The Road Legal 4WD Association focuses on building trail access for full-sized, road legal 4x4 type vehicles that fit within the definition of what we term Road Legal Four Wheel Drive machines (RL4WD). 

 

Right now, we're still honing this in before we help form public registration policies but so far we're at - 

A RL4WD is defined as being road-legal within your State/Providence and being under 90" (229cm) wide and 190" (483cm) long while coming in with a weight of under 6,500lbs (2,949kg). Exhaust needs to be under 100 dB at 2K RPM when measured at the exhaust tip and/or loudest part of the machine. 

 

Why only RL4WD's and not all 4x4's?

The vast majority of 4x4 vehicles on the road today that are more trail oriented machines, would likely qualify as a RL4WD. Our main focus is to gain land access, build trails and parks, and educate people on how to safely ride on those trails. 

So why not all 4x4's? Because some of the extreme duty machines are a detriment to gaining land access. Sorry, but it's true. Trying to open trails for big machines past most street laws limits the types of trails we can build. We want slow crawling trails that are fun and challenging, not wide open, fast and swamp trails. A super lifted, highly modified machine on tractor tires will get a park closed down in many, many cases. How do we know? Because the folks running this thing also run National Motorsports and we insure riding parks all over the nation. Year after year, time after time, the parks that cater to mudding, swamper machines get shut down. A local community can close a private riding park and fast! Not making this stuff up folks, communities do not want irresponsible, loud and unethical parks in their area. We could go on and on about how those parks and machines seriously hamper our ability to get more places to ride. But let's keep this article moving shall we?

 

Why Road Legal?

Large acres of land are becoming more and more rare. With smaller parcels being the norm, we need to move from one trail to the next using road routes. By keeping machines road legal, we avoid a lot of permits and legislation needed for road access. We want to see our trail systems connect all over! 

 

Sound Limit?

Yes, stock road legal machines are super quiet. If you can't see us crawling through the woods and you can't hear us... as far as the local community is concerned, we don't exist! That's a good thing when folks can't hear us playing around. Again, sound has been a major reason why trails and parks get closed down. Sure, we could have gone with some fancy measurement at the end of a property and brought in sound engineers, but really?? Why? Download a sound meter app on a smartphone and do the measurement... it's easy to do! We want the usergroup to be able to self-admin and these are some ways we can do that. For the most part, with a smartphone and a tape measure, anyone can determine if a vehicle falls under a RL4WD definition. 

 

Building trails for RL4WD's is far easier than for big 4x4's. By keeping RL4WD's smaller, we have far more opportunities to get more trails. If you have a comment on this article, feel free to post it below! 

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Proposal - changing defined RL4WD types.
Need - To better describe what types of trails are built for what vehicles.
When - ASAP so I can finish the trail siging program.

This shift is more for trail building over trail use. We want a deverse...

Proposal - changing defined RL4WD types.
Need - To better describe what types of trails are built for what vehicles.
When - ASAP so I can finish the trail siging program.

This shift is more for trail building over trail use. We want a deverse set of trails and by better designing the types of vehicles, we can narrow in on expected vehicle types.

The problem this year was when we had the light trucks at the homestead. This caused a bunch of damage to the trails and we don't want that to continue. HOWEVER, a lot of the trails we scouted for public use would be just fine rolling a full-sized truck on them. If approved, this would then re-value the directory so people could search not only the types of trails but also the recommended vehicle types.

Here's the draft -

The Road Legal 4WD Association defines different types of vehicles based on how trails are built. Because there are so many different types of RL4WDs on the market, we've classified the vehicles to aid drives to reduce the risk of trail and vehicle damage along with keeping trail users safe.

We're building these specs to identify what vehicles fit on regular and slow speed trails. Please carefully consider the common specs over the max specs as trails are designed with the common specs in mind. Even if your vehicle fits within these common specs, vehicle, and trail damage can still result without proper knowledge and training. Trail guides have the right to refuse trail access to any vehicle or driver even if the vehicle meets the defined specifications.

Exhaust - All RL4WDs must have a muffler with the spark arrester in it to prevent forest fires. Exhaust must meet legal sound requirements. If a vehicle is too loud for trail use, trail guides have the right to refuse entry. Vehicle noise is an important aspect of keeping trails. Many times, if people can't see us or hear us, we simply don't exist, and that's a good thing.

2 Door SUV - The 2 door sport utility vehicle (SUV) is the smallest of the 4x4s out on the trails. Their narrow wheelbase and tight turning radius are excellent for narrow, one-way trails. While the vehicle doesn't have to have only 2 doors or be an SUV, it needs to adhere to the following dimensions.

