Trailer Braking Rules

Discussion in 'Road Safety Systems' started by Antipodes, Aug 23, 2017.

  1. Antipodes

    Antipodes Call me Paul

    Jan 28, 2015
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    OK! Disclaimer.
    I am not a US citizen and don't reside in the USA. I know my way around aviation regulations workwide, but am not really familiar with the rules for vehicles in the US.
    With all the different information around about different requirements in different states etc, I have been trying to understand this better myself (Opened a can of worms I guess)
    I have found these Federal Regulations.
    I just copied out the relevant items pertaining to trailers directly.
    Found at the following site

    Title 49: Transportation

    393.40 Required brake systems.
    (4) Electric brake systems. Motor vehicles equipped with electric brake systems must have a service brake system that meets the applicable requirements of §§393.42, 393.48, 393.49 and 393.52 of this subpart.

    §393.42 Brakes required on all wheels.
    (3) Any semitrailer or pole trailer (laden or unladen) with a gross weight of 1,361 kg (3,000 pounds) or less which is subject to this part is not required to be equipped with brakes if the axle weight of the towed vehicle does not exceed 40 percent of the sum of the axle weights of the towing vehicle.
    (4) Any full trailer or four-wheel pole trailer (laden or unladen) with a gross weight of 1,361 kg (3,000 pounds) or less which is subject to this part is not required to be equipped with brakes if the sum of the axle weights of the towed vehicle does not exceed 40 percent of the sum of the axle weights of the towing vehicle.

    393.43 Breakaway and emergency braking.
    (d) Breakaway braking requirements for trailers. Every trailer required to be equipped with brakes shall have brakes which apply automatically and immediately upon breakaway from the towing vehicle. With the exception of trailers having three or more axles, all brakes with which the trailer is required to be equipped must be applied upon breakaway from the towing vehicle. The brakes must remain in the applied position for at least 15 minutes.

    Question is, are these the mandatory regs for all States.Any other regs from states can not be less than this. I don't know this and don't wish to start flame wars, so please give me your answer, but I would really appreciate a link to a document that would confirm any statement made.

    I have found a bunch of collated data on states and their requirements.
    But they all have different information and without links back to the original Regulating document, it is harder to verify.
  2. Sneezer

    Sneezer Active Member

    Aug 8, 2015
    DFW, TX
    These are for commercial vehicles only. You need to look at individual states for regulations that apply to private campers, etc. Look at the first part of the code where it clearly states this applies to commercial vehicles only.
  3. JPBar

    JPBar Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2016
    Here is my take on trailer brakes.

    Most states have different rules some are the same. If your camper has electric trailer brakes you should have a proper working brake controller and battery and breakaway switch when you are towing no matter what state you are from or going through. If you are in a accident and you don't have the proper equipment and you have to go to court you will loose, plain and simple.

    How would you feel if your were in a accident and due to the person pulling a camper or trailer that did not have the proper equipment that caused the accident and hurt you or a loved one.

    Bottom line if you have trailer brakes than use them, why put yourself or someone else in a bad situation.
  4. chambo

    chambo Active Member

    Apr 27, 2015
    Southern California
    You'll probably get the most accurate answer from a trucker or someone with experience towing across state lines frequently. I can tell you that each state has different regulations that are enforced. California the maximum towing speed is 55 mph, in Minnesota (I think) it is legal to ride in the back of a trailer, some states allow triple tow, etc. I think your best bet would be to research your specific question for each state you plan on visiting.
  5. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

    Oct 10, 2013
    Northern Virginia
    In regards to trailer break requirements every state is different. In VA we follow pretty much what you had posted except it stated that for any trailer equiped with electric breaks it must have an independent break-a-way. I believe that in New York, trailers with a dry weight over 1000 requires trailer breaks. Where as a few states have a gross of 4000. Most states would have their requirements posted within their version of the DMV. What I don't know is the rules if you are to travel in a state with different rules than your home state. For example if my camper did not have breaks but I go to a state that requires it, could I get a ticket if I'm stopped. In my opinion, I feel that if your camper comes equiped you should use it for safety sake.
    Fbird and JPBar like this.
  6. rabird

    rabird Howdy!

    Mar 3, 2006
    let us compare the braking distance of various vehicles
    your big A vehicles have crappy stopping distances without a trailer, ban em! Newer ones do better.

    how would you feel if your crappy stopping vehicle hits someone (without pulling a trailer).

