There are many types of roof boxes, including those made out of polyester or uPVC plastic and those that are hard-shelled and a little sturdier. Roof boxes also come in a variety of sizes from those holding less than 10 cubic feet of items to those that hold 30 cubic feet or more.
When it comes to roof boxes, you can also find types that must be installed on top of a roof rack and those that can be installed by simply wrapping a strap or cord around the top part of the vehicle and around the carrier itself.
With all these options, it is normal for someone to wonder if a special license is required to drive a vehicle with a carrier on top. In most cases, the answer is “no.”
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Getting Started with the Facts
In addition to rooftop carriers, there are also carriers that hook up to the back of your vehicle and these are called hitch carriers. Although the latter usually have requirements that disallow obstruction of license plates, there are usually no laws making them have a special license either.
The term “cargo carrier” can also refer to large trailers that transport various items such as vehicles, lawn mowers, etc. from one location to another; however, for the purpose of this article, “cargo carriers” refers to rooftop carriers that hold suitcases, snow skis, and other items.
As a general rule, utilizing a rooftop box does not require a special license or amendment to your current driver’s license. You need no specialized license and this usually applies to hitch carriers as well.
Again, hitch carriers, as well as the bikes or other items they hold, need to stay clear of your license plate because this plate has to be in full view at all times. In addition, your tail lights must also be in plain view. If they aren’t, you’ll need to purchase a separate light kit for that area of your vehicle and install it before you take off somewhere.
What About the Different Types of Vehicles?
If you have a larger vehicle and you’re using a rooftop carrier to transport belongings to your destination, does this mean that you have to have a license in this circumstance? Again, the answer to that question is “no.” In fact, the only vehicle that requires any type of special license is an RV or a similar carrier.
Since most RV owners don’t place cargo carriers on the top of their vehicles, this is usually a moot point. Simply put, for vehicles ranging from sedans to pickup trucks, minivans, and SUVs, you can simply load the cargo carrier on your roof and proceed as you normally would.
If you’re planning to drive any rare or classic vehicle and want to place a rooftop carrier on the roof, you can always check with your local DMV office to make sure that no special license or other document is needed.
With very few possible exceptions, however, it is very doubtful that you’ll need a license to drive a classic vehicle even with a rooftop carrier installed. Of course, each state is different so it never hurts to give the DMV a call and ask them this question so you can get a true answer from the experts.
Are Certain Roads Excluded or Included in the Regulations?
Since the law rarely, if ever, requires you to have any special documents before you install a rooftop carrier, this rule applies to driving on all types of roads. This means that you can drive your vehicle with the rooftop carrier attached down rural roads, city roads, interstate highways, and anywhere else where roads can be found.
Certain roads may have weight limits, however, so with or without a rooftop carrier, you should always take notice of these limits and never drive above the limit that’s been set.
If you can’t find a clear-cut answer from your local DMV office, you can always check with the company that manufactured your roof carrier. After all, they know more about that carrier than anyone else and they’ll know all about weight limits, any legal requirements that apply, and much more.
This doesn’t mean that they’ll know all about the rules in your particular state, however, so it will go a long way if you continue trying to reach the DMV until you get a definitive answer so that you don’t get in trouble with the law in the future.
Some Final Thoughts
The good news about driving around with a cargo carrier on the roof of your vehicle is that it is very likely that you can do this without a special driver’s license or amendment. Unfortunately, in some instances, your local law enforcement may have decided that you need some type of document in order to use a roof carrier in that area of your state or city.
In addition to checking with your local DMV office, you can also check with the local police department. Most of them have a transportation division run by people who know the law inside and out and can answer your questions correctly.
Finally, you can also contact lawyers who specialize in personal injury or DUI/DWI cases because again, they will know exactly what the law states and will make sure that you don’t get in trouble because you didn’t know the law. When it comes to legal requirements, ignorance of the law is never a justified excuse for breaking that law so it behooves you to learn what the law says before you even purchase, let alone install, your rooftop carrier.
All these things are likely moot where you live, however, since in the vast majority of cases, you need no special license or other document in order to drive a vehicle with a rooftop carrier installed. So you can simply install the carrier and take off for your next special outing if you wish.