• Do the DOT Regulations Apply to My Vehicle?
  • January 29, 2009 | Author: Stephen A. Oakley
  • Law Firm: Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP - Chicago Office
  • With winter weather and increased road hazards upon us, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Transportation (DOT), looking to generate revenue through a variety of commercial motor vehicle (“CMV”) violations, motor carriers and companies which operate their own vehicles in commerce should know whether your vehicle is subject to DOT regulation? For instance, do DOT regs apply to a cargo van? A horse trailer? An airport shuttle? If you wake up at 2:00 a.m. in a cold sweat seeking answers to these nagging questions, read on.

    Section 390.3 of the DOT regulations "are applicable to all employers, employees, and commercial motor vehicles, which transport property or passengers in interstate commerce." Part 383, provides the following additional detail: "Commercial Driver's License Standards; Requirements and Penalties, are applicable to every person who operates a commercial motor vehicle, as defined in §383.5 of this subchapter, in interstate or intrastate commerce and to all employers of such persons."

    Fair enough. If you cross state lines in a CMV with property or passengers, you are subject to DOT regulations. But how are you to know what constitutes a CMV? Fear not! The DOT loves to define terms and this instance is no exception. A good rule of thumb is that a CMV is any vehicle over 10,001 pounds, but §383.5 defines a CMV more specifically as follows:

    A commercial motor vehicle means any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle:

    • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater
    • Is designed or used to transport more than eight passengers (including the driver) for compensation
    • Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation
    • 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.

    Conversely, vehicles which meet the following criteria are specifically exempt:

    • School bus operations
    • Fire, rescue and ambulance services
    • Airport shuttles
    • The occasional transportation of personal property by individuals not for compensation nor in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise
    • The operation of commercial motor vehicles designed or used to transport between nine and 15 passengers (including the driver), not for direct compensation, such as airport shuttles, provided the vehicle does not otherwise meet the definition of a commercial motor vehicle
    • The operation of commercial motor vehicles designed or used to transport between nine and 15 passengers (including the driver) for direct compensation, such as limousine and cab services, provided the vehicle is not being operated beyond a 75 air-mile radius (86.3 statute miles) from the driver's normal work-reporting location, and provided the vehicle does not otherwise meet the definition of a commercial motor vehicle

    Therefore, the primary factor in determining whether a vehicle is a CMV and subject to DOT regulations is the vehicle’s gross weight, but a number of factors may also be relevant.