Traffic Safety Tips: Weight Fees Can’t Wait!

If you bought a pickup truck, then you need to pay for a pickup truck.  Part of owning a pickup truck is registering it as a pickup truck.  First let’s clarify what a pickup truck is.  A “pickup truck” is a motor truck with a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating of less than 11,500 pounds, an unladen weight of less than 8,001 pounds, and which is equipped with an open box-type bed not exceeding 9 feet in length.

So what’s the big deal?  The deal, is that unless you have a camper or camper shell permanently mounted on the truck, you need to pay weight fees and the vehicle to be registered with commercial plates.  Just to throw on a camper shell to take off when ever you have to haul a load to the dump or move a friend’s dresser, does not exempt you from registering the vehicle and paying weight fees.

The fact that you are never going to haul anything in the bed of that truck, does not make it not a pickup truck.  The vehicle code is very specific regarding this; In addition to any other registration fee, there shall be paid the fees set forth in this section for the registration of any commercial motor vehicle that operates with unladen weight. Weight fees for pickup trucks are calculated under this section. Whenever a camper is temporarily attached to a motorvehicle designed to transport property, the motor vehicle shall be subject to the fees imposed by this section. The camper shall be deemed to be a load, and fees imposed by this section upon the motor vehicle shall be based upon the unladen weight of the motor vehicle, exclusive of the camper.

Here in California passenger vehicle plates are comprised of a number, three alpha characters and three more number (7 ABC 123).  Commercial plates are comprised of a number, an alpha character and then five numbers (7 A 12345).  If is very simple for an officer to determine several things regarding a vehicle by the license plate affixed to it.  If a pickup truck has a passenger vehicle plate on it, odds are very good that weight fees were not paid and there is a violation.  If you happen to have environmental plates, commonly referred to as vanity plates, ILUVCHP, on your pickup truck, the officer would have to run a check to establish if weight fees were due.  There are dozens of different kinds of license plates issued in California, but for the most part, commercial plates are distinct.

So once again, what is the big deal?  Funds!  Weight fees are all part of the registration process and specific vehicles, whether you use that vehicle as it was designed to be used or not, are required to have these fees paid.

In the event you decide to modify your pickup truck by adding additional axles, changing the bed or frame structure, like anything else there are guidelines for this.

Alterations or additions to registered vehicles for which fees have been paid placing the vehicles in weight fee classifications greater than the weight fees previously paid shall be reported to the department and at the same time the difference between the weight fee previously paid, reduced as provided in Section 9407, and the greater weight fee, reduced as provided in Section 9407, shall be paid to the department upon the operation of the vehicles in the greater weight fee classification..

There are numerous times that an officer may observe what he believes to be a violation, such as the failure to pay weight fees when he sees a pickup truck with passenger vehicle plates.  It is not uncommon for the officer to record the plate number, a brief description of the vehicle and location, time and date and upon returning to the office at the end of his shift to verify the plate information.  If in fact there is a violation, the officer will write out a citation and have it mailed to the owner of the vehicle.  This holds true for other violations, such as unlawfully tinted side windows or expired registration.  The vehicle code states: It is unlawful for the owner, or any other person, employing or otherwise directing the driver of any vehicle to cause the operation of the vehicle upon a highway in any manner contrary to law.

(b) It is unlawful for an owner to request, cause, or permit the operation of any vehicle that is any of the following:

(1) Not registered or for which any fee has not been paid under this code.

(2) Not equipped as required in this code.

These citations are referred to as “Owner Responsibility” citations.  So if you go to the mail box and one of these is waiting for you, this is the reason why.  Generally in most cases they are issued as a proof of correction violation with a small administrative court fee as long as the violation is corrected.  It really did not matter who was driving the vehicle at the time, the owner is responsible for the vehicle when it comes to these types of violations.

I look back at everything I have discussed in this column and I feel bad that there is so much of ‘you must do this and you can not do that’.  This is a good time for that old adage of ‘don’t shoot the messenger’.  Keep in mind that all that I personally ask that you do is go out and enjoy the ride.

Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and Public Information Officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s Public Information Officer. He lives in Redding. More information on AVOID can be found here.

Monty Hight
Monty Hight is a retired California Highway Patrol officer and public information officer. He is the North State AVOID Campaign’s spokesman. He lives in Redding.
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1 Response

  1. Avatar Jeff G says:

    Just a heads up: In 2011 the dmv updated its policy regarding converting a pickup truck's registration to PM. A permanately attached camper shell no longer suffices, even with the inclution of bedding & cooking items that previously fulfilled the "human habitation" requirement. Now your camper "shell" must also include a toilet & sink (I personally verified this at 2 separate dmv's when attempting & ultimately abandoning the PM verification process on my Tundra).

    link: http://apps.dmv.ca.gov/vehindustry/vin_memos/vin2