Rules Of The Road For Mini-Trucks: How Your State Laws Impact You

Rules Of The Road For Mini-Trucks: How Your State Laws Impact You

All right, you’ve done your homework and discovered the outlandish pricing of ATVs and side-by-side utility vehicles (UTVs) . . . and after comparing the features to a mini truck–and the overall value–you’ve decided that a mini truck is the workhorse for you.

A good choice, by the way…

But where do you go from here?

How do state regulations (and federal laws) impact your choice in a mini truck?

What about safety and insurance?

First of all, let’s face facts: Regulations affecting a mini truck can seem daunting . . . licensing, importing, taxation, vehicle inspection, DOT safety specs, EPA emissions standards, insurance, registration, etc.

 It’s quite a list…

 But in spite of this, when you’re armed with the right information, it’s actually a fairly simple and painless process to get your mini truck up to snuff.

 Fortunately, importer/dealers usually handle the nitty-gritty of import regulations for you, and can guide you along the path to getting your mini truck properly registered with minimum hassle, and can even help you find one that’s right for you.

 That said, it’s worth the time to learn the basics of regulations involving mini trucks, along with a quick background on how they came into being.

 Through the lobbying efforts of major automobile manufacturers, Congress has passed laws over the past decade or so that regulate mini truck imports with respect to DOT and EPA compliance. It’s a slick way for traditional truck manufacturers to try to limit competition in the US.

 But have no fear . . . exemptions are here.

state-laws-for-mini-trucks

Mini trucks that are 21 years or older are exempt from EPA restrictions, and those older than 25 years are exempt from DOT regulations. This is the main reason why many of the mini trucks in use in the United States today are 25 years old, or more.

But don’t let that deter you…

Because of their stellar track record of dependability, older model mini trucks are often still in their prime.

Built by powerhouse automakers like Toyota (Daihatsu), Honda, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki, and Mitsubishi, they’re designed to run for well over 200,000 miles.

Newer model mini trucks, or Japanese “Kei-trucks,” are also sold in the US, of course. Like all mini trucks, they’re classified as off-road vehicles, and newer models typically come equipped with speed limiters in order to meet DOT and EPA specifications. So if you have your eye on a newer model mini truck, be sure it meets the speed allowances of your state’s specific regulations. (See state list below). 

Needless to say, it’s not as much fun to top out at 25 mph when the engine is built to go 65…

(For more details see Federal Register 73 FR 59053).

As “off-road” vehicles, mini trucks are legal to drive in all 50 states on most unpaved roads, in rural areas, and on private property. Some states allow on-road use as well, such as in Maine, where they can be registered as “low-speed vehicles” and can legally travel on public roads with a posted speed of 35 mph or lower. 

Below is a list of state-by-state regulations taken from the Insurance Instituted for Highway Safety (IIHS). Their site has a handy map you can check out as well.

These 21 states allow mini trucks to drive on public roads (some restrictions):

 

Alabama                    25 mph speed restriction; not allowed on interstate highways

Arkansas                    55 mph speed restriction; not allowed on interstate highways

California                  No speed restriction; allowed in certain specified areas

Florida                       35 mph speed restriction

Idaho                         No speed restriction; access per Idaho Transportation Board

Illinois                       Under 35 mph speed restriction

Indiana                      No speed restriction; any public road except interstate highways

Kansas                       No speed restriction; not allowed on interstate highways

Kentucky                   No speed restriction; local ordinances apply to specific roads

Louisiana                  55 mph speed restriction; no interstate or multi-lane highway use

Maine                         35 mph speed restriction

Minnesota                 speed and access restrictions applied via local ordinances

Missouri                    45 mph speed restriction; local ordinances

Nebraska                   No speed restriction; no access on interstate highways

New Hampshire       35 mph speed restriction; use within 25 miles of residence

North Dakota            55 mph speed restriction; no access to roads over 65 mph

Ohio                           35 mph speed restriction

Oklahoma                 No speed restriction; not allowed on interstate highways

Tennessee                 35 mph speed restriction; local ordinances apply

Utah                           50 mph speed restriction; no access on interstate highways

Wyoming                   No speed restriction; no access on interstate highways

All other states not listed above have no specific laws governing the use of mini trucks on public roads, but most of these states allow “limited” or “incidental” use of mini trucks on public highways. It’s a good idea to contact your state public transportation department and find out what those limitations are for a mini truck.

Nowadays, you see mini trucks pretty much everywhere . . . hauling goods on farms to market, or at government buildings, golf course maintenance, airports, or even movie sets! Some are fully licensed and tagged, while others are strictly for off-road use. Your specific business and recreation uses will determine what registration and licensing you will need, depending on which state you reside in. 

drive mini truck freeway

There’s an important point about safety that you should be aware of when buying a mini truck or other UTV. Namely, mini trucks are constructed lighter than traditional trucks, and are not as “crash-durable.” And because Japanese models of mini trucks have a right-hand-side steering wheel (which can take some getting used to) they have a higher crash rate (statistically) than left-hand driven trucks.

One way to lower this risk is to get a Chinese-made mini truck, which has the steering wheel on the left side of the cab. But the issue of lighter construction and safety is the same as with Japanese mini trucks. Whichever way you go, it makes sense to take all factors of safety and performance into consideration when choosing your mini truck. 

As far as insurance goes, dealer/importers commonly suggest Geico, which should be able to insure your mini truck for around $40 per month. (Depending of course on how wild your driving record is…)

In summary, you’re better off buying a mini truck through a dealer/importer and letting them handle the “paperwork nightmare” of import regulatory compliance. Unless, that is, you don’t mind the headache and risk of importing a mini truck for yourself directly from Japan.

 

Rules Of The Road For Mini-Trucks: How Your State Laws Impact You

All right, you’ve done your homework and discovered the outlandish pricing of ATVs and side-by-side utility vehicles (UTVs) . . . and after comparing the features to a mini truck–and the overall value–you’ve decided that a mini truck is the workhorse for you.

A good choice, by the way…

But where do you go from here?

How do state regulations (and federal laws) impact your choice in a mini truck?

What about safety and insurance?

First of all, let’s face facts: Regulations affecting a mini truck can seem daunting . . . licensing, importing, taxation, vehicle inspection, DOT safety specs, EPA emissions standards, insurance, registration, etc.

 It’s quite a list…

 But in spite of this, when you’re armed with the right information, it’s actually a fairly simple and painless process to get your mini truck up to snuff.

 Fortunately, importer/dealers usually handle the nitty-gritty of import regulations for you, and can guide you along the path to getting your mini truck properly registered with minimum hassle, and can even help you find one that’s right for you.

 That said, it’s worth the time to learn the basics of regulations involving mini trucks, along with a quick background on how they came into being.

 Through the lobbying efforts of major automobile manufacturers, Congress has passed laws over the past decade or so that regulate mini truck imports with respect to DOT and EPA compliance. It’s a slick way for traditional truck manufacturers to try to limit competition in the US.

 But have no fear . . . exemptions are here.

state-laws-for-mini-trucks

Mini trucks that are 21 years or older are exempt from EPA restrictions, and those older than 25 years are exempt from DOT regulations. This is the main reason why many of the mini trucks in use in the United States today are 25 years old, or more.

But don’t let that deter you…

Because of their stellar track record of dependability, older model mini trucks are often still in their prime.

Built by powerhouse automakers like Toyota (Daihatsu), Honda, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki, and Mitsubishi, they’re designed to run for well over 200,000 miles.

Newer model mini trucks, or Japanese “Kei-trucks,” are also sold in the US, of course. Like all mini trucks, they’re classified as off-road vehicles, and newer models typically come equipped with speed limiters in order to meet DOT and EPA specifications. So if you have your eye on a newer model mini truck, be sure it meets the speed allowances of your state’s specific regulations. (See state list below). 

Needless to say, it’s not as much fun to top out at 25 mph when the engine is built to go 65…

(For more details see Federal Register 73 FR 59053).

As “off-road” vehicles, mini trucks are legal to drive in all 50 states on most unpaved roads, in rural areas, and on private property. Some states allow on-road use as well, such as in Maine, where they can be registered as “low-speed vehicles” and can legally travel on public roads with a posted speed of 35 mph or lower. 

Below is a list of state-by-state regulations taken from the Insurance Instituted for Highway Safety (IIHS). Their site has a handy map you can check out as well.

These 21 states allow mini trucks to drive on public roads (some restrictions):

 

Alabama                    25 mph speed restriction; not allowed on interstate highways

Arkansas                    55 mph speed restriction; not allowed on interstate highways

California                  No speed restriction; allowed in certain specified areas

Florida                       35 mph speed restriction

Idaho                         No speed restriction; access per Idaho Transportation Board

Illinois                       Under 35 mph speed restriction

Indiana                      No speed restriction; any public road except interstate highways

Kansas                       No speed restriction; not allowed on interstate highways

Kentucky                   No speed restriction; local ordinances apply to specific roads

Louisiana                  55 mph speed restriction; no interstate or multi-lane highway use

Maine                         35 mph speed restriction

Minnesota                 speed and access restrictions applied via local ordinances

Missouri                    45 mph speed restriction; local ordinances

Nebraska                   No speed restriction; no access on interstate highways

New Hampshire       35 mph speed restriction; use within 25 miles of residence

North Dakota            55 mph speed restriction; no access to roads over 65 mph

Ohio                           35 mph speed restriction

Oklahoma                 No speed restriction; not allowed on interstate highways

Tennessee                 35 mph speed restriction; local ordinances apply

Utah                           50 mph speed restriction; no access on interstate highways

Wyoming                   No speed restriction; no access on interstate highways

All other states not listed above have no specific laws governing the use of mini trucks on public roads, but most of these states allow “limited” or “incidental” use of mini trucks on public highways. It’s a good idea to contact your state public transportation department and find out what those limitations are for a mini truck.

Nowadays, you see mini trucks pretty much everywhere . . . hauling goods on farms to market, or at government buildings, golf course maintenance, airports, or even movie sets! Some are fully licensed and tagged, while others are strictly for off-road use. Your specific business and recreation uses will determine what registration and licensing you will need, depending on which state you reside in. 

drive mini truck freeway

There’s an important point about safety that you should be aware of when buying a mini truck or other UTV. Namely, mini trucks are constructed lighter than traditional trucks, and are not as “crash-durable.” And because Japanese models of mini trucks have a right-hand-side steering wheel (which can take some getting used to) they have a higher crash rate (statistically) than left-hand driven trucks.

One way to lower this risk is to get a Chinese-made mini truck, which has the steering wheel on the left side of the cab. But the issue of lighter construction and safety is the same as with Japanese mini trucks. Whichever way you go, it makes sense to take all factors of safety and performance into consideration when choosing your mini truck. 

As far as insurance goes, dealer/importers commonly suggest Geico, which should be able to insure your mini truck for around $40 per month. (Depending of course on how wild your driving record is…)

In summary, you’re better off buying a mini truck through a dealer/importer and letting them handle the “paperwork nightmare” of import regulatory compliance. Unless, that is, you don’t mind the headache and risk of importing a mini truck for yourself directly from Japan.

 

Like this article?



Share on facebook


Share on Facebook



Share on twitter


Share on Twitter



Share on linkedin


Share on Linkdin



Share on pinterest


Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment

Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment