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PLNA e-News: Business Resources

Do You Need a USDOT Number on Your Trucks?

Thursday, November 5, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: James F. Martin, CIC, CRM, CRIS, CNA
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TriaxelA USDOT Number is required for a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) (49 CPR Part 390.5), which is defined as any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate and/or intrastate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 10,001 pounds or more, whichever is greater; or to transport more than 8 passengers, including the driver, for compensation or to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver; without compensation; or is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and transported in a quantity requiring placarding under regulations prescribed by the Secretary under 49 CFR, subtitle B, chapter I, subchapter C.

The USDOT Number serves as a unique identifier when collecting and monitoring a company's safety information acquired during audits, compliance reviews, crash investigations and inspections. Thirty-three states, including Pennsylvania, have enacted laws more restrictive than the USDOT regulations and require a USDOT Number for all commercial vehicles registered in those states. (See PLNA website for more on Pennsylvania requirements.)

The other states have state-based DOT regulations (similar to federal OSHA vs. state OSHA). Many may think that the USDOT Number does not apply; however; lack of enforcement does not equal not applicable. As a federal regulation, its requirements apply to all subject commercial motor vehicles.

The federal motor carrier safety regulations (49 CFR §390.5) define "interstate commerce" as trade, traffic, or transportation in the United States that is between a place in a state and a place outside such state or is between two places in a state through another state or a place outside the United States. Simply stated, interstate commerce involves at least one state and another state or foreign jurisdiction.

Several courts have held that vehicles that never leave the state were involved in interstate transport where the goods being transported would ultimately enter interstate commerce and under the circumstances of those cases, the MCS-90 applied. The DOT and/or the courts are enforcing the requirement for both a USDOT number and the MSC-90 for vehicles that do not leave the state but transport items that were obtained from or will eventually be shipped out of state.

Vehicles that require USDOT Numbers must have a name and USDOT Number on both sides of the vehicle's power unit, in a contrasting color, and visible from 50 feet away when parked. Currently, there is no cost to register for a USDOT Number. Please visit and select the "FMCSA Registration and Updates" link to register.

The law applies to every vehicle with a single power unit over 10,001 GVW. The misunderstood portion is that it applies to every combination of truck and trailer that exceeds 10,001. If a landscape contractor owns a small pick-up truck, but has a heavy trailer, the combined weight of the truck and trailers listed weight affects if the rule applies.

Also the ''haz mat" trigger can pull in a single pick-up truck if  a contractor is hauling any hazardous materials, and under the guidelines that could be one 100 pound propane tank, a 55 gallon drum of pesticide/herbicide/fertilizer, or some acetylene tanks.

Why should you care? First, noncompliant insureds are open to large fines for even the first violation. Second, violation of these rules may be used against a noncompliant insured in lawsuits.

The USDOT released a new CSA (Compliance, Safety, and Accountability) program for enforcement of the USDOT regulations. More information and the link to the USDOT Training Safer System Presentation may be found at

Bottom line is that anyone with a commercial motor vehicle over 10,001 GVW/ GCW needs to have a USDOT number if you operate in or through one of the 33 states with more restrictive registration requirements, or your freight originated from one of those states.

Articled provide courtesy of PLNA Partner Henry Dunn, Inc.


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