Semi Truck RV Conversion: Can I Pull an RV With a Semi?

It might seem like overkill, but it can be done. You may not have considered using a big rig to tow an RV but many people have and they seem to have a lot of success at doing it. The major issue will be licensing as every state is different on this issue. But you get some great cargo options.

Can I pull an RV with a semi? Yes, you can pull an RV with a semi and there are several things to keep in mind. First, you have to make sure the truck will be able to tow the trailer level. Second, you have to make sure the wiring is compatible and will work properly. Third, and finally, you have to make sure the braking systems can be connected or re-wired.

To learn more about pulling an RV with a semi-truck, just continue to read our article. It has the information you need for you to see if this is a project you want to take on. There are a lot of benefits that come with converting a semi-truck to an RV tow vehicle.

Can I Pull an RV With a Semi?


This is a possibility and many RVers have done just this. The key to the whole operation, on top of what we just mentioned, is the kingpin. Most RV 5th Wheel trailers use a 2-inch kingpin to link up to the 5th wheel.

However, only some semi-trucks use this system. Some use a 3 1/2 inch kingpin link. You would have to make sure that you have the same kingpin design before you can tow a 5th wheel RV

The next important issue you have to make sure works is clearance. When you are turning, you have to make sure that there are at least 4 inches plus half the width of your trailer of clearance between the cab of the truck and the trailer.

Anything less means that you may damage the trailer. For example, if your trailer is 96 inches wide, you would need 48 inches + 4 inches to have enough clearance room. That is just one of the two types of clearance you need to worry about.

The other is called the truck frame/wheels to trailer clearance. This is a lot more difficult to measure as it involves getting two different measurements. The first one is from the center of the 5th wheel and goes to the back corner of your frame or where the wheels sit, whichever is furthest.

The second measurement you need is from the center of the kingpin to the front wall of your trailer that is coming down from the overhang. Once you are done, you need to have the second measurement 5 inches longer than the first one.

For example, if the first measurement comes in at 60 inches, then the second measurement needs to be at 65 inches.

What is the Difference Between Trailers and Semi-trailers?

That is a good question and none of it has to do with the 5th wheel except the kingpin. We mentioned several important aspects you need to be concerned about but none of those aspects reveal the difference between these two types of trailers.

There are some major differences aside from some of the obvious ones you can see with your naked eye:

1. No front axle- a semi-trailer doesn't have a front axle to rest on when not in use. The axles are on the rear portion of the trailer to help support the weight.

2. Size- a standard semi-trailer is usually between 40 to 53 feet long and is about 8 1/2 feet wide by 13 feet high. A 5th wheel may get to 35 to 40 feet in length and not be as high as a semi-trailer. 96 inches may be the average width as well.

3. Weight and hauling- semi-trailers are designed to haul and hold up to 80,000 pounds. The standard 5th wheel may reach 20,000 to 30,000 pounds but that is about it.

4. The obvious difference- regular 5th wheel RV trailers are designed for living and have a lot of amenities placed inside by the manufacturers. Semi-trailers barely have electrical wiring in them and that is usually only for an overhead electric light to help to load in the dark.

5. Design- semi-trailers are designed to handle the cargo they will carry. The regular trailer is designed to provide lots of comfort to its residents. There is no comfort in a semi-trailer.

Can You Use a Semi as an RV?


It is possible and it will depend on the regulations of the state you live in. basic requirements would be that you cannot attach a commercial trailer to the semi once it is registered as an RV. it would be a commercial vehicle and if stopped, you could pay a lot of fines.

Also, to register the semi as an RV, you would need to put a sink, microwave, a toilet inside the sleeper portion of the rig. There may be a few more items you would need to classify your semi as an RV.

As we said, different states have different rules. One may not differentiate between RV trailers and regular semi-trailers. Some people say you cannot have the 5th wheel attached or pull a regular semi-trailer behind the rig if you have registered the vehicle as an RV.

Also, you can’t haul livestock on a lowboy trailer when it is registered as an RV. You can haul your own toys but that is about it. BUT, as we said, you need to check with your individual state to find out all the rules.

It is impossible to put all 50 states' rules in this short little space. One other thing, some people say all you need to put on your rig is a sign saying ‘not for hire’ to qualify as an RV. This is not the case even though some states may have exceptions to this.

Converted Semi-tractors for Towing 5th Wheel Camper

There are a lot of benefits in converting a semi rig into an RV hauling a 5th wheel trailer. We will go through those benefits first:

1. Safety- you have superior braking power, control, and a higher GVWR.

2. No weight limits to worry about- most semi-trucks are made to haul 80,000 pounds of cargo. it is highly doubtful that you will get halfway to that total even if you pack all your toys along.

3. Easy to drive- modern semi-trucks have automatic transmissions now. There is no need to learn how to shift 16 gears or more.

4. Plenty of power- those engines have the power and with the light load, going over mountains is far smoother and faster

5. Quiet interiors- modern manufacturers have built the cabs to be comfortable and quiet

6. Licensing- if registered as an RV, you do not need a CDL BUT double-check with the state you live in.

7. Great fuel economy- around 10+ MPG using diesel fuel. The lighter load means less fuel use

8. Passenger room- with the seats and sleeper space you can fit up to 5 people in the cab with ease

9. Turns are easier- these trucks have a smaller turning radius which means you can make tighter U-turns than you can with a regular RV or pickup truck.

