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Old 07-16-2003, 03:04 PM   #1
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ORANGE COUNTY
Judge Rules Jumbo RV Is a Big Rig
Court supports DMV's contention that the specially appointed rig is a commercial vehicle. Now the owner is weighing his options.


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By David Reyes, LA Times Staff Writer


Angelo "Chuck" Emanuele's dream of carefree highway motoring in his jumbo RV hit a bump in the road Tuesday when a judge sided with the DMV and ruled his 57-foot rig is, in fact, a commercial vehicle.

Superior Court Judge David A. Thompson's ruling means that Emanuele " along with his wife and two children " must pull in at weigh stations along with big-rig drivers and cross-country haulers.

The Orange resident must also carry a commercial driver's license, keep an updated log and carry a medical release. Emanuele was disappointed but has not decided whether to appeal the ruling.

The media attention he has received resulted in support from "dozens and dozens" of people with similar large, fifth-wheel RV rigs who are fighting the DMV over the classification of their vehicles. He said several sympathizers have urged him to file a class-action lawsuit against the agency.

"I feel very strongly about this," Emanuele said. "We know there are a lot of people in similar situations, people who have large, similar vehicles and who have been forced recently by the DMV to register their RVs as commercial vehicles."

Emanuele said while an appeal would allow him to present evidence, including witnesses, to argue the case on its merits, he hasn't decided on a course of action.

Emanuele's rig is a large truck-tractor that tows a 40-foot recreational trailer. He bought it from a recreational vehicle manufacturer that had altered its weight, suspension and hitch before appointing it with bed, toilet, shower, refrigerator and air conditioning.

The DMV argued the alterations "were incidental" and didn't change the vehicle's primary design to tow trailers. Additional rules regarding commercial vehicles must be applied for such a large vehicle because of public safety, the DMV said.

Armando Botello, a DMV spokesman, said the agency's attorneys have not reviewed the decision, but that "we feel that the judge is correct in his interpretation of the law."

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99 Volvo VNL64T/610 Motorhome
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Old 07-16-2003, 05:09 PM   #2
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Preaching to the choir here, but the confusion in the government folks still exists. If you DO hit the scales, they look at you like you are nuts for being there and wave you on. And depending on which Highway Officer you talk with, you get different stories.

I have zero problem with following the laws if the laws were clear enough and consistent enough for everyone to follow. The same ruling should apply to the bus conversions and the huge motorhomes, not just the folks trying to do a better and SAFER job of hauling their trailers.

Require a CDL for our rigs but make the air-braked, 50 foot motorhomes do the same.
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Old 07-17-2003, 06:49 PM   #3
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Just one more reason I won't live in commie Kali.
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Old 07-18-2003, 05:01 AM   #4
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Hey Patrick: California is not the only place with that issue. Arizona won't allow the MH registration to happen, I've tried (oh boy, did I try). And Arizona is not exactly a liberal state!
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Old 07-18-2003, 05:43 AM   #5
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Being a current law student, I read these posts with great interest. I would like to read the actual case but since it's at the trial court level it's very unlikely it will be published. There may not even be a record if Mr Emanuele did not pay for a court reporter or make arrangements for audio recording. On a positive note, because it is at the trial court level it does not set precedent. A different trial judge may rule another way and unless he or she read the times article, would likely be unaware of the ruling. Only the Ca. Court of Appeal and the Ca. Supreme Court can set precedent.

It is unlikely Mr Emanuele will be able to file or be involved in a class action lawsuit unless he can come up with a new cause of action since his case has already been decided. He may be successful if he appeals based on the trial Judge's possible misinterpretation of the law. Mr Emanuele's attorney asserts that the DMV has conflicting codes regarding motor homes. I don't know if this is so since they are not available to the general public (he can obtain them through discovery since he represents a party to the lawsuit). However, that may be irrelevant since the DMV's codes/policies are not binding law unless a judge uses one as a guideline and says it is. At the trial court level it would only be binding in that particular case and can be set aside by a higher court. Binding law comes from statutes and sometimes from regulations if the agency writing the regulation has been specifically authorized by statute to do so (not always the case), and even those may be open to some judicial interpretation depending on how specific they are. The only statute that specifically addresses RV registration is Ca.VC 362 which only states that , "A 'house car' is a motor vehicle originally designed, or permanently altered, and equipped for human habitation, or to which a camper has been permanently attached. . . A house car shall not be deemed to be a motortruck." What constitutes "human habitation" is not defined and it says nothing about size or trailer towing ability. I did a thorough search in the law library where I work and there is no corresponding regulation or any case law. Therefore, a precise definition by the appellate or Supreme Court or by new legislation is still pending and in the meantime trial court decisions will likely be inconsistent.

