QUESTION: Do the weight limit of 26000 pounds include a load or just the truck an trailer empty
ANSWER: In determining if you need a CDL or not, it is based on the GVWR or actual weight of the truck. If you exceed 26,000 lbs on a single truck, you need a B license. But, as a non CDL driv, you can drive a 26,000 lb truck pulling up to a 10,000 lb trailer and be legal. If that same trailer had a GVWR of 11,000 lbs, it would be a class A CDL truck.
The ultimate determination is how the vehicle is registered , not how much it may weigh. A 33,000 lb class B truck that empty only weighs 22,000 lbs is still a CDL truck.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: So what would be the best way of registering my vehicle for a none cdl driver an still be legal to pull a 3car trailer
In order to stay under CDL requirements , you would need to have a combination that the GVWR and GCWR do not exceed 26,000 lbs.
You could use a F350 dually with a GVWR of 11,000 lbs pulling a trailer rated at not more than 14,000 lbs to do this. You would still need to have a GCWR registration on the truck for 26,000 lbs though.
While you would not need a CDL for this kind of combination , you would need ...
MC authority if you will haul other people's property
DOT medical card
Are subject to all of the hours of service rules including logbooks depending where you go.
I am not convinced you can use a 14k trailer to haul 3 cars unless they are small cars. The entire trailer loaded could not exceed 14,000 lbs.
Anytime your trailer is over 10,000 lbs, your truck and trailer together cannot exceed 26,000 lbs or you get into CDL territory. I think the only realistic way to do this is to haul two cars at a time.