Lightweight Vehicles and the DOT

Posted on February 24, 2009 
Filed Under GENERAL

1-ton-pickupDOT rules and regulations apply to all vehicles, and their drivers, used in interstate commerce with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GWVR) of 10,001 pounds or more. The GVWR of a vehicle is a value assigned by the manufacturer. It is how much he thinks the vehicle can safely carry, including the weight of the vehicle. It is not the weight of the vehicle, or the weight at which you register the vehicle. The GVWR is commonly found on a metal plate on the inside of the door.

Power units are not the only vehicles with GVWR’s; trailers have them as well. When determining the GWVR of a combination unit, you must add the GVWR of the truck to that of the trailer. If it is 10,001 pounds or more, and goes across state lines, it is subject to the rules.

It doesn’t take much to come up with a 10,001 pound or more rig. A ¾ ton pickup probably has a GVWR of around 8,000 pounds. A one ton pickup is close to 10,000 pounds, if not over. If you pull any sort of trailer with these type of pickups, you are very likely over 10,001 pounds for the combination, thus making you subject to the rules.

A vehicle, which has a GVWR of over 10,001 pounds, but not over 26,001 pounds, which is a CDL vehicle, is subject to all of the same rules as a CDL vehicle, except for drug and alcohol testing. This means if you have a one ton pickup, pulling a kiddie ride, going state to state on your route, that driver must fill out logbook. He must have a medical card. The truck and the trailer must have an annual inspection. The truck must have a fire extinguisher and reflectors. The truck must have a USDOT number on it.

Trucks being used for non-commercial purposes are not subject to the rules. For example, you use your one ton truck to pull a trailer loaded with construction equipment for your job: subject to the rules. You use your one ton truck to pull a trailer with some ATV’s on them so you can so four-wheeling on the weekend: not subject.

Undoubtedly, you are thinking, “hey, I see those type of hot-shot combinations all the time on the highway, and none of these guys have USDOT numbers on them”. They’re probably violating the law. Most DOT cops don’t bother with the smaller combinations. However, if a DOT cop wants to write some easy tickets, all he needs to find is a one ton pulling a trailer for a business purpose with out-of-state plates, and no USDOT number on it. It just a question of if the officer wants to spend the time writing all those tickets that day. If you get stopped in one of these smaller rigs, and your driver is not adhering to any of the rules, it can be several hundreds of dollars in tickets. You should review their equipment and determine if they have any of the 10,001 – 26,001 pound GVWR vehicles. These vehicles and their drivers are subject to nearly the same rules as the big trucks!


Eric Arnold is a Former Enforcement Agent with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and a leading expert on USDOT compliance for small businesses. Do you have a question for Eric Arnold? Email him at

Arnold Safety simplifies D.O.T. Compliance for commercial vehicle operators. Get Eric Arnold’s USDOT Compliance Guide, DVD, & Regulations at ArnoldSafety.Com.

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40 Responses to “Lightweight Vehicles and the DOT”

  1. D. Gill on March 18th, 2009 10:12 am

    In New York State, all pickup trucks are designated commercial no matter what you use it for. I pull a horse trailer with my one ton crew cab dually. Since I live one mile from the NY/PA state line, I frequently drive the truck and trailer “interstate”. I did apply for my DOT number and someone called me from the DOT. They asked if I had pulled the trailer across the state line yet and I said no. They said I didn’t have to be audited etc until I went interstate. Hmmm, are they kidding me or is that true? Thank you.
    D. Gill

  2. Eric Arnold on March 19th, 2009 7:35 am

    Well, whoever called you was probably from the Feds. They only have jurisdiction over interstate transportation, ie, across state lines. Some states conduct audits of motor carriers who operate wholly within their state (intrastate). I don’t know if New York does that, I don’t think so. So as long as you do not cross the state line, the Feds probably won’t bother you. Of course, it sounds like you do go “interstate”. Well, as long as you’re not driving way over the line, you’re exposure is limited, they’ll probably never know you were here.

  3. Richard Shilling on March 11th, 2010 2:11 pm

    I researched this for my employer when I picked up 4 violations. To comply with Federal Regs (States vary and some use the Federal definitions), vehicle or combos over 10,001 GVW that are owned by a business and cross state lines have to comply with virtually all the regs applicable to big rigs except Commercial Driver’s License and mandatory drug testing. Log book, medical certification, specific documents to be carried,etc. per the Regs. To drive through states you either need a transit pass or apportioned registration. Oh, the horse people saw this coming and got an exemption, but read the regs.

  4. Lana on May 4th, 2011 2:15 pm

    This article is misleading…if you have a private pickup and private trailer and haul your own private vehicle you do not need a US DOT # on your pickup. IF you haul freight for “money” or are “for hire” you definitely need a US DOT#. Each state may be different but for the central US there are no requirement for a pickup hauling a trailer with personal items (jeep, building, lumber, ect) you do not need a US DOT!!

  5. Eric Arnold on May 5th, 2011 11:01 am

    Lana: you are correct, if you use your private pickup and private trailer for private business across state lines, it is not subject to a DOT number. If you use the pickup or trailer for a business purpose, ie, commerce, then it is subject to a DOT number. That’s why the article, and the regulations, use the word “commerce”. The article is not misleading.

  6. Shawn on October 16th, 2011 8:42 am

    Hi Eric, So I drive a truck for work with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs, by definition, not a DOT truck, it has a USDOT number on the side of it. We on occasion will haul loads of less than the reportable quantity (RQ) of hazmat, and other times haul loads with more than the RQ of hazmat requiring placarding of the trucks. Should the driver of the truck: 1, have a CDL to drive the truck with no load or less than RQ of hazmat? I have my DOT medical card. 2. Is the driver required to keep HOS log and have available hours to drive when the truck is carrying less than RQ or no load? We often travel Intrastate, but just the last few weeks my daily trip was Interstate.

  7. Eric Arnold on October 27th, 2011 5:07 pm

    Shawn: even those you have a smaller type vehicle which does not have a GVWR of 10,001 lbs. or more, you are still subject to all of the DOT safety regulations when you have to placard the vehicle for Hazmat. The presence of the placards is what makes you subject to all of the safety regulations. Hope that helps, sorry it took me so long to answer your question.

  8. Jennifer Jones on June 26th, 2012 3:29 pm

    1/2 ton toyota tundra with flatbed trailer pulled behind it…… what weight do you think I am?

  9. Eric Arnold on June 26th, 2012 4:03 pm

    13,000 lbs. What do I win?

  10. Kenneth Kallus on July 31st, 2013 2:50 pm

    If the driver of the truck pulling a trailer is dot at time the trailer is attached. Does he have to keep log book up to date when he is not pulling trailer and is not under dot. Say he log ends on July 1st and does not pull trailer again till Sept 1st. will he need to have the log book fill between those two dates.

  11. Craig C. on September 7th, 2013 4:23 am

    We have company owned cargo minivans that cross state lines. We do repair work in a border state. Do we need USDOT? Do we need log books and drug testing etc.?

  12. Eric Arnold on September 9th, 2013 9:15 am

    Not sure, without knowing the GVWR of the vehicles….

  13. Craig C. on September 9th, 2013 9:49 am

    The gvwr is 5090 lbs. Its a Ford Windstar cargo van.

  14. Chris on October 28th, 2013 11:17 pm

    I sell hobby supplies and travel to weekend events to sell onsite. Some of the products are hazmat(1.4C) but I do not have to display placards(under 1000lb). Do I need to get DOT numbers and run a log book? I am not for hire for other loads, just my own. I have a 2500 series truck(GVW <8600lb) and will soon have a trailer(2990 GVW).

  15. Victor Balancia on October 31st, 2013 10:04 am

    I am a Civil War re-enactor with a Ford dually (GVWR 14,000)and 3-horse trainer (GVWR 10,700). Am I correct that I do NOT need a CDA since I am under 26,000lbs total and not in commercial use, but hobby use only. Also, is it correct that I am NOT subject to DOT regs when I travel out of Virginia since I am not in interstate commerce. Others in my group are likely over 26,000lbs and I have some unhappy news for them if they don’t know the rules.

