So, I recently fell down a worm hole and really educated myself. Turns out I've been driving/towing illegally for quite some time.
On a recent trip I was driving my Ram 2500 pulling an enclosed utility trailer. Everything went well and all was good. But I drove many miles, something like 2600 in 4 days. Had lots to think about during that time. I have a 20' open deck car trailer that I'll be using for transporting my model 60 once it's completed and ready to move about. The trailer has plenty of room, has 5200lb axles and a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of 10,400lbs. That's pretty close to maxing out the trailer. So I thought maybe I'll get a trailer with 7k axles so I have a GVWR of 14k which allows for roughly 10k load. That should work fine for the 60.
Perfect. Or so I thought.....
Hmmm. What's the trailer tow rating for my truck? I looked it up, about 12.5k. Darn. Will it handle it? Probably. But what happens if you get into an accident? Insurance won't cover that..... I could install 7k axles on my current trailer and hope for the best. What happens if that accident happens and I'm over the GVWR sticker on my trailer? Screwed again. Can't fake or get a new rating for the trailer. Manufacturer says that once it's been registered, it is what it is. Bigger axles would mean better reliability, but less actual payload due to their heavier weight. Well that means if I want a better weight rating I need a bigger trailer. That in turn says I need a truck that can handle that trailer.
In short, your truck has to have the ratings to tow what you want. While DOT and the police may not know this rating, your insurance company will find out. You don't want to be standing there holding the bag after the accident happened, regardless of who's fault it is. It's your fault if you're outside your ratings.
So, I need a truck that can pull 14k. That's not hard to find these days. But then I find out that here in TN (any many states) there's no longer allowances for personal use trailers/RVs and such. They have simple rules. If your trailer has a GVWR of 10,001lbs or more, it requires a class A license. That's right. A class A regular, not CDL, license. So I've been towing a class A combination vehicle for who knows how long illegally.
Oh boy, it gets deeper..... What if your trailer is 10k rated? Are you good to go? Maybe. If your truck's GVWR is 16k or less, yup, you're all set. If your combination (add both the trailer GVWR and the truck's GVWR) is rated for 26k or less, you're just fine. 26,001 or more, you guessed it, class A combination.
Most 1 ton trucks nowadays are rated for 14k. Most trailers with dual 7k axles are rated for 14k. That means when and if your towing setup was to be examined, you would be driving a setup with a GCVWR (Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating) of 28k. Again, class A combination. You have to have a regular, not CDL, class A license here in the state of TN to drive that legally.
If you are caught driving that combination without that license, you are essentially driving without a license. You could potentially go to jail. Think your insurance still has your back? Nope. They'll drop you like a hot potato.
These rating are very important, REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU ACTUALLY WEIGH. If you were overweight, that's a whole different ball of wax. Your trailer could be empty, but you're still liable.
I currently hold a class B CDL. That means I can operate a commercial vehicle (or private) that weighs over 26k. If I tow a trailer 10k or under, I'm ok. If my combined ratings exceed 26k, I'm out of class. So, in short, I'm getting a new license here shortly.
In TN it's not a big deal. Take the written exam (not nearly as in depth as a CDL) and a driving test. They want you to have your class A learner's permit prior to taking the driving test. From what I understand the test is pretty simple. They want to see you stopping with some distance in front of you, that you can keep your vehicle in the lane, use your signals for full lane changes, and can handle your trailer. Your state may have different laws. Please find out. It's kinda scary knowing that MANY people pulling RV's and personal trailers are illegal.
Other states generally respect and have reciprocity for your state's laws regarding licensing and requirements. So if your state has exceptions for personal use (non commercial), you'd be fine with your license in TN. However, you'll still need to be within your truck's weight limits. The police and DOT won't know what your truck is rated for towing, all they'll do is read the stickers, add them up, and potentially weigh you. I've never had that happen to me, but I'm going to be prepared.