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What Are the Trailer Light Requirements?

Safety is the top priority when you are pulling your large trailer on the road. Visibility and trailer lights are the most critical factors in making sure that other drivers can see your vehicle. You need to understand the trailer light requirements when replacing a single trailer light bulb, lens cover or set of lights.

No matter what lighting product you buy, it should always comply with the US government’s trailer lighting requirements. The trailer lighting regulations and standards created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) help keep your trailer visible with the safest lights.

These trailer lighting regulations include the light location, how many lights your trailer needs, the required performance standards and manufacturer labeling.

All trailers must have tail lights, turn signals, reflectors and stop lights. If your trailer is wider than 80 inches or longer than 30 feet, it will need additional reflectors and lights. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) also plays a factor. If the GVWR is above 10,000 pounds, it will need conspicuity treatments, including the use of reflector tape to make the vehicle more visible.

If you are unsure what your trailer’s GVWR is, you can find it on the trailer’s frame or tongue. There will be a label that communicates the following information to help you meet the correct trailer lighting requirements:

  • The trailer is less than 80 inches wide and less than 30 feet long.
  • The trailer is more than 80 inches wide, less than 30 feet long and the GVWR is over 10,000 pounds.
  • The trailer is more than 80 inches wide, more than 30 feet long and the GVWR is over 10,000 pounds.
  • The trailer is 30 feet or longer (width and GVWR does no matter in this case).

Boat Trailer Light Requirements

There are a few key factors to consider as you buy boat trailer lights. The first portion involves the legal requirements, and the second relates to boat trailer light alternatives.

Boat trailer light requirements break the trailer into two categories: boat trailers more than 80 inches wide and those less than 80 inches wide. Additional lighting is needed for trailers over 30 feet long, not considering width.

Trailer Lighting Requirements (Less Than 80”)

Here is a quick breakdown of the different trailer lights required, their function and their position:

  • Taillights (minimum of two lights required) - indicate your vehicle’s width and presence, and you place them symmetrically on the rear, far apart from each other.
  • Stoplights (minimum of two lights required) - tell other drivers when you brake, placed symmetrically on the rear, as far apart as possible.
  • Turn signals (minimum of two yellow or red lights) - indicate when the vehicle is turning, and the lights are positioned symmetrically on the rear.
  • Rear side marker light (minimum of two red lights) - show the vehicle’s width and presence, placed on each rear side, as far back as possible.
  • Rear reflex reflectors (minimum of two red reflectors) - outline the vehicle’s width and presence, placed on the rear symmetrically while facing the rear.
  • Rear side reflex reflectors (minimum of two red reflectors) - show the vehicle’s width and presence and sit as far back as possible on each side of the rear, facing to the side.
  • Front side marker lamps (minimum of two yellow lights) - outline the vehicle’s width and presence, and they sit on each front side as far forward as possible.
  • Front side reflex reflectors (minimum of two yellow reflectors) - show the vehicle’s width and presence, sit on each front side, and face as far forward as possible.
  • License plate lamp (minimum of one white light) - shines a light on the license plate, and it sits on the sides or top of the license plate.

Trailer Lighting Requirements (More Than 80”)

The trailer lighting requirements for those above 80 feet are slightly different, so here is what you need to know:

  • Rear clearance lamp (minimum of two red lamps) - outline your vehicle’s width and cannot mix up with tail lamps, and they are positioned symmetrically at the widest point on the rear.
  • Rear identification lamps (three lights exactly) - show that a wide vehicle is present, placed on the center rear, facing toward the rear, spaced horizontally 6-12 inches apart.
  • Front clearance lamps (minimum of two yellow lamps) - show the width of your vehicle, and they are placed symmetrically at the widest points, facing forward.

When Are Lights Required to Be Installed on a Trailer?

Lights are always required to be installed on a trailer before you hit the road. Because of the larger momentum that gooseneck and boat trailers carry, the illumination must always work correctly. These safety precautions include the right type of lights, as well as their positioning and functionality.

As soon as you hit the road, all trailers must have reflex reflectors, taillights, brake lights and turn signals. All these lights need to be red, except for the turn signals for the rear, which can be yellow or red. Each trailer should also have a license plate lamp mounted above or beside the plate before the vehicle gets on the open road.

Trailer Light Laws

Trailer lighting must adhere to performance standards set by the US Department of Transportation. These regulations outline what colors the lights should be, the testing requirements, how they need to perform and how they should be labeled. Traffic light laws require the following information on reflectors, lights and reflective tape:

  • SAE – indicates that the lens was rated by the Society of Automotive Engineers’ standards
  • DOT – shows that the device meets the requirements set by the US Department of Transportation
  • Year the light was manufactured
  • Manufacturer identification number
  • Codes that represent the functions performed

Follow Trailer Light Requirements with the Help of Husky Trailer & Parts Co.

Ensure your trailer is up to code with the right trailer lighting from Husky Trailer. We offer a diverse selection of lighting and accessories to help illuminate your trailer when you take to the road so you can follow the appropriate trailer light requirements. From standard lighting and bulbs to hardware accessories and brackets, you’ll find it all at Husky Trailer & Parts Co.

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