Is Your Pickup a Commercial Motor Vehicle?

By Wayne Patterson

If you think the answer is no then you may be in for a surprise in the form of a written citation and accompanying fine. To say I was surprised when my F450 pickup received $300 in citations for being a Commercial Motor Vehicle is an understatement. After reviewing the South Carolina State laws and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations I was certain that my pickup was not a commercial motor vehicle and went to trial on the citations.

I was even more surprised when the judge upheld the tickets and ruled that we were a motor carrier and that our pickup was a CMV and subject to the rules of the FMSCA. It seems that the Department of Public Safety in South Carolina formulated Regulation 38-424 which had the effect of making all business vehicles in South Carolina with a gross or combined vehicle weight in excess of 10,000 lbs. subject to the rules for commercial motor vehicles. The businesses that operate them are now classified as motor carriers and also must comply with the Federal rules.

If you operate a vehicle over 10,001 pounds Gross Vehicle Weitght Rating (GVWR) or Gross Combination Weight Rating (GWCR) in a commercial business, then you are considered to be a motor carrier. You do not have to haul freight to be considered a motor carrier. If you are in business then you can be considered a private carrier and subject to the FMCSRs.

If you check the GWV on your dual wheeled or crew cab trucks you will find that almost every one on them fall into this category. Since the rule states that it is also a combined weight, even a regular sized pickup pulling a small utility trailer will be subject to being stopped, inspected, and fined if any violations are found. The officer that was involved in our case stated that he had been ordered to start enforcing this regulation.

These are some of the rules that the SC State Transport Police will be checking when they inspect your vehicle. Note that each item is a separate violation and you can receive, as we did, multiple citations.

If you operate a vehicle that is considered a motor carrier, then you must have your company name and US DOT number displayed on both doors.

The vehicle and trailer must have a Federal inspection and both be properly tagged.

The vehicle must have all safety equipment including a fire extinguisher and safety triangles.

The driver must have a medical card. Note that a CDL license is usually not required until the GVWR or GCWR exceeds 26,000 lbs. The driver is subject to the Hours of Service regulations and must keep a logbook if traveling further than 100 air miles.

The vehicle must be inspected daily and a record kept in the vehicle.

You must stop at the weigh stations.

As a motor carrier your business must register and obtain a DOT number. You are now subject to audit and must keep the records and driver’s files as required by the FMCSA.

You need to obtain a copy and review the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. These regulations must be reviewed by each driver and a copy kept in each vehicle. The 10,001 lb. definition can be found in Section 390.5 and applies only to interstate operations. You could be subject to this regulation regardless of your state if you cross state lines.

The South Carolina regulation changed the FMCSRs and made this definition apply to all business vehicles in South Carolina regardless of whether they are in interstate or intrastate use. These rules are very complex and this article is not intended to be complete or to offer legal advice.

You need to be aware that states are starting to enforce this regulation that vehicles with a weight of 10,001 pounds or more are CMV's. If you cross state lines then you may already be subject to 390.5 and need to get in compliance. If you are in South Carolina be prepared to pay if you do not follow the rules. My advice is to be active in your local trucking association in order to stay current with your state's regulations. They are also your best source for regulation books and compliance supplies.

One of the main problems facing trucking companies are the new rules regarding speeding tickets and hours of service. The Safer database along with your CDL drivers MVR's are being used to rate your company for insurance increases. If you have a violation, you need to contest it rather than just pay the ticket and consider it a cost of doing business. If you need legal advice, you need to contact an attorney that is versed in the Federal Motor Carrier rules and regulations. The best way to access an attorney is to have your drivers enrolled in a Commercial Driver Legal Plan. The cheapest legal representation is usually not the best. You need to compare not only the expense of access to a prepaid legal plan but the length of time it has been in business and it's rate of success. Some of the prepaid legal plans only provide a call to the court by a secretary.

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