Jelinek’s bill would allow most snowmobile trailers to become legal

Published 10:04 am Friday, December 10, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Snowmobile enthusiasts typically buy trailers large enough to pull two snowmobiles behind their vehicle for some fast and exciting winter fun.
What the owners of those trailers probably don't know is that those trailers are illegal under the current state laws.
But trailer owners need not worry if a Senate bill penned by Senator Ron Jelinek, R-Three Rivers, is signed into law.
Senate Bill 736 would amend the Michigan Vehicle Code to include "trailers and semi-trailers" in the list of motor vehicles that cannot exceed an outside body width of 102 inches.
Current Michigan law already allows buses, trailer coaches, truck campers and motor homes to be up to 102 inches wide, but limits all other trailers to 96 inches.
Trailers can be up to 102 inches wide on and within five miles of highways, but once outside that five mile range, they are considered illegal, Jelinek said.
Jelinek became aware of the law recently when he went to purchase a trailer to pull his snowmobiles and was told by the dealer that the trailer was technically illegal.
After learning of the law, Jelinek began doing research and even a little hands on work looking into the wide trailers.
One weekend, while at an auto part swap meet, Jelinek used a measuring tape to measure the width of the trailers people were using to haul their auto parts.
With the the increasing width of snowmobiles, the trailers have also gotten wider, making 102 inch wide trailers the industry standard.
At Glenwood Snowmobile Sales, Inc., in Dowagiac, co-owner Jim Stanek said he had never heard of the law or anyone ever having trouble with the law regarding the width of their trailer.
Glenwood only stocks two place snowmobile trailers which hover around the 100 inch mark, Stanek said.
One place trailers are only available from Glenwood through special order, which, Stanek said, can bring the price of a one place to even more than the standard two place trailers.
In the past two years, Stanek said he's sold only one, one place trailer.
The average width a snowmobile is 48 inches.
Lee Palmer, President of the Four Flags Snowmobile Club, has had a 101 inch wide trailer for six years and never knew it was in violation of the vehicle code.
Palmer said it's been a long time since two snowmobiles could fit in a trailer under 96 inches wide.
Jelinek said wide trailers over the vehicle code limit haven't been a big problem, but there have been a number of people who have been issued citations from time to time.
Neighboring states have already adopted laws allowing trailers and semi-trailers, including Illinois and Indiana.
Michigan is second only to Minnesota in the United States for having the most registered snowmobiles in state.
Jelinek also wants the bill signed into law to protect out-of-state visitors who want to use Michigan trails for snowmobiling.