Utility task vehicles have restricted use

Those small 4X4 utility task vehicles, such as the Kubota RTV, Cub Cadet, and the Polaris Ranger, also known as Cargo All-Terrain Vehicles are now more popular than ever and are very useful in performing a variety of small jobs around one’s property. They are made for family farmers, ranchers, and growers. They combine the versatility of a small tractor, the maneuverability of an ATV and the utility of a Jeep. UTVs can carry materials, plow snow, tow objects, and perform many other useful jobs. They are also fun to drive.

However, there are restrictions that seriously limit their use. These utility vehicles generally weigh over 1000 pounds, exceed 70 inches in width and thus cannot qualify as an all-terrain vehicle. An ATV is any self-propelled vehicle with two or more wheels that is manufactured for sale to be used primarily off-highway or in off-road competitions. ATVs must not exceed 70 inches in width and must weigh less than 1,000 pounds in dry weight. It is illegal to modify a utility vehicle to meet the 1000 pound limit by removing factory-installed parts to qualify it as an ATV. They also have other limitations that you should be aware of before purchasing one.

The most important restriction is that, because there is no registration class for these vehicles, UTVs cannot be registered in NYS and therefore cannot be operated legally on any public highway under NYS vehicle and traffic law (VTL) section 401(1)(a). Thus, they are pretty much confined to use on the owner’s property. It could be used on someone else’s property with permission, but it would have to be trailered to and from that location.

Because a UTV cannot be registered in New York, they cannot be used on any highway and thus do not need to be inspected and insured. Furthermore, they cannot be registered in another state in order to qualify for operation in New York; any vehicle that cannot be registered in New York state may not operate in this state.

Furthermore, a UTV cannot qualify as a slow-moving vehicle to be operated on public highways, nor can it qualify for a slow-moving vehicle emblem. Along similar lines, it cannot be declared as a Farm/Agricultural vehicle as defined under VTL, section 100-d.

Lastly, UTVs cannot be registered as a Special Commercial Use Vehicle as they do not fall within the definition of a special purpose commercial vehicle under 15 NYCRR 105.2.

Members of enforcement agencies sometimes encounter UTVs operating on a public road – this is in direct violation of VTL section 401(1)(a) and the driver should be ticketed as operating an unregistered motor vehicle, punishable by a fine of $40-$300 plus surcharges. You can also be confined up to 15 days in jail.

If a utility vehicle meets your needs, enjoy it, but know its limitations and be fully aware of the above restrictions when operating one.

For more information on traffic law and traffic safety, visit the Traffic Safety Board website at www.franklincony.org and go to Traffic Safety Board under “Departments.” Visit us on Facebook as well. You may also contact me by email at dwerner151@verizon.net or call me at 518-483-1882. Know the laws and ride safely!


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