Specs: Road-legal within your State/Providence.
Common Specs - Under 72in (229cm) wide, 140in (432cm) long.
Max Specs - The vehicle is to be under 90in (229cm) wide, 170in (432cm) long.

4 Door SUV - The 4 door SUV is usually longer and heavier than the 2 Doors. It will feature a wider turning radius and may be more difficult to maneuver through tight trails.

Common Specs - Under 75in (229cm) wide, 180in (432cm) long.
Max Specs: Road-legal within your State/Providence and being under 90" (229cm) wide and 190" (483cm) long.

Light Truck - The light truck is the 2nd largest of the trail vehicles we make trails for. It typically won't fit around corners designed for the SUVs without body or trail damage. Light truck trails will usually be much wider and have a thicker trail base to accommodate the added weight of the vehicle.

Max Specs: Road-legal within your State/Providence and being under 90" (229cm) wide and 250" (635cm) long.

Full Size - The Ful Size RL4WD is the longest and heaviest defined for trail use.

Max Specs: Road-legal within your State/Providence. Max allowed Road-legal width within your State/Providence. Max allowed length without a trailer within your State/Providence.



RL4WD Clearance Levels

Clearance levels are used to determine what level obstacle can generally be crossed. This is only a guide and is not a definitive answer to what vehicles can traverse what level trails.

Low Clearance - Defined as vehicles with 15in (38cm) or less of underbody clearance. Usually acceptable up to level 3 obstacles before trail or vehicle damage is common.

Mid Clearance - Defined as vehicles with 16in (40cm) to 25in (63cm) of underbody clearance. Usually acceptable up to level 6 obstacles before trail or vehicle damage is common.

High Clearance - Defined as vehicles with 26in (66cm) to 40in (101cm) of underbody clearance. Usually acceptable up to level 8 obstacles before trail or vehicle damage is common.

Max Clearance - Defined as vehicles with more than 40in (101cm) of underbody clearance. Usually acceptable up to level 10 obstacles before trail or vehicle damage is common.

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Comment was last edited about 4 weeks ago by Ryan Harden Ryan Harden
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Really need some more feedback on this.

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You might also want to define "underbody clearance" "width" and "length." Where do you measure "underbody clearance?" Does width include the mirrors? If not, where do you measure width? At the widest point that does not bend or fold? I don't...

You might also want to define "underbody clearance" "width" and "length." Where do you measure "underbody clearance?" Does width include the mirrors? If not, where do you measure width? At the widest point that does not bend or fold? I don't know.

My second thought - somebody else has probably done this already. What do other states, counties, cities, or even privately-owned 4x4 parks have in their rules/guidelines?

And my last thought - I've been in government administration for 25 years. Writing more rules or more specific rules as a reaction to people who don't follow the existing rules has never worked. You'll only end up offending and punishing people who DO follow rules. The people who broke the old rules are not going to follow the newer rules because it's just in their nature to break rules - they just don't care, or they're just oblivious. They don't read signs, so putting up more signs has no effect. So keep the rules simple and deal with the offenders rather than making life harder for everyone else. (I'm saying you're doing that, it's just general advice based on experience, often learning by error. )

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Ryan,
Put together very well, with specific requirements should make it pretty easy for a person to interpret.
Thanks for putting this draft out there.
Should the trail classifications be added as well? That way people can taylor their riding...

Ryan,
Put together very well, with specific requirements should make it pretty easy for a person to interpret.
Thanks for putting this draft out there.
Should the trail classifications be added as well? That way people can taylor their riding experience...
Keep up the good work and dedication.

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Ya I'll link to that page and the upcoming trail signs page.

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Consider putting some real-life examples in each category. I'm not sure everyone will want to get a tape measure out and check their vehicle.

Example of 2-Door - Jeep Wrangler, Suzuki Samurai, etc.

Example of 4-door - Jeep Wangler, Jeep...

Consider putting some real-life examples in each category. I'm not sure everyone will want to get a tape measure out and check their vehicle.

Example of 2-Door - Jeep Wrangler, Suzuki Samurai, etc.

Example of 4-door - Jeep Wangler, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota Whatever, etc.

Light Truck - I have no idea what that is.

You could do the same with clearance. Examples - Stock Jeep Wrangler, Wrangler with 2" lift kit, Toyota 4 Runner with 4" lift kit, Wrangler with 4" lift and 35" tires, etc.

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But shouldn't everyone know what their vehicle width is? I had to get out and measure mine. I mean we could toss out examples for sure but ytou could have a samarai with an extended axle set that would make it impossible to turn in tight stuff....

