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Personal Injury

Everything You Need to Know about Towing (Legally) in Michigan

legally towing in michigan

You’re heading to the slopes with a snowmobile in tow. Or, you’ve got your boat hitched up and you’re ready to head up north for some time on the lake.

Towing laws in Michigan are in place to keep you safe, not hamper your fun (even though they sometimes do both). Don’t let the adventure stop 20 minutes with a ticket or a collision with a car or truck.

Read this helpful guide to avoid accidents and find out everything you need to know to tow safely and legally in Michigan.



First things first: your license.

All drivers towing a trailer in Michigan are legally required to hold a driver’s license. If you don’t have that yet, or if you don’t have a valid license, call a friend to tow instead.

Now let’s say you’re driving a pickup truck pulling a fifth-wheel trailer with a second trailer attached to the rear of the fifth-wheel (a recreational double). For that, you’re going to need something extra.

All drivers operating a recreational double must have an “R” endorsement on their license, which means that you have the knowledge and ability to operate this type of vehicle safely. If you’re 18 or older, you can apply for this endorsement at the Secretary of State by passing a test.

There’s only one group that can drive a recreational double without an R endorsement: drivers with a Group A Commercial License with a “T” endorsement, which certifies them to operate double trailers.

The idea here is that drivers with this type of license already have the skill set necessary to drive these trailers, since they know how to drive trucks with double trailers and steer clear of potential trucking accidents.


Title and Registration

Once you have your license in hand, it’s time to think about your title and registration.

Sometimes, the title and registration for your car is different than the title and registration for the trailer. Specifically, trailers over 2,500 pounds, as well as any trailer coaches, must have their own title.

Regardless of the type or weight, all trailers must have a valid registration and a valid license plate. You’ll have to pay a registration fee based on the weight of the trailer, which is non-transferable and permanent.


Recreational Doubles

We touched briefly on recreational doubles earlier. It’s worth noting that there are a few extra rules for recreational doubles beyond licensing alone.

According to Michigan law, even if you have an R endorsement, the pickup truck you use must meet certain requirements in order to legally tow a recreational double.

First, the pickup must have a towing rate equal to or greater than the amount being towed, which makes sense if you don’t want to pull your bumper off when you start driving.

Second, the total length of the three units (truck, fifth-wheel, and second trailer) must not exceed 75 feet in length. In addition, the gross weight of the second trailer cannot exceed the empty weight of the truck or fifth-wheel.

Finally, in these cases, a pickup towing a fifth-wheel and a second trailer is considered a passenger vehicle and must comply with speed limits for that class of vehicle, in accordance with section 627(5) of Michigan law.


Required Safety Features

Don’t hit the road yet—you need to make sure your safety features are in order. Even if you drive safely, you can’t predict when truck or auto accidents will occur, so it’s always better to be prepared (and follow the letter of the law). Between a car, a trailer, and a truck, you can create a catastrophic mess on the road if you’re not careful.

All trailers must be equipped with:

  • At least one working tail light, preferably two
  • A light illuminating the license plate
  • Mud flaps on the rear wheels

Trailers 2,500 pounds or heavier must have:

  • Turn signals
  • Two red or amber rear stoplights, visible from at least 100 feet away at any time of day

Trailers under 3,000 pounds must:

  • A single stoplight (if the trailer obscures the light of the towing vehicle)
  • Two red rear reflectors

Trailers 3,000 pounds or heavier (i.e. large trailers) must have:

  • Two red clearance lights on the back of the trailer
  • Two amber clearance lights on the front of the trailer and on each side, visible from at least 500 feet at any time of day
  • One rear stop light
  • A red reflector on each side of the trailer
  • Working brakes

Trailers with a weight of 5,500 pounds or heavier must have brakes strong enough to stop the trailer completely and hold the trailer in place.

A trailer this heavy isn’t as big as a semi, but it’s nearly twice the weight of the average car. So when it gets into an accident, you’re dealing with situations similar to a trucking accident, requiring early investigation and a strong legal defense to deal with the permanent injury or death caused by the sheer size and weight of the trailer.


Got in Trouble for Towing Violations?

Does all of this sound like you and your truck? If so, congratulations, you’re free to get towing.

If you missed an important step, violated towing regulations, or got caught in an accident because of someone else’s towing violations, you don’t need to fight your way out of this mess on your own.

If you need to speak with an attorney about your rights and your options, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the experienced attorneys at Giroux Trial Attorneys for a free consultation. It’s quick, confidential, and doesn’t require a commitment. And when you’re dealing with issues that could affect your family’s future wellbeing, why would you settle for anything less than the best?

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