there is a truck and boat/recreational trailer that meets the definition of a Class A vehicle and it is used to transport the owner’s boat to the ocean. If the owner is utilizing the boat for family recreation it is not needed. If the owner is charging for deep sea fishing trips the truck would need to be operated with a Class A CDL.

Pls note second and last sentence in this paragraph.


What PA is saying is that the CDL is needed if vehicle is being operated in commercial endeavor. CDL is not required for towing a camper as an owner/user regardless of weight/s.
The thing is, in the link I provided, it explicitly states that a motorhome over 26k GVWR requires a "non-commercial class B" license. Which is literally consistent with the language you quoted (after all, a "non-commercial class B license" is not a CDL), which is also found on that page. But it's extremely confusing because it does not positively state that in such a case a non-commercial class A or B license would be necessary for such a vehicle given only personal use; instead, it just says that a CDL is not required.

I think @airstream71 is right in this case, because otherwise there would be no scenario requiring the non-commercial class A/B licenses (which PA does, in fact, issue).

Of course, this is specific to PA and other states that have the non-commercial class A/B concept. Generally speaking, you won't need any kind of special drivers license to operate personal vehicles.
 

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@Melonhead1102 asked that I create a post addressing this subject, since it comes up so often.

This post addresses the legalities and physical limitations applicable to vehicle (and combination) weights. I will attempt to clarify the differences in enforcement practices between commercial and personal use vehicles with regard to vehicle weight restrictions and licensing requirements. What I will not attempt to do is address the likelihood of civil liability in any given scenario, as there’s just too much variability and too few data points from which to make inference. However, I am not aware of a single instance in which an individual was found liable specifically for exceeding vehicle capacities, and I am also not aware of any instance in which an insurance company denied liability coverage due specifically to such circumstances. We all can/will be sued for any and all reasons at any given time, so use your judgment.

Let’s establish some definitions first.

GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (as specified by the manufacturer on the door sticker). Legally enforceable.

GCWR: Gross Combination Weight Rating. For enforcement purposes, if this value is not listed on the vehicle’s door sticker, it is the sum of all units’ (truck and trailer(s)) GVWRs. This is regardless of what's found in the vehicle owner's manual, marketing brochure, or the manufacturer's "towing guide." Legally enforceable.

FGAWR/RGAWR: Front/Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating. GAWRs are often specified by vehicle manufacturers to match the accompanying OEM tire load ratings (x2), regardless of the axles' true physical capabilities. Legally enforceable.

TLR: Tire Load Rating (in pounds, not the load range or number of plies). Note that this number is for a fully inflated (at rest) tire; some tire manufacturers may provide tables associating tire capacities with a range of inflation pressures. Legally enforceable.

WLR: Wheel Load Rating (in pounds). Enforceability is debatable but in practice probably impossible due to the number not being visible anywhere. Note that WLRs are often specified by vehicle manufacturers to match the accompanying OEM tires, regardless of the wheels' true physical capacities.

Payload: A manufacturer’s recommendation for single-unit vehicle loading, predicated on the weight being distributed optimally. Definitions may vary from one manufacturer to another. NOT legally enforceable.

Towing Capacity: Legacy towing capacities were determined somewhat arbitrarily by manufacturers; modern ones are determined by SAE J2807. NOT legally enforceable.

CDL-A/B: Class A/B Commercial Driver’s License.

CMV: Commercial Motor Vehicle.

TT: (bumper pull) Travel Trailer.

FW: Fifth Wheel.

GN: Gooseneck.

ITG: Internet Towing Grandpa. You know, the ones who say things like, "You're 10 pounds over your towing capacity? Well I'm going to call my attorney and we're going to follow you around until you screw up, and then we'll sue you for every dime you've ever made and/or lost. Don't you care about your family's safety?" Meanwhile, they're over their TLRs, WLRs, and GAWRs as they lecture everyone about subtracting pin weights from payloads and all other sorts of total towing nonsense. If you take these clowns' logic to its rational conclusions we'd all wind up buying Kenworths to pull jet ski trailers.