But shouldn't everyone know what their vehicle width is? I had to get out and measure mine. I mean we could toss out examples for sure but ytou could have a samarai with an extended axle set that would make it impossible to turn in tight stuff. Light truck is like a F150 or Half Ton Pickup or the new Jeep truck Gladiator.

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I have no idea what my exact vehicle width is, and I've been off-road all over Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.

And sure, any vehicle can be modified to change its width, but an example is just an example.

What's the purpose of the specific...

I have no idea what my exact vehicle width is, and I've been off-road all over Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.

And sure, any vehicle can be modified to change its width, but an example is just an example.

What's the purpose of the specific measurements, exactly?

You have "Max Specs - The vehicle is to be under 90in (229cm) wide, 170in (432cm) long."

So if my vehicle were 91 inches wide, where could it not go that a 90" wide vehicle could go? Between two steel posts that are exactly 90 inches apart and set in cement, maybe, but anything else will either move or bend or I'd go around it, fold the mirrors in, let air out of the tires, or whatever.

I think what I'm getting at is no matter what you put in writing as measurements or examples, it will be "more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules" because there are soooo many variables.

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So where does my Brute fit in just to toss a wrench in things, lol. WB is 118" OAL length is 195" and its only 69" wide. I know it will turn tighter than a F150 pick up and probably the new gladiator too? It is also narrower and lighter as well.
...

So where does my Brute fit in just to toss a wrench in things, lol. WB is 118" OAL length is 195" and its only 69" wide. I know it will turn tighter than a F150 pick up and probably the new gladiator too? It is also narrower and lighter as well.

Not that being said be careful because an F150 can be ordered in many variables! From short box 2 door to a Crew Cab 8' box.... I think one needs to really assess some other things,
1)the width of vehicle for starters! 2019 Ruby is 73.8" wide by the internet specs.... the 2019 F-150 is with mirrors 96.8" thats almost 2 FEET WIDER!
2)turn radius the same 2019 Ruby is 20.3' while the F-150 can be closer to 27'
3) ground clearance is subject to length of vehicle and the break over angles or departure angles will greatly depend on vehicle type too. A Pickup will have a lot less departure angle than a 2 door wrangler.

So if its a bigger(wider) vehicle and longer vehicle it will need a lot wider trails and much easier turns to just drive thru before you add obstacles. And now factor in vehicle weight too.... if a guy shows up with a heavy full size truck on 35's he is going to be compacting a lot more ground than a lighter Jeep on 35's.....

Also if its designated as a FSV full size vehicle its going to have to be WIDE or people will complain about all the scratches and start brushing or running off the trail themselves.

When designating trails you will have to make some trails forbidden to some of the larger vehicles for a couple reasons....
1) making a trail for large trucks will probably render it impassable to a Jeep
2) You will need a crew of larger vehicles in order to build these trails, and until you find an organization of big truck guys to build them there will be none. You will need to have a contingency plan for when the big truck ppl start complaining there are no trails or at least an answer why.

I know the trail system as you now have it will seem quite biased to LWB Full size vehicles but where are they in offering assistance. And as the trail guides and or ambassadors out there in smaller Jeeps what will you do for trail policing and or Vehicle extraction? you get a guy with a big pick up its going to be a lot of work for a Jeep to get it unstuck too....

I ran into a lot of complaints and personal threats because I would not divulge where "My" "Jeep Jamboree" trails were by other clubs.. once its posted out there on maps etc you ARE going to get idiots in a large truck who thing screw it if a little Jeep can get thru I can too and they will either completely mess up their truck AND the trail or worse possibly closing it to everyone.

you not only have to show trail minimums but you have to enforce trail maximums as well!

just some of my thought..... Open to discussion and coments

Doug, AKA Cannonball

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Thanks for your feedback Doug. Yes, most of the trails we build are 4 door SUV or smaller but all the public trails we've mapped are more or less public roads (with a few exceptions) and those would allow most of the big rigs on them... but they...

Thanks for your feedback Doug. Yes, most of the trails we build are 4 door SUV or smaller but all the public trails we've mapped are more or less public roads (with a few exceptions) and those would allow most of the big rigs on them... but they won't be fun. As for trail development, a key aspect to the beginning of a trail that's designed for SUV would be to build a width gate and first turn right after that would dictate the rest of the trail system specs. So mainly, we'd instruct the trail builders to make the trails and gate based on the width, height and length. If you make it hard to get a Light Truck on a SUV 4 or 2 door trail, then that helps keep them off of it.

