There's been a lot of speculation about whether or not that hitch sticking out of the back of your pickup truck could get you a ticket. The answer is not simple, because laws about trailer hitches vary by state.
License plate must show
According to Major Ned Lewis, Iowa Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Enforcement division, there is no law in Iowa requiring that a hitch has to be removed when a trailer is not in tow.
In Illinois, House Bill 3669 was filed in 2009 to amend the Illinois Vehicle Code. In summary, it stated that if any portion of a ball mount and hitch receiver extends more than 4 inches beyond the vehicle's rear bumper, the ball mount must be removed from the hitch receiver when not being used for towing. The bill was referred to the Rules Committee but ended there.
There is one law, however, that does apply in many states. It states that if the ball hitch covers your license plate so the lettering is not fully visible, you can be ticketed.
While law enforcement officials may not be combing the countryside looking for violators, it's best to be familiar with what is being enforced where you live because state laws are updated regularly.
To find out which trailer hitch laws apply in your area, contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles or the state police.
Hide that hitch
While the original intent of his invention wasn't designed to help those who harbor hitches avoid getting a ticket, Vern Schroeder, Carroll, Iowa, knows his Hitch Hermit can certainly make a difference.
“The Hitch Hermit lets you store ball hitches under your rear pickup bumper, where they're easily accessible whenever you need them,” says Schroeder.
It certainly helped with his hauling needs. “I had a couple different size trailers I used to haul stuff back and forth,” he says. “In a normal day, I would have to switch ball sizes several times. I found myself getting very frustrated when I didn't have the correct size for whatever I was hauling.”
He tried carrying different sizes in the back of his pickup, but that created problems. “Most of the time they were just out of reach,” Schroeder says. “I'd have to climb in the back to get them. I then got the bright idea to carry them inside the pickup and had to listen to them sliding around banging into each other. To add to that aggravation, every time I used them, they would have road dirt, grime, grease, and whatever else all over them and then me!”
Placing them in a leather case behind the seat didn't solve the problem either. One quick stop and the case went flying into the dash, which damaged some of the components.
That's when Schroeder decided to look for a better way to store ball hitches. What evolved was the Hitch Hermit.
The device is made with 12-gauge steel and attaches to round, square, oblong, or rectangular hitch crossbars. Two galvanized cables secure it in place, and they can be configured parallel or crisscross.