And now, to get on with it:

Licensing requirements for CMVs are pretty consistent across jurisdictions. However, the definition of a “commercial vehicle” is somewhat nebulous and beyond the scope of this post. The FMCSA website has definitions and numerous examples of vehicles that may be considered CMVs (or not) depending on the particular use case. The only definitive statement I will make on this is that a vehicle/combination being used solely for recreational purposes (i.e. not hauling vehicles/equipment to be used in a competition for which large monetary prizes are awarded, or any other quasi-commercial activity) is not a CMV. This includes any and all personal-use vehicles pulling campers (regardless of the hitch type -- TT, FW, GN, etc.) as well as motorhomes. It is important to note that, generally speaking, only CMV operators are subject to CDL licensing requirements. The implication is that two identical vehicles, one being used commercially and the other recreationally, will have different licensing requirements. Whether this is a feature or a bug is debatable, but it is a fact regardless.

It is important to understand that while personal-use vehicles do not require CDLs for operation, their weight ratings are technically still enforceable (GVWR/GCWR, GAWRs, and TLRs). However, they are not required to stop at weigh stations, and the likelihood of weight rating enforcement for personal-use vehicles is extremely small. For clarity’s sake, I will reiterate from my definitions above that there is no legal concept of payload or towing capacity and hence there are no government entities who enforce adherence to these numbers. Generally speaking, if the actual number is not clearly visible on a door sticker, tire, or registration document, it can’t/won’t be enforced.

Manufacturers will typically cap the RGAWR at the sum of the OEM rear tires’ load capacities. The result is that some trucks’ axles actually have physical capacities far greater than what’s specified on the door sticker. An example is the 2017-2019 HD SRW pickups which have the same rear axle as the DRW but a much lower RGAWR. Nevertheless, legally speaking, these vehicles are still bound by the door sticker RGAWR even if the truck is equipped with heavier-duty wheels and tires. In this scenario it seems that the laws of physics may be more permissive than the laws of man, but you ignore the laws of man at your own legal risk. Make sure you consider the likelihood and consequences of enforcement (i.e. CMV versus personal use) before doing so.

There is no legal concept of individual-unit (truck and trailer separately) GVWR for combination vehicles because the gross weight of any unit in the combination cannot be determined without separating it from the combination (due to tongue/pin weight applied to the towing vehicle). The enforceable number for combinations is the GCWR, which is the GCWR printed on the door sticker of the towing vehicle or the sum of individual unit GVWRs if no GCWR is present on the door sticker, or if the sum of the individual unit GVWRs is less than the printed GCWR. However, some states require vehicles to be registered for a combination weight that limits the permissible gross weight of the vehicle and its trailer(s). This generally applies to CMVs only; consult your individual state’s regulations for details. Furthermore, some states have the concept of a “non-commercial” class A license, and there is surely a large amount of state-to-state variation in enforcement practices.

Note that the only way to answer the question, "Can my truck handle trailer X?" is to hook up trailer X and go directly to a CAT scale, or other certified truck scale, and verify that you're not exceeding any of the relevant limits/capacities. As a general guideline, 3/4- and 1-ton SRW trucks have about 2500 and 3500 pounds of rear axle capacity to spare for trailer and any other loads (hitch, auxiliary fuel tank, etc.). These numbers are based on the trucks' RGAWRs (which, in turn, are typically based on the OEM TLRs). Note also that staying within the mechanical load limits of all your hardware is just one part of setting up a rig that is going to tow safely and predictably, and it is the only part of that process that lies within the scope of this post.

This post is not intended to cover the full scope of all possible state-specific licensing and operation requirements and individual driver discretion is, of course, encouraged. Feel free to PM me with any specific questions or suggestions to update this post.


References:

www.fmcsa.dot.gov

Regulations

Hot Topic - Gross Combination Weight Rating
Wow and well done!
 

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@Melonhead1102 asked that I create a post addressing this subject, since it comes up so often.

This post addresses the legalities and physical limitations applicable to vehicle (and combination) weights. I will attempt to clarify the differences in enforcement practices between commercial and personal use vehicles with regard to vehicle weight restrictions and licensing requirements. What I will not attempt to do is address the likelihood of civil liability in any given scenario, as there’s just too much variability and too few data points from which to make inference. However, I am not aware of a single instance in which an individual was found liable specifically for exceeding vehicle capacities, and I am also not aware of any instance in which an insurance company denied liability coverage due specifically to such circumstances. We all can/will be sued for any and all reasons at any given time, so use your judgment.

Let’s establish some definitions first.

GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (as specified by the manufacturer on the door sticker). Legally enforceable.

