View Full Version : Trailering requirements in PA?

Jan. 27, 2010, 11:33 PM
I'm sure the answers to this question are hiding somewhere on here, but...Could someone fill me in on what is legally required to tow a horse trailer in PA? I had a look on the PennDOT webpage with no luck and am trying to avoid calling them to avoid the usual annoyances. It would be a two horse bumperpull trailer (aged probably late 1970s or early 1980s), one Thoroughbred, towed with an Expedition most likely, for personal use. I know I need trailer insurance, but what else? Registration/tags? Inspection? Are runaway breaks required for all trailers (and if so can someone fill me in on how to go about taking care of this with an older trailer if it is not already equipped?)? Anything else? This seems like a silly thing to ask but I would rather look silly than get a nice ticket from Mr. State Trooper ;)

Jan. 28, 2010, 12:15 AM
Here's a link to the trailer requirements. Be aware that PA is suddenly very strict on trailer inspections. Seems like a revenue enhancement tactic more than safety.

Liability Insurance is usually part of the towing vehicle's coverage. Check your policy to be sure.

You will also likely need a brake controller installed in your tow vehicle. Just because you have brake lights it doesn't mean you have working brakes. Brake lights are separate from the trailer brake function.

Both Ford & GM recommend a weight distributing hitch for trailers 5000# +
You should consider one too for your own safety.


Jan. 28, 2010, 04:52 PM
And I promise, it will be a hefty ticket. Make sure your truck is rated for the weight of your trailer and that your inspection tag reflects that.
You don't need trailer insurance, like hosspuller said, totally covered in your vehicle insurance.
Tags, yes. Registration, yes. Inspection, yes again.
Big annoyance, I had to take my trailer TO the registration place and they had a parking lot made for compact cars. So you might want to check that ahead (thank goodness I've mastered backing and turning, although doing that into oncoming traffic did add a new dimension to my experiences)
For an added PITA, they will be completely dumbfounded if your trailer does not have a VIN number. You might want to see if you have some ID number on your trailer before you head down to get it registered. Some older makes probably don't so have fun with that. It took me at least ten minutes to find mine. Ask ahead if you could just take a picture of the info instead of hauling it in, I really don't see why I had to actually drive it to them.
And yes, the electric brake controller is required.
Look around for an inspection station that does the big trucks. Not only can they answer any little details (since they do the inspections!) but since their primary business is usually working on trucks/trailers they can probably install the brake controller too. The battery on mine went dead and my local shop actually had them right there in stock and put it in for me. I was so happy!

Jan. 29, 2010, 12:38 PM
I was told a few years ago that you need a fire extinguisher and either flares or 3 safety triangles. I carry mine in my dressing room. Don't know if they have to be in the trailer or if they can be in the tow vehicle.

I have never had to take my trailers anywhere to be registered. My first trailer I bought privately. I may have just transferred the tags from the old trailer to the second one. I did buy the second one a Frank DiBella's so he may have done it for me.

Jan. 29, 2010, 12:48 PM
You need to register it yearly, just like a car.

You dont need flares or a fire extingusher, but thats a good idea.

You need tags,inspection and registration. Call up a horse trailer inspection place, they can tell you exactly what you need.

I would worry about a older trailer passing inspection. And check for rotting floors, thats the biggest safety issue, along with lights and brakes.

I dont believe you need this, by law, but my cotner has an emergency brake, if the trailer comes unhitched a pin pops out and the brakes go on.

Jan. 29, 2010, 03:06 PM
The fire extinguisher, flares, and triangles are part of the requirement for commercial haulers. I think in PA - anything over 10k lbs is considered commercial- even though you do not need a CDL yet. You should be fine with expedition and 2H BP- but double check numbers. They are very strict on numbers!

Jan. 29, 2010, 06:53 PM
I seem to remember about 2 years ago PA was cracking down on horse trailers. Seems to me there was a thread on COTH about it and an article in The Horse of DE Valley.

Part of what PA was claiming was that if you showed and won a ribbon that made you commercial or something like that.
I figured may as well have the triangles and fire extinguisher. I got the triangles for a birthday present and the extinguisher from Walmart for like $5. Plus upon reflection they aren't a bad thing to have on hand.

Jan. 29, 2010, 07:01 PM
Agreed, the triangles and fire extinguisher are a good idea even in a vehicle without a trailer, although admittedly I don't have them in my truck. I have so much "just in case" stuff I should probably add that in there too.
I think I had to take my trailer in to register it because we were transferring registration from another state, and we had the issue with the VIN number.
The inspection was mostly about brakes, axles, and lights... they never checked under the mats to see the floor. Never opened the back door. They aren't looking for horse safety I guess, just road worthiness.
But do watch the numbers... I know someone who had a BIG fine (like, thousands of dollars) for hauling a trailer with a truck that wasn't rated for the trailer. Kicker was, the truck WAS rated for the trailer, but her sticker was wrong. Because you pay more every year for the higher number I think some places think they are doing you a favor by underrating your truck. So watch that. And no, she didn't get out of the fine.

Jan. 30, 2010, 07:33 PM
Yes, yes, yes to the advice to make sure that your truck is rated to pull the trailer and it's weight. If you have a pickup, you will get a class sticker. (I'm a 4B and proud of it! :winkgrin:) I agree that catching offenders is a money-maker in PA. I had also heard that you had to pull into the weigh stations on the interstates - I never have, but a pretty reliable source told me that. Something to do with the previous posting about being commercial.

One other thing that they can get you for in PA is driving with the trailer top doors open. (The ones on the doors in the back) That is a big no-no here. Take them off or keep them shut.

Jan. 31, 2010, 09:39 AM
You don't need trailer insurance, like hosspuller said, totally covered in your vehicle insurance.

Just a side note on that. When I spoke with my agent he said that with the vehicle coverage it will only cover damage caused by your trailer - say you pull into a lane and clip someones front end with the trailer - it will pay for the damage done to that person's car. However, it will not pay to fix the damage done to your trailer. In addition homeowners may or may not cover a theft. I was told I needed a separate policy to cover your trailer if you want your damage covered. I think it was like $75.

Jan. 31, 2010, 10:37 AM
yes, I should have clarified that. You aren't *required* to have insurance on your trailer, like you are on your regular tow vehicle. There's no "driving without insurance" fine per se. I used to carry trailer insurance, but this year did the math... my trailer is not "valued" at much (and it's paid off)... between the deductible and what the insurance company thinks it's worth, it became senseless to pay insurance on it. With a trailer of higher value it would make sense to carry the insurance because like you said it is usually pretty affordable.