The New Normal for Overlanding in America

Share this Post:

Most travelers all over the world are starting to realize just how attractive North America is for overland travel. These days the quiet Overland Expo feels more like SEMA, and there are more Back-Country Discovery Routes than interstates (slight exaggeration). A few years ago the iOverlander app boasted more Walmart parking lots than real camping locations. Now there are so many spots I think someone has even tagged a pull-off in my backyard.

So what does this all mean? Well, to us, it means that this much attention is making it impossible for people to understand what is the right expedition truck for them. The vehicles features and benefits are one thing, and there is enough “how to choose the best expedition vehicle” commentary out there. What we’re talking about is government regulations, safety standards, insurance, and lending policies that are being put in place for good reason. So, if you are a DIY’er or looking to purchase a vehicle from a builder, these are some important things to consider 5 to 10 years down the trail to best protect your investment.

The truck chassis is probably the most important selection for overland travel. Not only is it the foundation of your build, but it is the target for strict government regulations and determining the vehicles value. Being residents of the lovely state of Oregon, a new regulation, House Bill 2007, was just announced regarding diesel emissions. Starting in January 2020, any diesel vehicle weighing 14,000 lbs or more will have to be upgraded to a 2010 model engine or newer by 2029.

This isn’t new news. Washington and California have already released their mandates months ago for medium duty diesel trucks. CARB, California Air Resources Board, is mandating an even more aggressive upgrade schedule based on the year of your truck:

  • 2000 and older trucks must comply by Jan. 1, 2020
  • 2001-2005 must comply by Jan. 1, 2021
  • 2006-2007 must comply by Jan. 1, 2022
  • 2008-2010 must comply by Jan. 1, 2023

But diesel emission standards are not the only thing regulating potential overland vehicle platforms. For those looking to buy or upfit any surplus military truck, you need to be concerned too. There is a new law in Colorado that prevents you from registering these trucks for on-road use.

Colorado Bill  SB19-054 was activated on July 1st, and states:

  • A surplus military vehicle may be titled as an off-highway vehicle;
  • A surplus military vehicle is not registered as a motor vehicle;
  • A surplus military vehicle is treated as an off-highway vehicle for the purposes of on-road use and off-road use.

In all honesty we feel that this is just the beginning, and it’s not a bad thing. EarthCruiser’s birthplace, Australia, has some of the most stringent vehicle regulations of any country, and for good reason. Traveling off-road to remote places puts you at risk, and most would say driving that same vehicle down a freeway at 70mph is even more hazardous.

Insurance companies and financial institutions find safety most important. They want to protect their investment by knowing the vehicle was built for purpose to specific standards. Sure if you keep copious notes of your custom built camper, you can sometimes influence it to be recognized as a motor home but that will open you up to many more regulations.

The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, RVIA, try to keep up with as many of the state and federal regulations they can, but these change frequently. The regulations for motor homes dictate everything from overall size to how the exhaust system works. Plus it makes most sense that, as this lifestyle becomes more popular, a single standard is federally mandated and policed by each state.

In Australia, shops that build custom vehicles are audited by the government and have to abide by very strict procedures. Some European countries have a similar process for anything considered road worthy. It just makes sense that this could be the direction the US will go. So if you’re considering investing some serious time or money into an expedition ready vehicle, make sure you think about all the regulations that could affect your total cost of ownership and if you want to recoup some of that investment in the future.