An examination of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) could very well reveal...

An examination of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) could very well reveal that some smaller fleet vehicles qualify as regulated CMVs.

Photo: Ram

The notion that a company pickup truck might be a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) may seem highly unlikely to some.

Common arguments against classifying a pickup as a CMV often include the truck:

  • Is not transporting cargo, and
  • Is too small.

But, an examination of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) could very well reveal that some smaller fleet vehicles qualify as regulated CMVs.

Is it a CMV? How Do I Know?

When determining whether a smaller vehicle is a CMV, consider the following:

  • Commerce involves anything that moves business forward, such as hauling supplies and tools to and from a worksite, dropping off workers, or just visiting a worksite. If you are not hauling freight for someone else, you can still be considered a private (motor) carrier.
  • The weight threshold of 10,001 pounds or greater in the CMV definition (§390.5) includes the truck, load, and any attached trailer (including a small utility trailer). This weight is based on the manufacturer’s specifications of the truck by itself or with a trailer. If you exceed the manufacturer’s weight specifications, the actual weight of the vehicle or vehicle combination is used to determine applicability. If the actual weight is 10,001 pounds or greater, you have a CMV.
  • Any size vehicle hauling placardable amounts of hazmat is a CMV.

If the vehicle only meets the definition when pulling a trailer, you would only be concerned about observance of the safety regulations on those days it meets the definition.

It’s a CMV. Now What?

Even if you find you (mistakenly) didn’t identify your pickup truck as a CMV, all hope is not lost. If you demonstrate a good faith effort to comply with the regulatory requirements going forward, this will lessen the impact during an FMCSA audit.

Pickups that are defined as CMVs must be reflected on your FMCSA registration (MCS-150) as straight trucks. And, you need to adjust your number of drivers, trailers, and vehicle miles traveled.

Next, you must make sure that both the driver and vehicle meet all applicable safety regulations.

The vehicle and any attached trailer are subject to such areas as:

  • USDOT markings.
  • Cargo securement.
  • Weigh station stops for roadside inspections (depending on the state).
  • Annual vehicle inspections.
  • Daily pretrip and post-trip vehicle inspections.
  • Recordkeeping for repairs and preventative maintenance.
  • Equipment requirements.
  • Vehicle standards.

The driver of a regulated vehicle, including a pickup, must have a complete driver’s qualification (DQ) file. If current operators do not have a file, you must generate one as soon as possible.

Never try to hide a violation, such as backdating documents to give the appearance records were created prior. Falsification is frowned upon and carries a hefty price tag for fines. A best practice is to place note in the file indicating the date you discovered the violation and what you are doing going forward so that the violation is not repeated.

For instance, someone within the organization will be given the role of maintaining driver qualification files. You could indicate that all vehicles are being properly classified going forward and only qualified drivers will be assigned to them.

In addition, the operator of the vehicle is subject to hour-of-service (HOS) limits. The company may be required to equip the vehicle with an electronic logging device (ELD) unless it qualifies for one of the exceptions. However, an exception to the ELD requirements may not remove all HOS requirements.

ELDs exceptions used for pickups may include:

  • Vehicles manufactured before model year 2000, when electronic control modules were not required.
  • Drivers who are required to use a standard paper log no more than eight days within any 30-consecutive-day period. Examples include “intermittent” or “occasional” drivers and drivers eligible for a short-haul exception in §395.1(e). These drivers may continue to use paper logs when necessary in place of ELDs.
  • Drivers claiming exceptions such as utility service vehicles and certain agricultural operations.

Don’t Cut Your Fleet Short

When deciding which of your vehicles and drivers are subject to the federal safety regulations, don’t limit yourself to the big rigs. CMVs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are used for variety of business activities, not just hauling freight.

Always compare the vehicle or vehicle combination against the definition of CMV in §390.5.

About the author
Kathy Close

Kathy Close

Transportation Editor, J.J. Keller

Kathy Close is a transportation editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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