Are We a Trucking Company?

According to the FMCSA or the DOT as we call it there are a number of ways that you could be considered a trucking company under interstate regulations. One definition of a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) is found under 49CFR 390.5 and states that a vehicle with a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating tag found on the doorframe of most trucks) of over 10,001 pounds is a CMV. Other definitions are found elsewhere under the federal laws and when you add in each individual state requirement’s it gets to be confusing.

1. Do you have a vehicle with a GVWR of over 10,001 pounds? (49 CFR 390.5)

2. Do you have a single unit vehicle with a GVWR of over 26,001 pounds? (49 CFR 383.5)

3. Do you have a vehicle with a combination GVWR of over 26,001 pounds or greater? (49 CFR 382.107)

4. Do you have a three axle (two drive or tandems) with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or greater?

5. Do you have a vehicle with a GVWR of over 57,000 pounds?

6. Do you have a vehicle originally designed to carry 16 or more passengers including the driver?

7. Do you have a vehicle which transports placardable amounts of Hazardous Materials?

8. Do you have a vehicle which requires a driver to have a CDL to operate it?

9. Do I transport Hazardous Materials that are not placardable?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you have a commercial motor vehicle and are required to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The FMCSR’s contain regulations regarding, DOT drug testing, CDL or Commercial Drivers Licensing, driver qualifications and the DQ files, and vehicle maintenance files. There are other requirements such as Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, Fuel Tax reporting and specific vehicle licensing such as Pro Rate Plates or Commercial Zone Plates. Failure to comply with any regulation can result in heavy fines and even jail terms. Those fines can run into the $100’s of thousands of dollars and up to 10 years in some circumstances.


If you answered yes, you are required to have the standard forms and records in order to comply with DOT requirements. You must also file a MCS-150 with the FMCSA, at least every 2 years. You must also have a MCS-90 (Insurance) form which is current and readily available for inspection under 49 CFR Part 387.


Initially all drivers need to be qualified to operate the vehicle. This driver qualification file or DQ File includes a proper application, which includes three years of past driving experience, accidents, all traffic violations and work history. A background investigation of prior work history, driving record check, all drivers licenses held is performed within 30 days of being employed as a driver. A completed medical form and physical, which has been reviewed for deficiencies, and is renewed every two years. Sometimes the medical examiners certificate is only issued for 90 days, 180 days, 270 days or one year. Once the driver receives a short physical (less than 2 years), they then must renew their medical card annually. The drivers long form physical is required to be in the file before driving. If the driver’s physical or driver’s license expires, they must not be allowed to operate a CMV.

Annually you must have the driver fill out a certificate of violations, listing all violations including those in a non-commercial vehicle, and a review of his driving record from the state in which he/she is licensed.


All vehicles are required to have a vehicle maintenance file. This file includes the make, model, serial number or VIN, company ID, license plate number and tire size. This is a record of all maintenance performed on the vehicle. These records are kept as long as the vehicle is in the company’s possession and for one year afterwards. There is another part of the maintenance file and that is the Daily Vehicle Inspection Report file. The driver must perform a visual pre trip and a written post trip on each vehicle operated during their shift. These records are kept for 90 days in the office and a copy of the previous time the vehicle was operated in the truck. Tractors, trailers and chassis must also be inspected annually.


If you answered yes to questions 2 through 8, even more regulations apply to you. Those requirements are for DOT DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING and the very specific times to test for various causes. Including Pre-employment (for drugs), Post Accident, Reasonable Suspicion, Random and Return-To-Work required tests for substance abuse. These are extremely sensitive areas and must be complied with. The fines in this area are very stiff and are frequently given out for making simple mistakes. This area should be handled with the utmost discreteness and sensitivity in order to protect confidentiality and privacy. Anytime that the driver is required to have a CDL to operate a vehicle he is required to be drug tested, but if a vehicle is has a combination GVWR of over 26,001 with the power unit being under 26,001 pounds you must drug test but they are not required to have a CDL. The supervisors, including driver managers, dispatchers, and company officials must receive Drug and Alcohol Reasonable Suspicion training under 49 CFR 382.603.

If you answered yes to question 4, 5 or 6 you may be required to file Fuel Tax, Heavy Tax or have specialized license plates.

If you answered yes to questions 6 or 7, the driver needs to have an endorsement for that which they are transporting. This is an “additional license” on their CDL. This is like the motorcycle endorsement needed for operating a motorcycle on your driver’s license. The drivers with a Hazardous Materials endorsement will also be fingerprinted and a background investigation done on them. The Hazardous Materials endorsement is the only one that requires the driver to retest each time their driver’s license is renewed.

There are other requirements set forth by different jurisdictions, whether they be state, city or even county or parishes. These become even more confusing. If you have any questions please contact the designated company transportation safety specialist or consultant.

If you answered yes to #9, then you must also register as a Hazardous Materials Transporter. You must ensure your drivers are trained in Hazardous Materials if you transport any amount of it. If they transport placardable amounts of Hazardous Materials, you must ensure that they have a Hazardous Materials endorsement on their CDL. If you just receive or ship Hazardous Materials you must still be trained under 49 CFR 172.704 every 3 years. If you ship by air and have to comply with ICAO/IATA rules, the training is every 2 years.

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