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From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Put Sleeper from Heavy Duty onto Medium Duty Truck?
Date: Mon, 14 May 2007 09:24:38 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Mon, 14 May 2007 08:07:00 -0400, "JEB" <> wrote:

><> wrote in message
>> Does anyone know if this is hard to do?
>> We have several dogs and my wife wants a crew cab, but on a medium
>> duty truck, finding one may be a problem, so I was wondering about
>> getting a sleeper from a truck wrecking yard and putting that on a
>> medium duty truck.  We will eventually be pulling one of the largest
>> 5th wheels and something like a 40' fully loaded Teton is just much
>> too large for a 350 pickup.
>Some things to consider before buying a med. duty truck.  I did that and
>here's what happened.  USAA would not insure it, other insurers wouldn't
>either.  They all considered it a commercial truck.  I finally found one
>company that would and it didn't cost too much.
>Then, the county inspected my property since a nosey neighbor complained...
>Guess what, not allowed to park a "commercial" vehicle on residential
>property.  Told me I had 30 days to get rid of or park the truck elsewhere.
>Just my experiences with medium duty trucks.

A counterpoint, here's my experience with a MD truck.  I have a GMC/Izuzu medium duty
cube van ( Yeah I know one photo is
screwed up.  I upgraded to FrontPage 3.0 and that screwed up a lot of things.  I
missed that one.) that I now use as a big enclosed pickup truck and may built into a
motorhome.  I have a non-commercial tag on the thing ($24/yr vs over $300 for the
commercial one), have non-commercial insurance through USAA and am not subject to
trucking regulations (no scales, etc.). As far as both the feds and the state of TN
is concerned, this is a personal vehicle.

USAA has it insured as a recreational vehicle - what it actually is.  When it still
WAS commercial, used at my old restaurant, commercial vehicle insurance ran about
$800/yr.  I inquired before I found out that I could license and insure it as a
personal vehicle, and found out that the restaurant duty ran the rate up.  Apparently
insurance companies hate the risks that come with restaurants.  I can understand
that, just trying to imagine one of my cretin employees driving the thing.

Anyway, if I'd insured it as a commercial vehicle but not associated with any
business, the rate would have been between $500 and $600/yr, depending on annual

Per federal law, what a vehicle is classified as depends on its use.  I've confirmed
this in writing from the DOT and in conversation with the TN Dept of Safety
Commissioner and his chief of enforcement.  In both cases, I asked what the
regulations were concerning using a formerly commercial vehicle as a
personal/recreational vehicle.  The state people, in particular, emphasized the
use-based classification.  The enforcement guy said something to the effect, "if you
want to use a semi truck and a 53 ft trailer as an RV, go for it.  It's classified as
a personal vehicle."

I asked about bypassing the weigh scales.  I was told by both the feds and the state
guys that no commercial regulations apply if the truck is not engaged in commerce and
therefore I did not have to visit the coops.  Per the state enforcement guy's
suggestion, I have had some magnetic signs made up for the doors that say
"Non-Commercial Recreational Vehicle."  I slap them on when I'm driving on the
interstate so that the coop cops can see them and not come chasing after me when I
bypass the scale.

JEB, I suspect that in your experience, the USAA's response might have been based on
a) a misunderstanding (I have that with them occasionally) and perhaps the difference
between a "motorhome" and a tow truck, and b) the county inspector was simply wrong -
not unusual for peckerheads of that ilk - a lot of times they seem to ignore the law
at first blush just to BE peckerheads.  If you'd pushed it, I think that the
supremacy of federal law would have prevailed.

When I was driving a semi earlier in the year, I talked to a fellow driver who was an
O/O and was leased to my company.  He was retiring and intended to remove one axle
from his truck, chop the frame and tow a 5th wheel with it.  I asked him about
insurance.  He said that he'd inquired with USAA and that they'd insure the converted
rig.  I'm not sure but I believe that he lives in KY.

JEB, I'm not posting to dispute your experience, simply to offer another point of
reference and to point out how hugely important it is to do one's own research and be
persistent.  Get it in writing and record telephone conversations.  Cops are
notoriously ignorant of the law so it's important to have documentation.  If the
state guys I talked with in person (video recorded) had been at all wishy-washy, I
was going to request a formal opinion from the state's attorney general.  Most judges
and cops consider a formal opinion to have the force of law, at least at first blush.


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