These trails will be public at some point if we we are going to do the legislation to pay for it. We need to build the system to withstand how we want trails built. With the weight, maybe we add in that the base of trail for more than light truck will need to be rock or prepared bottom to withstand the weight. We're not looking to build mud runs here so if a trail wants funding for full-sized vehicles, then it'll have to take the weight (and that usually doubles the price so most won't do it).

We need to have the types of 4x4s in here so we can zero in on what we need focus on. So maybe we map out 5,000 miles of dirt roads in 2019... of that 5% may be crawling type stuff... if they don't join they don't see the map or address of where it is anyway, but it doesn't take much to guess. Problem is, without being a member they can't see the pictures or reviews.. heck, we could even make the search criteria unusable unless they are a member. That's all possible. BUT we want to show there are loads of fun trails in Wisconsin and that's gotta get em in the door. Could we make it where they'd have to pass an online class before the trails show up? You bet. We could do that right now in fact. There will always be people that wreck it for anyone, so again it's important that we grow the trail guide and ambassador programs just as fast as the trail directory.

Will need to be able to measure things by width and length along with ground clearance. Those can be measured on the trail, weight is very hard to measure in the field unless you buy the right equipment like these scales https://amzn.to/2E2YjhB but then that's hard to fund. Weight could be a list of vehicles easily enough though too.

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well you could also make the class a requirement for the sticker program along with a Vehicle inspection. Cant run MN OHV parks without an inspection

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Ya and wardens could inspect at any time via our stipulations if it went into law. Again, the reason these things are so darn important.

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NOISE: One person may think a particular exhaust is too loud and another may think it sounds great! So you can't simply say one Guide may refuse based on their opinion of someone's exhaust.
You need to have a base decibel maximum and decibel...

NOISE: One person may think a particular exhaust is too loud and another may think it sounds great! So you can't simply say one Guide may refuse based on their opinion of someone's exhaust.
You need to have a base decibel maximum and decibel meters on every single trail, or with every Trail Guide, to test any exhaust he/she feels is excessive, and allow or refuse based on the meter reading. *Doug's idea of a sticker program with an annual Inspection (with a decibel meter) would also help a lot!

TRAIL: I think that all new trails (built after today) need to be built for 2 AND 4 door Jeeps, simply because of the popularity of both. Also, you can't rely on factory dimensions either, because as people add aftermarket bumpers, stingers, winches, hitches, etc to the vehicles it changes the length - wider tires or wheels with positive offsets, change the width of the vehicle as well. You'd need to come up with a standard measurement that all vehicles would have to abide by.

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Hi Jon! Thanks for giving your feedback It's very common to use dB meters in the ATV / UTV / Motorcycle / Snowmobile trail worlds and many DNR and trail patrol already have the meters to use. I did have a 100dB on there at first but then it was...

Hi Jon! Thanks for giving your feedback It's very common to use dB meters in the ATV / UTV / Motorcycle / Snowmobile trail worlds and many DNR and trail patrol already have the meters to use. I did have a 100dB on there at first but then it was taken off because I couldn't find a national standard for 4x4 trail exhaust. Like with an ATV in WI you measure at a RPM so many feet back at a angle and that specification was using a national standard. While there are standards for highway noise https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/Environment/noise/measurement/mhrn05.cfm and there are trail documents like this https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5133836.pdf that say things about this, but nothing really on how to measure the 4x4 (unless I'm missing something). Alexander Bub has a fair amount of background in this area, perhaps he could shed some light on if there is a national standard for testing 4x4 trail vehicles that we could use in the RL4WD world. Because we're street legal, our wording would always have to end with something like "greater sound suppression requirements may exist for road use. Check your local laws for compliance." kinda thing.

I agree that even with Jamie Stautz and his Dakota Custom billion HP Wrangler and Tim Koziol and his megaflow exhaust, both are easily considered quiet crawling around at idle in the woods. Slow speed trails solve a lot of the sound issues that a fast trail would have and because these are road vehicles, almost everywhere we go, we're at a place with a local sound level requirement for the road. I'd think the only thing that wouldn't pass would be an unmuffled or straight pipe vehicle but there again, it comes back to it not being legal for the road.

Do we need to have the expensive equipment? Not really, most phone app sound meters are within 5dB of being accurate enough to pass or fail a rig. I took out the 100dB stuff earlier on because I don't have anything to base that dB on. Maybe you all could find something that fits? I gotta believe that the trails out west or east would have something we could use.

Trail - while 90% of what we want to build... ok 99% of what we want to build is for Wrangler types, as the Road Legal 4WD Assoc., we need to spell out that not all RL4WDs are the same. Trails for a 2 door CJ5 that are tight are usually almost impossible to turn with my JLUR, and that's ok. We need to spell this out and classify the types of rigs because we're getting trucks at events now and it's very hard to guide a truck through a suv trail. We need to say "this trail is designed for a 2 door SUV, beyond that damage to the trail or vehicle may result" in some fashion. Do we use the SUV? I went back and forth on going that far since so many subarus could easily do level 1-2 crawling trails as well.