GCWR: Gross Combination Weight Rating. For enforcement purposes, if this value is not listed on the vehicle’s door sticker, it is the sum of all units’ (truck and trailer(s)) GVWRs. This is regardless of what's found in the vehicle owner's manual, marketing brochure, or the manufacturer's "towing guide." Legally enforceable.

FGAWR/RGAWR: Front/Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating. GAWRs are often specified by vehicle manufacturers to match the accompanying OEM tire load ratings (x2), regardless of the axles' true physical capabilities. Legally enforceable.

TLR: Tire Load Rating (in pounds, not the load range or number of plies). Note that this number is for a fully inflated (at rest) tire; some tire manufacturers may provide tables associating tire capacities with a range of inflation pressures. Legally enforceable.

WLR: Wheel Load Rating (in pounds). Enforceability is debatable but in practice probably impossible due to the number not being visible anywhere. Note that WLRs are often specified by vehicle manufacturers to match the accompanying OEM tires, regardless of the wheels' true physical capacities.

Payload: A manufacturer’s recommendation for single-unit vehicle loading, predicated on the weight being distributed optimally. Definitions may vary from one manufacturer to another. NOT legally enforceable.

Towing Capacity: Legacy towing capacities were determined somewhat arbitrarily by manufacturers; modern ones are determined by SAE J2807. NOT legally enforceable.

CDL-A/B: Class A/B Commercial Driver’s License.

CMV: Commercial Motor Vehicle.

TT: (bumper pull) Travel Trailer.

FW: Fifth Wheel.

GN: Gooseneck.

ITG: Internet Towing Grandpa. You know, the ones who say things like, "You're 10 pounds over your towing capacity? Well I'm going to call my attorney and we're going to follow you around until you screw up, and then we'll sue you for every dime you've ever made and/or lost. Don't you care about your family's safety?" Meanwhile, they're over their TLRs, WLRs, and GAWRs as they lecture everyone about subtracting pin weights from payloads and all other sorts of total towing nonsense. If you take these clowns' logic to its rational conclusions we'd all wind up buying Kenworths to pull jet ski trailers.

And now, to get on with it:

Licensing requirements for CMVs are pretty consistent across jurisdictions. However, the definition of a “commercial vehicle” is somewhat nebulous and beyond the scope of this post. The FMCSA website has definitions and numerous examples of vehicles that may be considered CMVs (or not) depending on the particular use case. The only definitive statement I will make on this is that a vehicle/combination being used solely for recreational purposes (i.e. not hauling vehicles/equipment to be used in a competition for which large monetary prizes are awarded, or any other quasi-commercial activity) is not a CMV. This includes any and all personal-use vehicles pulling campers (regardless of the hitch type -- TT, FW, GN, etc.) as well as motorhomes. It is important to note that, generally speaking, only CMV operators are subject to CDL licensing requirements. The implication is that two identical vehicles, one being used commercially and the other recreationally, will have different licensing requirements. Whether this is a feature or a bug is debatable, but it is a fact regardless.

It is important to understand that while personal-use vehicles do not require CDLs for operation, their weight ratings are technically still enforceable (GVWR/GCWR, GAWRs, and TLRs). However, they are not required to stop at weigh stations, and the likelihood of weight rating enforcement for personal-use vehicles is extremely small. For clarity’s sake, I will reiterate from my definitions above that there is no legal concept of payload or towing capacity and hence there are no government entities who enforce adherence to these numbers. Generally speaking, if the actual number is not clearly visible on a door sticker, tire, or registration document, it can’t/won’t be enforced.

Manufacturers will typically cap the RGAWR at the sum of the OEM rear tires’ load capacities. The result is that some trucks’ axles actually have physical capacities far greater than what’s specified on the door sticker. An example is the 2017-2019 HD SRW pickups which have the same rear axle as the DRW but a much lower RGAWR. Nevertheless, legally speaking, these vehicles are still bound by the door sticker RGAWR even if the truck is equipped with heavier-duty wheels and tires. In this scenario it seems that the laws of physics may be more permissive than the laws of man, but you ignore the laws of man at your own legal risk. Make sure you consider the likelihood and consequences of enforcement (i.e. CMV versus personal use) before doing so.