10. Cheaper to buy- a used semi-truck if kept in good shape is cheaper than buying most 1-ton pick-up trucks.

One other benefit, the motors in diesel semi-trucks can easily go over 1,000,000 miles if maintained properly. If you get a used truck that has 500,000 miles on it, you still have 500,000 to go at least.

Converting a Semi-trailer into a Camper

Converting-a-Semi-trailer-int- a-Camper

This will take some work and some money to get done. The good thing is that you will have lots of space to design your converted trailer to fit your lifestyle. While the width of the trailer may be 102 inches approx., you will have 13 feet of upward space to work with.

Not to mention the extra length you get over a regular RV 5th wheel trailer. Some of those trailers can reach up to 53 feet in length. That gives you lots of room for a toy garage at the back.

That is just for the interior and that is a lot of room to fill. However, if you are going to convert the trailer into an RV style, there are exterior issues you have to contend with.

The first will be clearance and we already spoke on that earlier. If it is a regular semi-trailer, then there should not be a problem with clearance but double-check to make sure. But there are other issues where you may need special equipment to make the converted trailer compatible.

Wiring and electrical power will be one of those important issues. You may need a special connector to make sure there are no problems with the electricity transfer to all items in the trailer.

Doors will need to be added as semi-trailers usually only have double back doors or double side doors. That configuration depends on who made the trailer and its purpose. Windows will be next as will vents for AC, heat, and different tanks.

This is an expensive project if you do it on your own and you cannot forget the cost of paint as most semi-trailers are very bland. The good news is that there are a lot of companies that do the conversion for you and to get a quote of how much it will cost, you have to contact them.

Semi to RV Brake Controller

This is a special issue and a very important one that you have to deal with. When you are attaching a regular 5th wheel RV to your semi-truck, the braking systems are not the same.

Most 5th wheel RVs have electric brakes but the semi is used to having air brakes on its trailers and has the hook up for those. The part you will need is a separate brake controller that is installed in the cab of the truck.

This brake controller needs to be a dedicated 7 pin outfit. There is no room for error on this installation. Also, you may have a problem with the wiring as some wires may be 16 gauge while others may only be 12 gauge.

Make sure you research this thoroughly as you do not want to put the wrong brake controller inside your truck. The good news is that the semi-truck brakes are so superior that you can stop a 5th wheel trailer when its brakes fail.

How to Register a Semi as an RV


The process is going to be different in different states. In one state, you may have to have the rig inspected to ensure that it has been converted into a camper. It is said that Kansas is the easiest state to register your semi as an RV.

But with that said, you still need to contact the DMV office there and see what their rules are. In Ohio, you need to fill out an affidavit stating you made the conversion into a camper and added the necessary kitchen equipment to make it a camper.

if you lie on the affidavit, then you could be in some trouble. Rules change and the examples we mentioned could have changed those rules or maybe be in the process of changing their rules. You have to check with your local DMV to get all up-to-date information.

The one issue you may run into in all states is the federal commerce enterprise regulations. You will need to check those to make sure any toys you are hauling for competitive competition do not fall under those guidelines.

18 Wheeler RV Conversion

These can be expensive if you go the whole 9 yards, including the trailer. But if you are just registering the rig for non-commercial use, then all you would need would be a porta-potty, microwave, and possibly a small fridge or sink.

Those are not expensive and you can get them at your local big-box store or a discount store for fairly low prices. if you go the professional route, you will be looking at paying some big bucks as the new paint job is not going to be cheap.

The way to get around all these new expenses is to find one that has already been converted and registered as an RV. That will save you a lot of time and money. Plus, you can drive it home that same day without changing your license.

The only time you would have to change your regular driver’s license to a commercial one is when the state you live in requires it.

Peterbilt RV Puller

This is not the only semi-truck manufacturer that can be turned into an RV. it can be done with a few simple alterations and you do not have to sacrifice the Peterbilt power to do it.

The good news is that you do not have to buy the semi-new and convert it yourself. there are lots of websites on the internet advertising these converted rigs for sale. The prices on some of them are very reasonable with one going for $49,000.

This link will take you to a website that is full of links to sellers who deal in this side of the industry. What you will find is that Volvo, International, Kenworth, and other semi manufactures will make great conversion projects.

There is no worry if they are used as these trucks are built to last.

Semi-truck RV Conversion Companies

There is money to be made at this end of the industry. One of the better companies you can turn to would be Powerhouse Coach and their website is at this link. Then you can try Cowboy Cadillac as they do semi-truck conversions.

Those are just two options you have and a deep search will turn up a lot more. The key is to get a quote from them and compare prices. That means you need to know what you want before asking for the quote.

Just be prepared for sticker shock.

Some Final Words

The benefits of converting a semi-truck into an RV most certainly outweigh the disadvantages. With more power, superior braking, and other amenities, you would be doing yourself a favor by investing in one of these rigs to haul your 5th wheel trailer.

The good news is that you may not have to change your driver’s license as long as you re-register the vehicle as an RV. It is worth exploring especially when you have trouble getting over mountains in your current rig.

Leave a Comment: