If your next home improvement or landscaping project requires the use of a utility trailer, don't let a traffic stop by the South Carolina Highway Patrol ruin what should be a productive and enjoyable day. Know South Carolina's hauling requirements for utility trailers before you get on the road.
As of 2010, the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) charges a $10 registration fee for trailers with an empty weight less than 2500 lbs. The fee for trailers in excess of 2500 lbs. is $20. The fee increases to $30 for trailers up to 4000 lbs. For trailers 4001 lbs. to 5000 lbs., the fee is $40. The fee increases $10 for every 1000 lbs. of trailer weight. For example, a trailer weighing between 8001 lbs. and 9000 lbs. has a $90 fee. A list of fees by trailer weight is available on the SCDMV website (see Resources). Permanent trailer license plates cost $87.
The South Carolina Code of Laws, Section 56-5-240, defines a trailer as a vehicle "with or without motive power, other than a pole trailer, designed for carrying persons or property and for being drawn by a motor vehicle and so constructed that no part of its weight rests upon the towing vehicle." Utility trailers have specific requirements in addition to traffic safety regulations required of all motor vehicles. Reflective tape is required on the sides and rear, and the tape must be visible from 500 feet away, according to Section 56-5-4580. Section 56-5-4580 also states that the trailer must be equipped with brake lights if it obscures the view of the tow vehicle's signals. The trailer must have its own taillights, brake lights and turn signals if used at night or at any time that lights are required, according to Section 56-5-4470.
Motorists are often stopped and ticketed for having loads that are not secured properly. When you are hauling rock, gravel, stone or other substances that can blow, leak, sift or drop, securely cover your load with tarpaulin or some other suitable material. Any load (lawn mowers, bicycles, building materials) must be securely fastened to prevent such covering or load from becoming loose, detached or in any manner a hazard to other users of the highway, according to Section 56-5-4110 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. It also is unlawful to transport a person under age 15 in the open bed or open cargo area of a pickup truck or trailer, according to Section 56-5-3900. The highway patrol may stop anyone they deem to be operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner.