What is a commercial vehicle?

A vehicle is considered to be a commercial vehicle if it:

  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 pounds or greater and is used in interstate commerce (money is made with those vehicles); or
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or greater, or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or greater inclusive of a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds and is used in either intrastate or interstate commerce; or
  • Is a vehicle designed to transport 8-15 passengers (including the driver) for compensation; or is a vehicles designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver) regardless compensation status, or
  • Is a vehicle that is used to transport any placarded amount of a hazardous material, regardless of the size of a vehicle?

Who must comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations?

Any company that operates any vehicle that meets the definition of a commercial vehicle must comply with these regulations. If a company has vehicles that never cross state lines (intrastate), then it must comply with the commercial vehicle laws of the state. However, all states have adopted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in their entirety; there are a few states that have exempted commercial vehicles with a GVWR of 10,001-26,000 operating solely in intrastate commerce however these carriers may not be exempt from all the safety regulations.

Is an Independent Contractor the same as a motor carrier employee?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Section 390.5 includes Independent Contractors as the same as employees. Many times, an Independent Contractor who has the same responsibilities as the employee is included under the responsibility of the Motor Carrier in which they operate for. Many times, the employee will have insurance protection for his company as well as the policy covering the motor carrier which he operates for.

What are the consequences for a motor carrier or driver who fails to comply with the FMCSR's?

On the audit side, a company and driver can face fines, penalties and have their DOT number suspended or revoked. On the accident side, if litigation should occur and it is shown that the carrier was grossly negligent by failing to comply with the regulations, then they can be subject to punitive damages above the limits of their insurance policy.

Does the FMCSA track the safety record of motor carriers and their drivers?

Yes, the FMCSA has for many years kept the safety records of all motor carriers subject to the regulations. Since December 2010, FMCSA implemented Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) which is a safety statistical program that captures all data from Compliance Reviews, Roadside Inspections, Educational Contacts and Focus Interventions. It rates a Motor Carrier's safety by giving them a score in seven (7) categories. To date, there are no compliance records available for individual drivers other than the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), Motor Vehicle Report (MVR), or the Commercial Driver's License Information System (CDLIS). However, the CSA program will be making available all commercial vehicle drivers records in the near future. CSA will score drivers based on driving record and violations which have been recorded in Traffic Citations, Compliance Reviews, Accidents, and Roadside Inspections.