    States set the rules for non commercial towing.
  7. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

    May 7, 2013
    Somewhere in Idaho
    Majority of states require BRAKES on trailers over 3K lbs, but some, like ID require them on trailers 1500 lbs or more. Some states limit trailer speeds, some like ID don't. If the speed limit is 80, the trailer can go 80; however, commercial truckers are limited to 75. However, in ID, if your trailer is under 1500 lbs, no brakes are required and if the trailer has brakes no breakaway is required.
    Decent site...
    Green states = 3,000 lbs
    White states = 2000 lbs
    Brown states = 1500 lbs
    Yellow states = 1000 lbs

    I think states like UT/WY/KS have it right. They state "Requires any vehicle combination to stop in 40 feet at 20 mph". This will take into consideration the TV. A larger TV with larger brakes could stop a 2500 LB trailer in a shorter distance than a smaller TV with smaller brakes. In other words, my PU can stop a 2000 lb trailer that has no brakes in a shorter distance than (for example) a minivan. Provided the brakes are in equal condition. (But a Porsche Cayenne, would probably stop in a shorter distance. It is faster and generally a sports type vehicle does come with some serious brakes.)
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2017
  8. Antipodes

    Antipodes Call me Paul

    Jan 28, 2015
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Thanks Guys,
    Appreciate your input.
    OK, understand the regs I quoted were for Commercial Vehicles.
    Are there Federal rules for non commercial vehicles? Or as stated by most of you, that non commercial is mandated by each zones regulatory bodies.

    Small country here with one set of rules for all, so easy to define.

    f5moab, found this site before but was unsure of how accurate it was.
    It is laid out reasonably clearly but again I will follow up on each of those limits to try and find the actual promulgated legislation.

    From my point of view it is really interesting to see such diversity.
    Travelling through Europe I sort of expected it as they (used to) have all their borders monitored, with individual rules and languages.
  9. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

    May 7, 2013
    Somewhere in Idaho
    The 10th Amendment to our Constitution:
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    Most vehicle laws are controlled by the states, that's why some states have speeds at 80 (or more) while some limit the speeds to a lower number. There are some flaws, but it basically works ok.
  10. Lloyd B

    Lloyd B Member

    Nov 3, 2016
    Columbiaville, Michigan
    I worked as a test driver at one of our American car companies for 30 years, and did a lot of brake testing, as far as I know for non commercial vehicles, the only Federal laws that apply are the normal required stopping distance rules from 30 and 60 MPH. If we add a 10,000 pound trailer, it still must stop in the same distance as empty, we did have to certify to the government that all of our vehicles meet these requirements. I did run a test once on a motorhome built on our frame, to show that it met the distance requirement while towing a car with no extra brakes. I have been retired for over 20 years, and there may have been changes since then. And I would expect that the 3000 pound trailer brake law applies to non commercial vehicles, and know some states apply stricter restrictions for trailer brakes.
  11. nhlakes

    nhlakes Active Member

    Oct 15, 2011
    DE and NH
    Antipodes, What problem are you trying to solve? Is this a practical 'I'm coming to the US from NZ and planning on renting or buying a camper to travel around?' Or is this just a curiosity?

    Threads like this tend to get lots of opinions/advice, often localized to the part of the country the individual has become familiar with, since it is way too time consuming to research and answer specifically for all states in the US.

    If you share exactly why you are interested it and what your plans are it would be helpful (and help avoid yet another thread with tons of people's opinions on trailer brakes ;) ) Not that I won't share my opinion... ;)

    If you are coming to he US and going to rent from a rental company, don't worry about it, they'll take care of you.

    If you're going to come for an extended stay and buy, if you buy a late model trailer big enough for brakes, it will likely have brakes if it needs them and you're tow vehicle should be equipped to support them.
  12. Antipodes

    Antipodes Call me Paul

    Jan 28, 2015
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    I think the question has been answered so I have not replied to other posts on this. But it is more curiosity at this point with the thought of going to the USA and knowing the legislation before doing any thing that might be unknowingly breaking the law. (Regardless if it is driving or walking across the street!)
    It interests me in that I know aircraft regulations in a number of different jurisdictions over the world, but these basic driving laws, vary so radically in different countries and particular in the USA from State to State. It is difficult for US citizens to keep up and understand, let alone outsiders like myself.
    Plans for going to the USA are very limited currently as it will likely be a couple of years yet before we can get over to your side of the world.

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