The importance of having lights on automobiles is pretty obvious. But when you’re lugging a large trailer for farming and ranching, construction, or the oil business, it is even more important that fellow travelers on the road know where you are. Lights are the key to everyone’s safety, and that’s why there are federal laws that dictate exactly how trailers need to be equipped.
Obviously, every trailer needs a pair of red brake lights and taillights—these indicate the trailer’s width and give others a sense of where the trailer is going to be moving next. A pair of yellow or red turn signals and a single white license-plate light must be present on the rear of all trailers driving in the United States.
In addition to the basics, there are several other “musts” that all operators should be aware of:
- lights must be on both sides of the trailer; yellow front side lights as close to the front of the trailer as possible, at least 15 inches high; red rear side lights as far back as possible, between 15 and 60 inches high
- all trailers over 30 feet long must have intermediate yellow side lights placed in the middle of each side of the trailer, at least 15 inches high
- trailers that are more than 80 inches wide must be equipped with additional lighting on the front and rear to indicate the trailer’s width—specifically two red rear clearance lights must be placed at the trailer’s widest point, as far apart and as high as possible; three red identification lights must be centered on the back of the trailer, spread between 6 and 12 inches apart, and placed as high as possible; front clearance lights must be placed as high and as far forward as possible, at the trailer’s widest point
- all trailer lights must be permanently attached to the trailer
- lights on the side of the trailer must be parallel to the trailer’s center line, while those on the front and back must be perpendicular to the center line
- all trailers must be equipped with rear and side reflectors to further indicate vehicle size and presence
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