There is no legal concept of individual-unit (truck and trailer separately) GVWR for combination vehicles because the gross weight of any unit in the combination cannot be determined without separating it from the combination (due to tongue/pin weight applied to the towing vehicle). The enforceable number for combinations is the GCWR, which is the GCWR printed on the door sticker of the towing vehicle or the sum of individual unit GVWRs if no GCWR is present on the door sticker, or if the sum of the individual unit GVWRs is less than the printed GCWR. However, some states require vehicles to be registered for a combination weight that limits the permissible gross weight of the vehicle and its trailer(s). This generally applies to CMVs only; consult your individual state’s regulations for details. Furthermore, some states have the concept of a “non-commercial” class A license, and there is surely a large amount of state-to-state variation in enforcement practices.

Note that the only way to answer the question, "Can my truck handle trailer X?" is to hook up trailer X and go directly to a CAT scale, or other certified truck scale, and verify that you're not exceeding any of the relevant limits/capacities. As a general guideline, 3/4- and 1-ton SRW trucks have about 2500 and 3500 pounds of rear axle capacity to spare for trailer and any other loads (hitch, auxiliary fuel tank, etc.). These numbers are based on the trucks' RGAWRs (which, in turn, are typically based on the OEM TLRs). Note also that staying within the mechanical load limits of all your hardware is just one part of setting up a rig that is going to tow safely and predictably, and it is the only part of that process that lies within the scope of this post.

This post is not intended to cover the full scope of all possible state-specific licensing and operation requirements and individual driver discretion is, of course, encouraged. Feel free to PM me with any specific questions or suggestions to update this post.


References:

www.fmcsa.dot.gov

Regulations

Hot Topic - Gross Combination Weight Rating
Until quite recently there was no towing spec, and each company had their own towing spec and hence comparing numbers between a Ford/GM/Dodge was pointless. In the end towing capacity is about the limitations of several factors, GCWR either by axle load or tires, heat rejection capacity especially the transmission or brake capacity. With the advent of SAE towing spec, torque now plays into it, but not in a way I think is meaningful as going slower up a hill while inconvenient will seldom do damage to a vehicle. Towing heavy loads takes skill and practice, hence the scaled licensing, if you exceed the limits of the vehicle you are entering uncharted waters when it comes to durability, capacity and control. While I guess not strictly enforceable for personal use, the dangers to your and other vehicles and their occupants is real and needs to carefully considered. Having seen a trailer go out of control literally right in front of me and flip the vehicle completely over in a split second causing massive damage and injury, I would encourage everyone to be careful as when it goes wrong, it goes wrong in a big hurry.
 

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Funny you posted this as I was reading this article on same/similar subject. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.


I have a 2017 GMC SRW 2500 and recently purchased a 9600 lb FW camper for my property on Mt Princeton here in CO. The trailer came with a 1995 Ford F350 and I was trying to figure out how much that truck could actually tow, as it obviously doesn't pull the trailer like the newer tech. My search lead to the article...all of it makes my head spin a little :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Funny you posted this as I was reading this article on same/similar subject. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.


I have a 2017 GMC SRW 2500 and recently purchased a 9600 lb FW camper for my property on Mt Princeton here in CO. The trailer came with a 1995 Ford F350 and I was trying to figure out how much that truck could actually tow, as it obviously doesn't pull the trailer like the newer tech. My search lead to the article...all of it makes my head spin a little :)
Articles like that are one of the reasons I started this thread. Lots of bad info, starting with confusion about torque vs power, and then going right into the old "it's illegal to exceed your towing capacity" silliness. If it's illegal to exceed a vehicle's recommended towing capacity, where's the statute criminalizing such action?

I'm not encouraging people to exceed manufacturers recommendations. But it's important to understand good guidance versus legal limitations. Furthermore, on a lot of these trucks, you'll run up against RGAWR and tire ratings before you hit the towing capacity for a properly loaded rig. That's another reason I think towing capacities just aren't that useful when it comes to determining what these vehicles can actually handle.
 

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The trailer came with a 1995 Ford F350 and I was trying to figure out how much that truck could actually tow
The Trailer Life Towing Guides are a good resource to look up various makes/models of trucks (from 1999-current) and their factory towing specs.

Normally I might have said that the 1999 guide could give you an idea of where your 1995 falls, but Ford F-series generations went from 9th to 10th in 1997, so even the oldest Trailer Life data would be for a newer generation than what you have. I'm not familiar enough with 1990's Fords to tell you the differences. I'd recommend going to the source (i.e. Ford.com) and see what documentation you can find. Or call a Ford dealer and ask what they can offer.
 