The DMV claims that, "Additional rules regarding commercial vehicles must be applied for such a large vehicle because of public safety . . ." However, they rely on the assertion that, "It is a truck tractor because its primary design is to tow trailers. The living quarters are incidental to the primary design of towing a trailer . . ." The first line comes from Ca.VC 655(a). The provisions in Ca.VC 362 are intended to be an exception to this and nothing in the statutes supports the DMV contention that living quarters are incidental. That is their own spin. It appears that the ability to tow a trailer is the real sticking point with the DMV, probably out of some misplaced fear that it can and will be used for commercial purposes without giving the state its proper fees (it always comes down to money). I feel strongly that the DMV is not hassling owners with motorhome conversions like Bill's (Warpath) which do not have a 5th wheel. If so, that certainly belies their contention that it is a safety issue based on the vehicle's size (and we all know there are conventional diesel pusher RVs that are very large, but they look like a RV so I guess that placates the DMV). i.e., RV haulers are targeted because they look like commercial tractors. It seems obvious from the legislative notes that the legislative intent was for California citizens to own and enjoy RVs without the hassle and expense of commercial registration, especially in light of the far fewer miles RVs drive compared to commercial trucks, which seems to be the reasoning behind Ca.VC 362.

Anyway, I hope Mr Emanuele does take his case to the appellate court so we can get a declaratory judgement that clears this up, although that will take years. If that goes against us, perhaps it will spur the legislature to pass a statute that is more specific and overrules any possible adverse decision by the courts.
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Old 07-22-2003, 08:55 PM   #6
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The article mentions he has all the required facilities on the truck to be classified as a MoHo. Does he have a Toterhome or did he add all that to the original sleeper? Sounds as though this applies only to vehicles with a fifth wheel setup?

IMHO (which doesn't count for much ) their rational is no different than that of a pickup. Virtually all pickups come with a trailer hitch but they all don't end up pulling trailers.
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Old 07-22-2003, 10:35 PM   #7
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So if you lift off the 5th wheel for inspection and drop it back on after inspection....is this a way around this issue?....I'm confused....is it the configuration or the weight or size?....geof
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Old 07-24-2003, 06:53 AM   #8
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I have to agree its probably an issue of money - they can get more if its registered as a commercial vehicle. So the question is what if you already have a title that states its a house car or mototrhome? Shouldn't be an issue I would think.

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Old 07-24-2003, 10:36 AM   #9
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Next question, let's say he goes ahead and gets the required license, will he have to enter weigh stations & keep a log outside of Cali? (Even if those states he is in do not require it) I am not sure what the tax is in Cali, but Ohio the truck plates where in the mid $800 range. Ouch!!

I will be honest, I think the CDL is going to be a requirement in the not to distant future, and will probably encompass RV's with air brakes. Maybe they will make a seperate classification.

It is kinda wrong that someone can jump into a vehicle that others spend months learning about.

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Old 07-24-2003, 12:15 PM   #10
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I think any legislation on CDL's in Ohio for RVs will depend on how many of our legislators have RVs and how many have airbrakes....the more that have big rigs the less likely that any other legislative BS will involve us....just commenting on our current goverment here in Ohio....Now IF there are any tax increases or any NEW taxes that can be added on-I'm sure there will be legislation....but for now I haven't heard any rumblings....only a steering committe forming to discuss age/driving issues....but they have done that many times in the past....geof in Cincinnati
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