Generally, a trailer operated on Pennsylvania roads is required to be registered. However, a trailer can be exempt from registration if the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) determines that the trailer is used exclusively for agricultural purposes and only operated within 25 miles of a farm operated by the owner of the trailer, as stated in section 1302 of Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Code.
The Department has determined by regulation that farm wagons, field equipment (choppers, disc harrows, cultivators, balers and the like) and vehicles designed to haul and apply fertilizers and insecticides during daylight hours and not operated more than 25 miles per hour are exclusively used in agriculture (PaDOTRegs § 11.2). 

Because trailers have the potential to be used for both agricultural and non-agricultural operations, law enforcement officers are often reluctant to recognize this exemption from registration, even when the trailer is being used for agricultural purposes at the time the officer stops the vehicle. Therefore, if you feel that a trailer you own would qualify for this exemption, send a letter to PennDOT requesting specific declaration that your trailer is exempt from registration because it is used exclusively for agricultural purposes.
Send your letters to:

  Anita Wasko, Director
  Bureau of Motor Vehicles
  1101 South Front Street, 4th Floor
  Harrisburg, PA 17104-2516

In your letter, include the following information:

1.    Your name, address, and phone number
2.    Make and model of trailer
3.    Trailer’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
4.    Photo of trailer
5.    Description of your use of the trailer
6.    Request that this trailer be exempted from registration requirements under 75 Pa. C.S.A. Section 1302(2)
Farm trailers exempt from registration may only be operated on:
• Roads that adjoin the trailer owner’s farm (PVC § 1302(2)(i));
• Roads between the trailer owner’s farms located not more than 25 miles apart (PVC § 1302(2)(ii)); or
• Roads between the trailer owner’s farm and a place of business within a radius of 25-miles of the farm for the purpose of buying or selling agricultural commodities or supplies or for the purpose of repairing or servicing the trailer (PVC § 1302(2)(iii)).

The Vehicle Code also exempts from registration any trailer to be used primarily for off-highway use and only operated incidentally upon the highway (PVC § 1302(11)).
In all other situations, the trailer must be registered annually.  The registration fee for trailers is $6 for trailers registered at 3,000 pounds gross weight or less, $12 for trailers registered between 3,001 and 10,000 pounds gross weight, and $27 for trailers registered at greater than 10,000 pounds gross weight (PVC § 1920)(a))  Owners of trailers registered at 10,000 pounds or less may obtain a 5-year registration for the trailer at 5 times the annual fee (PVC § 1920(b)).  Owners of trailers registered at greater10,000 pounds may obtain a permanent registration for the trailer at a fee of $135 (PVC § 1920(c)).

If the trailer is required to be registered, the trailer is also required to be periodically inspected and have a valid inspection sticker (PVC § 4703(a)).  An exemption from periodic inspection is provided to trailers with a registered gross weight of 3,000 pounds or less (PVC § 4703(b)(5)).

Trailers towed by vehicles other than implements of husbandry must have rear lighting, if the trailer or the trailer’s load obstructs the rear lights of the towing vehicle (PVC § 4905(e))  Required lighting would include rear lights and reflectors, brake lights, turn signals and hazard warning lights that meet the standards established in the Department of Transportation regulations (PVC §§ 4303(b) and (c)).

If the trailer is connected to a ball-and-socket hitch or a pintle hook without a locking device, two safety chains must also be used to link the trailer with the towing vehicle.  The chains must be of equal length, and the chain’s strength must be at least equal to the gross weight of the trailer.  The chains must be connected in a crossed pattern, must be connected in a manner that prevents the tow bar from going to the ground in the event the bar becomes disconnected from the ball or hook and must not have more slack than is necessary to permit proper turning when connected (PVC § 4905(d)).

Trailers over 3,000 pounds gross weight must be equipped with a breakaway system that the trailer will automatically stop in the event it become disconnected from towing vehicle during travel (PVC § 4502(c)).

Although farmers often use trucks to tow farm trailers displaying slow moving vehicle emblems on the rear of the vehicle, such action can easily become a violation of the Vehicle Code, since the Code prohibits a vehicle with a slow moving vehicle emblem from being operated at a speed greater than 25 miles per hour (PVC § 4529(b)).

Additional Information:

Also note that revisions to federal intrastate and interstate driver regulations may impact trailers operated as part of your operation. Please see this page for additional information.

Learn more about truck/combination weight limitations and all size limitations, please click here.