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@Melonhead1102 asked that I create a post addressing this subject, since it comes up so often.

This post addresses the legalities and physical limitations applicable to vehicle (and combination) weights. I will attempt to clarify the differences in enforcement practices between commercial and personal use vehicles with regard to vehicle weight restrictions and licensing requirements. What I will not attempt to do is address the likelihood of civil liability in any given scenario, as there’s just too much variability and too few data points from which to make inference. However, I am not aware of a single instance in which an individual was found liable specifically for exceeding vehicle capacities, and I am also not aware of any instance in which an insurance company denied liability coverage due specifically to such circumstances. We all can/will be sued for any and all reasons at any given time, so use your judgment.

Let’s establish some definitions first.

GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (as specified by the manufacturer on the door sticker). Legally enforceable.

GCWR: Gross Combination Weight Rating. For enforcement purposes, if this value is not listed on the vehicle’s door sticker, it is the sum of all units’ (truck and trailer(s)) GVWRs. This is regardless of what's found in the vehicle owner's manual, marketing brochure, or the manufacturer's "towing guide." Legally enforceable.

FGAWR/RGAWR: Front/Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating. GAWRs are often specified by vehicle manufacturers to match the accompanying OEM tire load ratings (x2), regardless of the axles' true physical capabilities. Legally enforceable.

TLR: Tire Load Rating (in pounds, not the load range or number of plies). Note that this number is for a fully inflated (at rest) tire; some tire manufacturers may provide tables associating tire capacities with a range of inflation pressures. Legally enforceable.

WLR: Wheel Load Rating (in pounds). Enforceability is debatable but in practice probably impossible due to the number not being visible anywhere. Note that WLRs are often specified by vehicle manufacturers to match the accompanying OEM tires, regardless of the wheels' true physical capacities.

Payload: A manufacturer’s recommendation for single-unit vehicle loading, predicated on the weight being distributed optimally. Definitions may vary from one manufacturer to another. NOT legally enforceable.

Towing Capacity: Legacy towing capacities were determined somewhat arbitrarily by manufacturers; modern ones are determined by SAE J2807. NOT legally enforceable.

CDL-A/B: Class A/B Commercial Driver’s License.

CMV: Commercial Motor Vehicle.

TT: (bumper pull) Travel Trailer.

FW: Fifth Wheel.

GN: Gooseneck.

ITG: Internet Towing Grandpa. You know, the ones who say things like, "You're 10 pounds over your towing capacity? Well I'm going to call my attorney and we're going to follow you around until you screw up, and then we'll sue you for every dime you've ever made and/or lost. Don't you care about your family's safety?" Meanwhile, they're over their TLRs, WLRs, and GAWRs as they lecture everyone about subtracting pin weights from payloads and all other sorts of total towing nonsense. If you take these clowns' logic to its rational conclusions we'd all wind up buying Kenworths to pull jet ski trailers.

And now, to get on with it:

Licensing requirements for CMVs are pretty consistent across jurisdictions. However, the definition of a “commercial vehicle” is somewhat nebulous and beyond the scope of this post. The FMCSA website has definitions and numerous examples of vehicles that may be considered CMVs (or not) depending on the particular use case. The only definitive statement I will make on this is that a vehicle/combination being used solely for recreational purposes (i.e. not hauling vehicles/equipment to be used in a competition for which large monetary prizes are awarded, or any other quasi-commercial activity) is not a CMV. This includes any and all personal-use vehicles pulling campers (regardless of the hitch type -- TT, FW, GN, etc.) as well as motorhomes. It is important to note that, generally speaking, only CMV operators are subject to CDL licensing requirements. The implication is that two identical vehicles, one being used commercially and the other recreationally, will have different licensing requirements. Whether this is a feature or a bug is debatable, but it is a fact regardless.

It is important to understand that while personal-use vehicles do not require CDLs for operation, their weight ratings are technically still enforceable (GVWR/GCWR, GAWRs, and TLRs). However, they are not required to stop at weigh stations, and the likelihood of weight rating enforcement for personal-use vehicles is extremely small. For clarity’s sake, I will reiterate from my definitions above that there is no legal concept of payload or towing capacity and hence there are no government entities who enforce adherence to these numbers. Generally speaking, if the actual number is not clearly visible on a door sticker, tire, or registration document, it can’t/won’t be enforced.

