Monday, August 4, 2008

My Saga with the Calif. DMV and Personal Victory

More than a year ago when we bought our 1955 Crown "canned ham" travel trailer it had new PTI plates that had never been installed, that was one of the reasons we decided to buy this trailer because we did not want the hassle dealing with the DMV, because we have heard all of the horror stories relating to their lack of knowledge in understanding what is eligible for a PTI plate and what is not.

I went to the Palm Spring DMV to transfer this trailer over to our name, and I saw firsthand what many of those camping trailer owners were talking about.

The DMV Clerk, asked me about the trailer, I not only provided her with all of the details, but had the DMV regulations on what qualified us to receive a PTI plate, she told me our trailer would not qualify.

I challenged her and handed her the documents I brought along with me just in case, and she told me I was in correct. I asked to speak to a supervisor, but instead of allowing me to do so she walked over to her supervisor and questioned my statements and he told her that she was correct and because my trailer did not have soft sides it was not qualified to get a PTI plate but in fact it was not a camping trailer and they went ahead and reclassified my trailer as a Coach and took away my PTI registration, that we were told we would have to renew every year. Knowing I was correct, I again protested, to no avail. They even said that because the trailer had the incorrect designation those penalties were due, but fortunately they waved them.

So I began my saga, first writing the Senior Office Manager of the local DMV, explaining to her my situation , I again provided the 3 pages DMV regulations and asked her to correct the mistake, I went on to explain that if they did not correct this mis-justice I would take it up the chain of command.

I hoped because I knew I was right, first because the trailer already had the plate when I bought it, but also knowing that when the previous owners transferred it over to their name they had to take it to the DMV for inspection, because they could not locate the VIN numbers, so they had to get a DMV blue tag VIN plate. so we knew it was inspected and was at that time qualified as a camping trailer and they registered it as such with the original PTI plate.

Needless to say I never heard back from them, so I began a letter writing campaign as well as emailing everyone I could From the Governor, Senators, Assemblymen, and every DMV office that I located an email address for and etc.

Again I got nothing back from any of them; I took it all the way up to the Director of the DMV, Director George Valverde. [A side bar on that was really surprised how hard it was to gain email address of those in California Government, it took me more than a year to locate the Director's email address, they keep these email address well guarded.]

Anyway I had already written a dozen or more letters, but once I gained the Director's email address, everything changed, he referred me to The Manager of Registration and Titling Mr. Mark Keskeny, whom has gone out of his way to resolve my problem, he went so far as getting me an written letter of apology for the Office Manager who blew me off, and he helped me get my original black and gold vintage plate restored to my trailer.

So after more than a year I have been made whole and my entire problem with the DMV has been resolved, he even got me a refund due to the extra money I had to spend with penalty, extra transfer costs, and renewal that I made to keep my standard tags currant.

Right now we are working together to develop an informational sheet, with instructions, which can be provided to those who believe they may have the incorrect designation for their trailers.

Once it is completed I will have copies of this sheet, and any of you whom believes that you have an incorrect designation for your trailer and I can work with you to get it resolved.

So if you are in the State of California and your camping trailer does not exceed 16 feet in overall length, and does not exceed 96 inches in width, please send me an email and there is a good chance I can help you.

I have attached a link below to my build blog displaying a photo of my restored vintage California Black & Gold license plate and new PTI designation tag.


.Gator Ron said...

Not sure if your a member of 'Club California' vintage trailer group but your hard work getting your DMV plate would help many that have had the same problems....Hope you will consider joining our more than 500 member FREE club on Yahoo....Thanks for posting your great blog....I'd like to list this blog in our trailer blog area of the group if you would let us?


Steve said...

Wow...I just went through the same thing with my DMV in Thousand Oaks. I have a T@B trailer, it's a teardrop that's less then 16 ft long, less then 96" wide. I've had it since '07 and have had it registered as a CCH with yearly fees. On a forum, I found out that I could change the designation in California. I tried at my local DMV. They argued with me and finally said bring it by. When I did, the inspector signed it off almost too easily to the CMP, or a permanent designation. I got my perm plates and went home in disblief, basking in glory. A day later I got a call from the same DMV lady, saying she had made a mistake, and she wanted the plate back. I called them, and talkesd to 3 people, citing the VC 242 as the basis for my change. They did not want to do it. They stood by what they said, saying it's not just the size. I don't have a bathroom, no shower, no fridge, just a bed, a heater and a stove.

They told me I had recourse through Sacramento, but I'm thinking with this economy, a pencil pusher up north is not going to pursue my case. An email from your contact would be most helpful. I even thought of going to CHP and attempting to get them to verify it as a camp trailer and send that to Sac,

Please email me with the info to

Thank You,

Penny said...

Wow, that's a lot of work! Thanks for sharing your California DMV registration story for the rest of us to learn from!

rueland said...

Heard all the horror stories of trying to register an old trailer, and decided to try anyway. Bought a 1956 Cardinal Delux for $400 with only the trailer and a bill of sale to show for it. Took it down to AAA (highly recommended), filled out an application for title, transfer of ownership, and application for PTI. AAA verified the VIN, I had to tell them the make, model, weight etc., and $77 and 1 hour later got my plate. Couldn't believe it! AAA costs $50 to become a member, I would of payed a hundred.

Carla said...

I wanted to thank you for all of your work on this CA registration issue and for the information you have shared. My 16' canned ham was originally given a 'coach' designation. 2 years later when I read your blog I took it into the Hemet DMV who were very knowledgable and happily changed it to a CMP and gave me a PTI plate. A week later I went with a friend when she took her little 12 ft Cardinal (with WA plates) to the Escondido DMV to get the CA registration. The DMV woman who came out to measure the trailer knew the DMV regs, measured the trailer and confirmed that it qualified as for the PTI plates. Then when my friend went inside to complete the paperwork, they tried to reverse it, said it should be a coach and so on. It took a bit of waiting, discussion (that's the polite term for it!) and back a forthing but they did, in the end, give her the PTI registration for the trailer. My friend, by the way, had the copy of the regs/definitions that I had from you and had given her and said she thought that was what finally tipped the balance. So a big thank you from her, as well!