Can I drive a wide-body RV on a two-lane road?

by the editor of Two-Lane Roads magazine, Loren Eyrich

Suppose I told you that there are thousands of drivers on America's highways, driving trucks which exceed the legal width in the states where they drive, and they are not even aware of it? Suppose I told you that as many as 64% of these vehicles are overloaded by the owner so as to exceed the weight recommendation of the chassis manufacturer*, and yet these drivers are not required to stop at weigh stations? What if I told you these drivers do not even hold a commercial driver's license? What if I told you a high percentage of them are over 65 years old? Would be outraged? Let’s get Dateline NBC to do a report on this!


What if I told you this group of drivers are RVers? Would your attitude change? "Hold your horses, Loren, now it’s OK to pick on truck drivers, but not RVers!"

Can I drive a wide-body on two-lane roads? I get this question a dozen times at every RV show and RV seminar. The RV salesman will tell you, "They are legal in all 50 states." And he's not fibbing; he's just not giving you the complete answer. Maybe it's because you haven't asked the correct question. What you as a potential RV buyer should be asking is, "Can I lawfully and safely drive a 102-inch wide vehicle on every highway in every state in which I might ever travel?" What may seem like a simple question, has a complex answer.

*According to A'Weigh We Go, some 64% of recreational vehicles voluntarily weighed, exceeded the maximum weight recommended by the chassis and tire manufacturers. For more information, contact:    
A-Weigh-We-Go,   211 Mae McKee Road, Chuckey, TN 37641. (423)257-7985. 
This article is intended to make RVers aware of the fact that laws vary between states, and that there may be places where it is unlawful to operate a wide-body RV. It should not be relied upon as a comprehensive legal advisory. Laws change periodically. Always check with authorities in the states where you will be driving.
Visit this website for a quick reference to height and width limits listed by state.
Or this site to find the Department of  Transportation website in various states.

What is a wide body?

Not so long ago in simpler days, the maximum width for all vehicles on all roads in the USA was 8 feet (96 inches.) If a truck was hauling a load wider than that, it required a special permit, and sometimes an escort vehicle. Then a few years ago the federal government passed a law mandating the maximum width for all vehicles on Interstate highways at 8.5 feet (102 inches.) Gradually, states began to "designate" certain other roads as legal for 102-inch vehicles, until today nearly all states permit them on at least some of their four-lane and even two-lane roads. The trucking industry saw this as an opportunity to haul bigger loads in wider trucks. According to Utility, a major truck trailer manufacturer, orders for new 102-inch wide truck trailers now account for over 90% of their business. Buses, even local transit buses and school buses, are now being built on the 102-inch platform.

The RV industry, too, jumped in with both feet. At first, a few began showing up at RV shows, and when they did, they came with considerable fanfare with huge banners advertising: "New Wide Body!" The extra width makes for some really interesting floor plans, including forward-facing couches giving passengers in a motorhome a view of the road through the windshield. If you were to visit an RV show today you might have trouble finding a 96-inch wide unit, even if you wanted one. I would bet that 90% of people buying an RV (or renting one) don’t even know how wide it is, and they never question which roads they can or cannot drive.

The federal law only governs Interstate highways, but also mandates that wide vehicles must have "reasonable access" to the Interstate highways. That means that it is legal to exit the Interstate highways, and drive on local roads for a mile or two. In Maryland, it's not to exceed one mile, by the shortest distance possible. In Louisiana, a 102-wide vehicle has "reasonable access, not to exceed ten (10) miles, from designated highways or the Interstate System, to be allowed to facilities for food, fuel, repairs, and rest, unless otherwise prohibited."

But what if you wanted to drive your 102-inch wide rig from coast to coast on US 30 or US 50? In many of the states along the way, it may or may not be legal, depending on the width of the pavement.