Manufacturers will typically cap the RGAWR at the sum of the OEM rear tires’ load capacities. The result is that some trucks’ axles actually have physical capacities far greater than what’s specified on the door sticker. An example is the 2017-2019 HD SRW pickups which have the same rear axle as the DRW but a much lower RGAWR. Nevertheless, legally speaking, these vehicles are still bound by the door sticker RGAWR even if the truck is equipped with heavier-duty wheels and tires. In this scenario it seems that the laws of physics may be more permissive than the laws of man, but you ignore the laws of man at your own legal risk. Make sure you consider the likelihood and consequences of enforcement (i.e. CMV versus personal use) before doing so.

There is no legal concept of individual-unit (truck and trailer separately) GVWR for combination vehicles because the gross weight of any unit in the combination cannot be determined without separating it from the combination (due to tongue/pin weight applied to the towing vehicle). The enforceable number for combinations is the GCWR, which is the GCWR printed on the door sticker of the towing vehicle or the sum of individual unit GVWRs if no GCWR is present on the door sticker, or if the sum of the individual unit GVWRs is less than the printed GCWR. However, some states require vehicles to be registered for a combination weight that limits the permissible gross weight of the vehicle and its trailer(s). This generally applies to CMVs only; consult your individual state’s regulations for details. Furthermore, some states have the concept of a “non-commercial” class A license, and there is surely a large amount of state-to-state variation in enforcement practices.

Note that the only way to answer the question, "Can my truck handle trailer X?" is to hook up trailer X and go directly to a CAT scale, or other certified truck scale, and verify that you're not exceeding any of the relevant limits/capacities. As a general guideline, 3/4- and 1-ton SRW trucks have about 2500 and 3500 pounds of rear axle capacity to spare for trailer and any other loads (hitch, auxiliary fuel tank, etc.). These numbers are based on the trucks' RGAWRs (which, in turn, are typically based on the OEM TLRs). Note also that staying within the mechanical load limits of all your hardware is just one part of setting up a rig that is going to tow safely and predictably, and it is the only part of that process that lies within the scope of this post.

This post is not intended to cover the full scope of all possible state-specific licensing and operation requirements and individual driver discretion is, of course, encouraged. Feel free to PM me with any specific questions or suggestions to update this post.


References:

www.fmcsa.dot.gov

Regulations

Hot Topic - Gross Combination Weight Rating
I find you have provided some very good information. The sticker below is from the website, RV Tow Check App Demo , not my truck. Please see Gooseneck TWR - 18500lbs. This is a 2500HD close to my 2020 Chevy 2500HD Duramax.
1090500


If the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle(s) being towed (your RV/Horse Trailer, etc.) is greater than 10,000 pounds, you need a REGULAR CLASS "A". See The website below. I have read on the interweb that most states don't enforce this, but some do. Also it has been typed, these mandates are set forth by USDOT though I haven't found that yet.

From Website; Official NCDMV: Licenses & Fees (ncdot.gov)

Regular Licenses Class A$5.50 per yearRequired to operate any combination of vehicles that:
  • Is exempt from commercial driver license requirements
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more (provided the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle(s) being towed is greater than 10,000 pounds)
Regular Licenses Class B$5.50 per yearRequired to operate any single vehicle that:
  • Is exempt from commercial driver license requirements
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • Tows another vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less
Regular Licenses Class C$5.50 per yearRequired to operate any single vehicle that:
  • Is not carrying hazardous material in quantities required to be placarded
  • Is designed to carry no more than 15 passengers, including the driver
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 pounds
  • Tows a vehicle that has a combined gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 pounds
  • Is operated by a driver at least 18 years old
Most drivers need only a Regular Class C license to operate personal automobiles and small trucks.

