Are You Eligible for the New 5th Wheel Recreational Trailer Endorsement?

Are You Eligible for the New 5th Wheel Recreational Trailer Endorsement? | SLO Horse News

There is a new recreational trailer endorsement option available for drivers hauling a fifth-wheel (gooseneck) horse trailer in noncommercial use meeting a specific Gross Vehicle Weight Requirement (GVWR) standard. This is a change in the DMV law.

Many of us transport horses in a fifth-wheel (gooseneck) trailer for recreational purposes, but we may be unaware that even giving a horse a ride and receiving money for gas may put us in the commercial category. Some of us may go to horse shows and win prizes which may pull the “commercial trip wire”.

DMV Manual Recreational Trailer Endorsement Statement

“A driver must have a fifth-wheel recreational trailer endorsement added to his/her Class C driver license to pull a fifth-wheel recreational trailer over 10,000 lbs., but not over 15,000 lbs. GVWR, which is not used for hire. This endorsement is not required if the driver has a commercial or noncommercial Class A driver license.” Excerpt from the DMV manual.

Get started down the road of getting the proper license and endorsement.

Question #1 Are you a Commercial or Noncommercial Driver?

This one can be a bit tricky because many situations may pull the trip wire putting you into the Commercial category.

Do you receive payment for hauling, engage in commerce (buying and selling of horses), win horse show prizes and money or promote your business on your rig? These are some of situations that are considered commerce, and require you to have a Commercial Class A License and a trailer endorsement.

Question #2 – What Type of Trailer Do You Haul?

Here is a basic list of trailers and the License Requirements:

Class C – with or without the new trailer endorsement:

  • 5th wheel (gooseneck) Living Quarters trailer under 10,000 Lbs. GVWR– Class C license required – no trailer endorsement – not for hire or in commerce.
  • 5th wheel (gooseneck) LQ trailer 10,000 Lbs. and under 15,000 Lbs. GVWR – Class C license and trailer endorsement required – not for hire or used in commerce.
  • 5th wheel (gooseneck) stock trailer GVWR noted above requires the same license. Not for hire or in commerce.

Class A

  • 5th wheel (gooseneck) LG trailer over 15,000 Lbs. GVWR – Non-commercial Class A license and trailer endorsement required – not for hire or used in commerce.
  • Any trailer no matter what GVWR, used for hire or in commerce requires a Commercial Driver’s license.

Are You Eligible?

If you haul horses in a noncommercial manner and you and your horse trailer fit one of the descriptions under Class C described above, you may be eligible for the new recreational trailer endorsement rather than obtain a Class A driver’s license.

How to Obtain the Noncommercial Class C Recreational Trailer Endorsement

The 5th wheel recreational trailer endorsement to your Class C license requires you fill out an application, pass a DMV non-commercial written test (unless license was renewed within 12 months prior), and pass the vision test. There is no cost to getting the endorsement if your Class C license does not expire within 6 months.

Here is the excerpt from the DMV Manual:

  • Complete an application for a driver license (DL 44).
  • There is no fee unless your license expires within six months.
  • Pass the Recreational Vehicles and Noncommercial Class A Trailers law test.
  • Pass the basic Class C law test, unless you renewed your Class C license within the last 12 months.
  • Pass a vision test.
  • You are not required to submit a Health Questionnaire or Physician’s Health Report.
  • You are not required to take a pre-trip, skills, or driving test to add a Recreational Trailer endorsement to your current license.

Don’t Wait!

If you do have a trailer over 10,000 lbs but not over 15,000 lbs, or it’s over 15,000 lbs and you do not have a Class A or 5th Wheel recreational vehicle endorsement (whichever is appropriate), and get stopped by the highway patrol, you run the risk of not being allowed to continue to drive your vehicle. You might have to sit by the side of the road until someone with the license required arrives to drive your rig. So, don’t wait.

Try Working with Your Trailer Manufacturer if the GVWR is just over 15,000 lbs

If you are a noncommercial driver and are eligible for the trailer endorsement and your trailer’s GVWR is just over 15,000 lbs. you can try contacting the trailer manufacturer to see if they can issue a new sticker. They would have to review your current VIN# to determine if a new tag could be issued.

All trailers are required to have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rate (GVWR) on them from the manufacturer.  This means that when the trailer is fully loaded, horses, food, equipment and water the trailer is designed to carry that much weight.

All Is Not Clear at the San Luis Obispo DMV

This new law impacts a narrow group of drivers so understandably two of our fellow horse people experienced confusion at the San Luis Obispo DMV.

Be prepared, the employees at DMV may say you can’t do this. Print out Page 12 of the trailer handbook and take it with you to the DMV. The book is also available at your local DMV office. The book will also help you to prepare for the trailer test. The test is not that hard. Additionally there are practice tests online at www.dmv.ca.gov .


For more information please read the DMV trailer handbook. For direct questions, Don Stafford, CHP motor carrier unit is a wealth of knowledge. 805-549-3261.


All this is good news for equestrians hauling horses for recreational purposes. For those of you pulling a noncommercial fifth-wheel recreational trailer meeting the GVWR specs, you now have the option of getting an endorsement on your Class C California driver’s license instead of maintaining the Class A Commercial driver’s license.

For information regarding a Commercial driver’s license and hauling horses this article: Concerns about a CDL and the horse industry can get you started.


This article is intended for informational purposes only – To understand the law as it pertains to your specific situation, check with your local CHP office or CHP Motor Carrier Unit for further information. Please note: your local DMV office personnel may not be knowledgeable of the correct licensing information.

Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family.

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