The other thought I had on this was to go with something like Ultralight, Light, Medium, and Heavy over 2 door SUV, 4 door SUV, Light Truck and Heavy. Some states and parks use tiers like this because they're trying to say "a trail for a 1 ton truck will not be the same as a trail for a 2 door SUV" the thing is, what do we call it so we could toss it on a sign and people know right away what it means. Sure SUV is very specific but it also needs almost no explaining. Sure, it leave out some vehicles but we do add in wording like "and related" to cover those who buck the norm. It's still a pickle and it's required many hours of thought, sign testing and feedback.

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The Wisconsin DNR requires all OHV (ATV, UTV, OHM) to pass the J1287 stationary test; 20 inches away from the exhaust outlet, point the microphone away from the exhaust flow, have the sound level meter at a 45 degree angle from the exhaust...

The Wisconsin DNR requires all OHV (ATV, UTV, OHM) to pass the J1287 stationary test; 20 inches away from the exhaust outlet, point the microphone away from the exhaust flow, have the sound level meter at a 45 degree angle from the exhaust outlet, and absolutely have a wind screen over the microphone. Hold the engine rpm at 50 % of redline and take your reading. Limit is 96dBA. I can make a copy of the actual SAE procedure available if you would like. The DNR uses type 1 sound level meters to take official readings, your smart phone app does not meet any of the requirements to use as a legitimate sound level meter. A type 2 meter can also be used, is not quite as accurate, but meets the J1287 instrument requirements.

Street legal vehicles also have to meet a vehicle pass-by test but that is for manufacturers to test to; that is not something that can be done at the trail side so the DNR and police all use the stationary J1287 test procedure.

The noise levels can indeed become an issue during an event. It would be wise for the RL4WDA to set up a sound check at your events to get an idea on where your vehicles are coming in, and once you get an idea of where your participants are at you can start requiring them to pass a test before being allowed to wheel. The education on noise will take a while and you get a few events under your belt but as the 4X4 community becomes more visible on the roads/trails it could become an issue.

Ryan, I have an extra sound level meter type 2 that I would be willing to loan you for this effort. Return it at the end of 2019. I have 4 type 1 meters I use for my business but a type 2 would work fine for you. The meter I will loan you came from the AMA and was given us to use at motorcycle events but again its a spare. Let me know how to get it to you. I will include a copy of the AMA instruction manual on how to use it and conduct the testing.

Good on you to be concerned about noise, it can bite you as others have found. I periodically am hired to sound test at public and private riding areas and race tracks when neighbors complain and lawsuits are started.

Alex Bub
OHV Acoustics LLC

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This is a great conversation, thank you all for helping on this by posting your thoughts! Been thinking a lot about this since it's been posted and I like what John said about keeping it simple and the parts about exhaust and how to measure...

This is a great conversation, thank you all for helping on this by posting your thoughts! Been thinking a lot about this since it's been posted and I like what John said about keeping it simple and the parts about exhaust and how to measure everything.

The SUV thing didn't sit well for me. If we already measure by clearance (measured by the lowest part of the underbody) why define truck and suv and leave things out? The reason we're defining anything at all is that not all vehicles will fit over obstacles and around corners. That's really it. We define exhaust because noise will close trails especially in residential areas like we have in SEWI.

So how about defining vehicles as:

Small (using specs of 2 door suv)
Medium (using specs for 4 door suv)
Large (using light truck)
XL (full sized)

Sadly, there isn't a more simple way to do this (is there?) unless we cut out some vehicle types. We'd have to post an image or examples as mentioned as well. Has to use dimensions that fit the industry, DNR needs these things defined so if they are issuing the stickers by make and model, they can verify what is what (generally). I didn't want to do inspections as it adds a ton of cost, training, and complexity to the system (and possible gov waste). We have laws in WI for lifts and stuff, didn't want to go past what made them road legal for inspections. If it's not legal to be on the road, it's not legal to take it on the trails. That way is very simple?

Exhaust - To check exhaust an app does work for very rough numbers that people can check themselves. We have sound meters here at work and most DNR wardens do carry them already. Would it be easy to do 100dB @ 2k RPM @ 45 degrees and 24 inches from tailpipe for trial use? Course we have to test that with some vehicles like mentioned above but you get the idea. This stuff can get VERY technical but it would be best to keep it simple, cut and dry.

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