Application fee$43.25This fee applies each three attempts of knowledge tests.
Commercial Class A$21.50 per yearRequired for any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more (provided the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle or vehicles being towed is more than 10,000 pounds)
Commercial Class B$21.50 per yearRequired for any single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, and any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating not in excess of 10,000 pounds
Commercial Class C$21.50 per yearRequired for any vehicle not described in Commercial Class A or Commercial Class B but is:
  • Designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
  • Used to transport hazardous materials that require the vehicle to be placarded under 49 CFR Part 172, Subpart F

This has always been confusing. You do not need a commercial driver's license unless you are using your vehicle for commercial use. You may, however, need a Class "A" regular license.
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
I find you have provided some very good information. The sticker below is from the website, RV Tow Check App Demo , not my truck. Please see Gooseneck TWR - 18500lbs. This is a 2500HD close to my 2020 Chevy 2500HD Duramax.
View attachment 1090500

If the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle(s) being towed (your RV/Horse Trailer, etc.) is greater than 10,000 pounds, you need a REGULAR CLASS "A". See The website below. I have read on the interweb that most states don't enforce this, but some do. Also it has been typed, these mandates are set forth by USDOT though I haven't found that yet.

From Website; Official NCDMV: Licenses & Fees (ncdot.gov)

Regular Licenses Class A$5.50 per yearRequired to operate any combination of vehicles that:
  • Is exempt from commercial driver license requirements
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more (provided the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle(s) being towed is greater than 10,000 pounds)
Regular Licenses Class B$5.50 per yearRequired to operate any single vehicle that:
  • Is exempt from commercial driver license requirements
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • Tows another vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less
Regular Licenses Class C$5.50 per yearRequired to operate any single vehicle that:
  • Is not carrying hazardous material in quantities required to be placarded
  • Is designed to carry no more than 15 passengers, including the driver
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 pounds
  • Tows a vehicle that has a combined gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 pounds
  • Is operated by a driver at least 18 years old
Most drivers need only a Regular Class C license to operate personal automobiles and small trucks.

Application fee$43.25This fee applies each three attempts of knowledge tests.
Commercial Class A$21.50 per yearRequired for any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more (provided the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle or vehicles being towed is more than 10,000 pounds)
Commercial Class B$21.50 per yearRequired for any single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, and any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating not in excess of 10,000 pounds
Commercial Class C$21.50 per yearRequired for any vehicle not described in Commercial Class A or Commercial Class B but is:
  • Designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
  • Used to transport hazardous materials that require the vehicle to be placarded under 49 CFR Part 172, Subpart F

This has always been confusing. You do not need a commercial driver's license unless you are using your vehicle for commercial use. You may, however, need a Class "A" regular license.
I'm not aware of any federal laws respecting non-commercial class A/B licenses, but if you can provide a reference I'll add this information to the post. As far as I know, these kinds of licenses have been introduced at the state level only, and not every state has them. I just moved to PA where there are non-commercial class A/B licenses, but back in NJ (where I moved from) they don't exist (yet).
 

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There is some great information regarding the various state licensing requirements. However, it would be very helpful if people would get in the habit of prefacing posts like that with "in Montana..." or whatever state as appropriate.
We could probably avoid a lot of confusion that way.
 

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From the PA license website::::

Do I also need a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to operate a Class A or Class B vehicle?
Not in all cases. The use of the vehicle determines whether or not a CDL is needed. If the vehicle is being used solely for recreational purposes a CDL is not required.
For example, there is a truck and boat/recreational trailer that meets the definition of a Class A vehicle and it is used to transport the owner’s boat to the ocean. If the owner is utilizing the boat for family recreation it is not needed. If the owner is charging for deep sea fishing trips the truck would need to be operated with a Class A CDL.

Pls note second and last sentence in this paragraph.


What PA is saying is that the CDL is needed if vehicle is being operated in commercial endeavor. CDL is not required for towing a camper as an owner/user regardless of weight/s.
Hey, your correct! But you may still need a Class "A" non-Commercial Driver's License (CDL) if your GCVW is 26,001 LBS and your Trailer weighs over 10,000 LBS. If your Class "A" Motorhome weighs over 26.001 LBS, you may need a Class "B" non-CDL. PA's website even breaks it down. See below

From website - License Types & Restrictions (pa.gov)

