Derma – If you’re a truck driver (or would like to become one) and want to understand the rules and regulations that may apply to you, you’ve come to the right place.
I know it’s not very exciting, but if you want long-term success and a profitable career as a specialty trucker, you need to know and follow the rules.
In this article, I will cover the significant mass trucking regulations issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is the part of the DOT responsible for reducing accidents, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.
I’ve also included some related government entity regulations to cover more bases. This article only covers some of the rules that may apply to your situation. Not only would that be very specific to the circumstances, but it would only be possible to do with writing an entire book!
Many operators of large trucks (i.e., tractor-trailers and the like) will automatically be subject to the more stringent DOT requirements due to the nature of their vehicle and the weight of the cargo they are hauling.
However, proximity trucking is often done by much smaller vehicles, such as pick-up trucks with a trailer, so they are only sometimes subject to some of the standard regulations that tractor-trailer operators must follow.
We’ll look at when those circumstances arise and what you need to consider to determine if a set of rules applies to you.
Here is a list of the topics we will cover. If you want to jump straight to any of them, click on the relevant link below.
- DOT medical card
- Commercial driver’s license
- Authorization to operate (US DOT number and Motor Carrier (MC) number)
- Service hours
- Drugs and alcohol
- UCR Compliance
- IFTA and IRP compliance
We have a lot to cover, so let’s get to work!
The information in this post is provided for informational purposes only. It is not a purchase or investment recommendation nor financial, investment, legal, or tax advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any investment or other decision regarding the matters discussed in this article.
1. Obtain the DOT medical card
You will need to pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) medical exam and receive a medical card. This means that you are physically capable of performing the work required for this type of activity.
A licensed physician must perform the exam on the FMCSA National Registry. You can use this tool provided by the FMCSA to find a qualified medical examiner near you.
2. Obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
Not all “hot shot” loads require a CDL, but you will need one if you plan to drive vehicles that meet or exceed certain weight thresholds. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), you will need a CDL under the following conditions:
You are engaged in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce and drive a vehicle that meets one or more of the commercial motor vehicle (COMV) classifications described below:
Class A: Any combination of vehicles whose gross combination weight rating or gross combination weight is 26,001 pounds or more, including one or more towed units whose gross combination weight rating or gross vehicle weight is over 10,000 pounds.
Class B: Any single vehicle whose gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight is 26,001 pounds or more or any vehicle towing a vehicle whose gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight does not exceed 10 000 pounds.
Class C: Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B but carries materials designated as hazardous under federal law.
3. Obtain Trucking Authorization (USDOT and Motor Carrier Numbers)
According to the FMCSA, if you plan to engage in interstate commerce (delivery across state lines) and your vehicle meets specific weight requirements, you will need a USDOT number.
Now, even if you plan to ship within your state only, some states require you to have a USDOT number, even if you are only doing intrastate commerce.
In addition to obtaining your USDOT number, you will need a Motor Carrier (MC) number. Again, this only applies if you plan to engage in interstate commerce, you do not own the merchandise you are transporting, and you receive compensation for transporting it.
Obtaining your authorization is quite a complex process, so you should be prepared for it.
An essential element you should pay attention to in this process is insurance. The FMCSA requires specific insurance coverage amounts if you are a carrier seeking to obtain its authorization.
In general terms, the FMCSA insurance requirements are as follows:
For those transporting goods (as opposed to passengers), the liability insurance coverage required is $750,000 to $5,000,000, depending on the goods transported.
If you are transporting non-hazardous goods in vehicles weighing less than 10,001 pounds, this amount is reduced to $300,000. As a truck driver, you can benefit from this lower threshold.
To transport domestic goods, you must also purchase cargo insurance ($5,000 per vehicle; $10,000 per occurrence).
To learn more about insurance requirements and the forms you need to complete, see the FMCSA website here.
Who you should use for your insurance coverage is up to you, but Progressive is a leader in this area so you can check them out.
Again, you won’t need your authority if you stick to uploads that don’t meet these requirements. Of course, you can also choose to “rent” your truck from another company that already has its authorization and avoid these requirements, but you won’t earn as much.
4. Designating Agents for Service of Process (BOC-3)
If you are a carrier operating under its authority, you must file a BOC-3 form. BOC” stands for “Blanket of Coverage,” and the paper lists the entities or persons who can receive legal documents on your behalf (for example, if you should receive a complaint, etc.).
According to the DOT, an agent must be designated for each state where the carrier operates. Thus, if a complaint is filed against the page, it can be served in that state, even if the airline does not reside there.
The DOT has a great resource that lists the different enforcement agents you can use to complete your BOC-3 form. These agents all have nationwide coverage, so if you choose one of them, you can have an agent for every state you operate in.
5. Respect Hours of Service (HOS)
According to the FMCSA, most commercial vehicle operators must comply with Hours of Service (HOS) requirements. This is basically to ensure that exhausted drivers don’t become a hazard on the road.
