Campers — towing and riding
In the past few weeks, everyone has started to enjoy a northern Michigan pasttime, camping. I was approached by a reader and asked if it is legal to ride in a camper that is being towed by a vehicle. The individual was specifically asking about the legality of children riding in a camper.
Michigan Law does not prohibit riding in a camper; however, in accordance with MCL 257.710(e) (seatbelt law), children under the age of 16 would be prohibited from doing so if there were passenger seats available in the vehicle towing the camper.
The Michigan State Police does not endorse this type of action. A camper, whether it is the type secured in a pickup bed or a trailer type, is not designed and manufactured for passenger travel nor does it provide safety features in the event of a crash. The operator and/or registered owner could be held liable both criminally or civilly if a passenger is injured or killed while riding in the camper.
Another reader asked what was required to be able to pull a camper trailer and a boat at the same time. They then continued by asking if there is a special class or was it just going down to the Secretary of State and paying a fee. Being able to pull a camper and a boat/other trailer is referred to as a “recreational double.” A recreational double by definition is a pickup truck pulling a fifth-wheel trailer, designed for recreational living purposes, with a second trailer attached to the rear of the fifth-wheel trailer. The pickup truck must have a towing rating equal to, or greater than, the weight being towed. Under MCL 257.721, there are specific guidelines that must be followed as you will see below.
For a licensed driver to pull a “recreational double,” drivers must have an “R” endorsement on their license, which anyone age 18 or older may apply for at a Secretary of State office. The driver applying for the endorsement must pass a test designed to sample the knowledge needed to operate vehicle combinations of this type. There is a $10 fee for the endorsement, and a skills test is not required.
The total length of the three units — pickup truck, fifth-wheel trailer, and second trailer — when coupled together, must not exceed 75 feet. The gross weight of the second trailer cannot exceed the empty weight of the pickup truck or the empty weight of the fifth-wheel trailer.
The hitch used to tow the second trailer must be attached to the frame of the fifth-wheel trailer. Safety chains for the second trailer must be securely attached at the extreme outer edge of the fifth-wheel trailer with a locking mechanism. A trailer cannot drift more than three inches to either side of the path of the towing vehicle when the combination is being drawn in a straight line on a level, smooth, paved surface.
A person who violates this section is responsible for a civil infraction.
Ashley Simpson is a Community Service Trooper for the MSP Alpena Post. If you have a question for Trooper Simpson, you can email her at email@example.com or mail them to Ask A Trooper, Michigan State Police – Alpena Post, 3283 W. Washington Ave, Alpena, MI 49707.