Classes of Driver's Licenses
Non-commercial Driver's Licenses
  • CLASS A (minimum age 18): Required to operate any combination of vehicles with a gross weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, where the vehicle(s) being towed is/are in excess of 10,000 pounds. Example: Recreational Vehicle, when the towing vehicle is rated at 11,000 pounds and the vehicle towed is rated at 15,500 pounds (total combination weight of 26,500 pounds).
  • CLASS B (minimum age 18): Required to operate any single vehicle rated in excess of 26,000 pounds. Example: Motor homes rated at 26,001 pounds or more.
  • CLASS C (minimum age 16): A Class C driver's license will be issued to persons 16 years of age or older, who have demonstrated their qualifications to operate any vehicles, except those requiring a Class M qualification, and who do not meet the definitions of Class A or Class B. Any firefighter or member of a rescue or emergency squad who is the holder of a Class C driver's license and who has a certificate of authorization from a fire chief or head of the rescue or emergency squad will be authorized to operate any fire or emergency vehicle registered to that fire department, rescue or emergency squad or municipality(emergency use only). The holder of a Class C license is authorized to drive a motor-driven cycle with an automatic transmission and cylinder capacity of 50 CCs or less, a 3-wheeled motorcycle with an enclosed cab or an autocycle.
 

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I'm not aware of any federal laws respecting non-commercial class A/B licenses, but if you can provide a reference I'll add this information to the post. As far as I know, these kinds of licenses have been introduced at the state level only, and not every state has them. I just moved to PA where there are non-commercial class A/B licenses, but back in NJ (where I moved from) they don't exist (yet).
Check out this website - RV Driver's License Requirements In Every State | Campanda Magazine
NJ doesn't require a special license but NY requires a "R" endorsement. I read something a few years back that they were trying to get all states to be on the same program. Hasn't happened and as you said (YET).
I hope more people will look at the link I just posted and read for themselves. It could save them some money. Now we need to get every state that requires this type license to provide testing requirements.
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 ·
Check out this website - RV Driver's License Requirements In Every State | Campanda Magazine
NJ doesn't require a special license but NY requires a "R" endorsement. I read something a few years back that they were trying to get all states to be on the same program. Hasn't happened and as you said (YET).
I hope more people will look at the link I just posted and read for themselves. It could save them some money. Now we need to get every state that requires this type license to provide testing requirements.
Nice info. Since we just moved to PA I guess my wife will have to get a non-commercial Class A in order to drive our truck+FW (I already have a full CDL-A so I'm good). Annoying...
 

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Nice info. Since we just moved to PA I guess my wife will have to get a non-commercial Class A in order to drive our truck+FW (I already have a full CDL-A so I'm good). Annoying...
Good luck finding out what the test requirements are.
 

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I only checked the requirements for NC as I tow through there frequently. From the NC CDL website:

Pls note Para 2 in the attachment below:

1090529
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
Good luck finding out what the test requirements are.
Thanks. PENNDOT's website is incredibly vague so we may just have to find out the hard way. Then again, I suspect that out-of-state, these state-specific licensing requirements are totally ignored anyway so as long as I'm behind the wheel until we get out of PA it's probably not an issue.
 

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I only checked the requirements for NC as I tow through there frequently. From the NC CDL website:

Pls note Para 2 in the attachment below:

View attachment 1090529
I did read that. it says, "but a driver must have a regular license of the appropriate class."

Please refer to the table below taken from the same website.

From Website; Official NCDMV: Licenses & Fees (ncdot.gov)

Regular Licenses Class A$5.50 per yearRequired to operate any combination of vehicles that:
  • Is exempt from commercial driver license requirements
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more (provided the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle(s) being towed is greater than 10,000 pounds)
Regular Licenses Class B$5.50 per yearRequired to operate any single vehicle that:
  • Is exempt from commercial driver license requirements
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • Tows another vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less
Regular Licenses Class C$5.50 per yearRequired to operate any single vehicle that:
  • Is not carrying hazardous material in quantities required to be placarded
  • Is designed to carry no more than 15 passengers, including the driver
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 pounds
  • Tows a vehicle that has a combined gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 pounds
  • Is operated by a driver at least 18 years old
Most drivers need only a Regular Class C license to operate personal automobiles and small trucks.

Application fee$43.25This fee applies each three attempts of knowledge tests.
Commercial Class A$21.50 per yearRequired for any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more (provided the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle or vehicles being towed is more than 10,000 pounds)
Commercial Class B$21.50 per yearRequired for any single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, and any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating not in excess of 10,000 pounds
Commercial Class C$21.50 per yearRequired for any vehicle not described in Commercial Class A or Commercial Class B but is:
  • Designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
  • Used to transport hazardous materials that require the vehicle to be placarded under 49 CFR Part 172, Subpart F

Also check out this website - RV Driver's License Requirements In Every State | Campanda Magazine
 
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