In its Q&A, the FMCSA defined a CMV as a vehicle used in the course of business and engaged in interstate commerce that meets one of the following descriptions:
Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
Its gross vehicle weight rating or combined gross vehicle weight rating is 10,001 pounds or more.
It is designed or used to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver) free of charge.
It is designed or used to carry nine or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation.
Transports hazardous materials in an amount requiring placards.
So if your proximity trucking operations meet these thresholds, you must comply with HOS standards. At a high level, the requirements are:
You cannot drive for more than 11 hours after 10 hours of rest,
You have a 14-hour window to move after 10 hours of rest,
You should take a 30-minute break if driving for 8 hours straight.
You have a limit of 60/70 hours in 7/8 consecutive days.
The driver must also keep a logbook in which he records his status (driving, off duty, sleeper, on task but not driving). Generally, it would help if you did this using an ELD (Electronic Logging Device), but there are a few exceptions.
6. Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIR)
The FMCSA requires drivers to inspect their commercial motor vehicles (again, your hotshot installation may not be considered a commercial motor vehicle) before and after each trip (at the end of each working day).
You will typically need to check items such as service brakes, including trailer brake fittings, parking brake, lights and reflectors, trailer hitches, wheels and rims, systems steering wheel, horn, wipers, mirrors, emergency equipment (e.g., fire extinguisher, fuses, flares, etc.)
7. Drug and alcohol testing (owner-operators)
According to the FMCSA, if you are an owner-operator driving a commercial motor vehicle in intrastate or interstate commerce that requires a commercial driver’s license, you must participate in a drug and drug testing program. DOT alcohol.
Owner-operators must register with a consortium, which is an entity that administers random drug testing for employers (including owner-operators) and participate in the consortium’s random testing pool.
8. UCR Compliance
What is UCR?
Unified Carrier Registration (or UCR) is a federal program that requires individuals or businesses engaged in interstate travel to pay an annual registration fee based on the total number of vehicles in their fleet.
It replaces the old Single State Registration System (SSSR). Source.
Who is subject to the UCR?
Suppose you are a carrier operating a commercial vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds, placarded with quantities of hazardous materials, or carrying more than ten passengers (including the driver) across interstate lines. In that case, you will be subject to UCR.
If you want to know if this applies to your marksmanship operation, use the decision tree tool provided by the UCR organization. You can access this tool here.
How can I comply with the DUC?
If you are subject to the UCR, you will need to register with them (and, of course, pay the applicable fees).
9. IFTA and IRP Compliance
The International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) and the International Registration Plan (IRP) are cooperative programs to collect and distribute fuel and license tax revenues among member states and Canadian provinces.
You must comply with these programs if you travel across state lines and meet other qualification criteria (which we will discuss later).
The International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) is an agreement between U.S. states and Canadian provinces that allows a carrier to register and pay road fuel taxes in its home or base form for all participating jurisdictions.
IRP stands for International Registration Plan, a way to register vehicles operating in two or more member jurisdictions. Your rights are determined based on the distance you travel in each jurisdiction and other factors.
You pay all duties to the base jurisdiction (usually your state’s DMV), which then distributes it to the other relevant jurisdictions.
Who must comply with IFTA and IRP?
For IFTA and IRP, you will need to comply with their requirements if you operate a qualified motor vehicle across state lines that meet the following criteria:
- Has two axles and a gross vehicle weight or registered gross weight greater than 26,000 pounds, Where
- Has three or more axles, regardless of weight; Where
- It is used in combination when the importance of this combination exceeds 26,000 pounds of gross vehicle weight or registered gross vehicle weight.
Note that even if you do not meet the weight requirements but still cross state lines, you may be subject to one or both of these programs.
You should check with your state’s DMV for the rules. For example, Virginia requires IRP plates even if the vehicle weighs less than 26,000 pounds but the driver is crossing state lines.
What do I need to do to comply with IFTA and IRP?
For IRP, you must complete the appropriate paperwork with your base jurisdiction (usually your home state, where your vehicle is registered). Check your DMV’s website for details. There will be fees, and they may be costly, depending on the number of jurisdictions involved.
Upon completion, you will get a license plate for your vehicle and a distributed taxi card showing the states/provinces you are allowed to drive in.
For IFTA, you will need to apply for an IFTA license in your home state. Upon completing this procedure, you will receive a set of decals (stickers) for your vehicle and an IFTA license for your records.
Once you get these, you’ll also need to keep meticulous records of your driving and fueling activities and file and pay quarterly IFTA taxes. Mileage is also essential when you renew your IRP-distributed license, so keeping accurate records is a must.
There you have it, nine key regulations you need to be aware of as an experienced trucker and some helpful tips on following them. I hope this information has been beneficial to you, and good luck!