  16. Eric Arnold on November 4th, 2013 6:54 pm

    Do you re-enact for the North or the South? If you re-enact for the South, you must have a CDL. If the North, no. Just kidding. My stepson does re-enacting for the North.

    You are correct that you do not need a CDL. Furthermore, even if you were over the 26,001 lbs., 10,001 lb. trailer limit, you would not need a CDL. This is because you are not in commerce. This is a non-commercial activity. However, if you are involved in some type of commercial activity, IE, you sell gunpowder, uniforms, or other suttler type stuff, then the rules do apply.

  17. Eric Arnold on November 4th, 2013 6:59 pm

    Not sure which HazMat rules apply to you, I would have to look that up. My new rule on answering Internet questions for free is, I do it if I know the answer without looking it up. If I have to look it up, then you can call me, or email me, and promise to pay for my time, and I will look it up.

    As far as the DOT number and the logbook, you probably need the DOT number, and the logbook. 8600 lbs. + 2990 lbs. = 11,590, and the limit is 10,001 lbs. Do you cross state lines? If you do, you need the DOT number. Do you go more than 150 miles from your office? If you do, you need the logbook.

  18. ERNIE ALANIS on November 6th, 2013 7:14 pm

    I would like to know if it is required to have a CDL for hotshot serves in a pickup dulley with a 40ft goosenake trailer ; in the state of Texas.

  19. Eric Arnold on November 6th, 2013 8:57 pm


    I don’t know. It goes by the GVWR of both vehicles. The GVWR is a value usually found on the inside of the door jamb, or on the trailer, on a metal plate on the frame of the trailer. If the GVWR of both vehicles is over 26,000 lbs., and the trailer itself is over 10,000 lbs., then you would need a CDL A. Hope that helps.

  20. Debbie Cope on November 17th, 2013 2:27 pm

    We only do business in Fl and never travel outside the state. We only carry materials to use on our cellular tower site jobs. Our truck is GVWR 13,000 so I guess we need a USDOT, right? Do we have to keep a log book and all that stuff or just get the number?

  21. ERNIE ALANIS on November 18th, 2013 2:16 pm

    where could i find out if i need a CDL for a hotshot dually truck and 40ft gooseneck trailer in the state of Texas ?

  22. Eric Arnold on January 10th, 2014 8:42 am

    Sorry for the tardy reply. My short answer is “I don’t know”. If you stay wholly within Florida, you are subject to Florida rules, not the Federal rules. Your 13,000 GVWR truck would be subject to all the rules if it goes into Georgia. However, within Florida, it is subject to the Florida rules, and I don’t know what those are. For example, if you stay wholly within Pennsylvania, and do not haul for-hire, the limit is 17,000, not 10,000. I would check with the Florida Highway Patrol. Sorry I could not help further.

  23. Ed Johnson on February 28th, 2014 1:57 pm

    Wonder if you can help

    I have a class a CDL my company assigned me a company pick up truck to drive. It has the DOT number on the side. Does all the guys that don’t have CDL’s have to follow the hour of service guide lines . All of the pick up trucks have the DOT number on them. If I work 14 hours can drive my pick up home are do I have to get a ride home?

  24. Eric Arnold on April 12th, 2014 3:54 pm

    I am not exactly sure of the question here, but any vehicle with a GVWR of 10,001 lbs. or more in interstate commerce must follow the hours of service rules. This would apply to most 1 ton pickups, and to any 3/4 ton pickups if they are pulling trailers. The drivers of these vehicles would need to follow the HOS rules, including the 14 hour rule.

  25. Mike on April 19th, 2014 9:38 pm

    I just bought at 2014 Dually Silverado and a 40′ Big Tex. I have my DOT & Authority but no CDL. Where do I stand hauling less than 10K gross on the trailer?

  26. Eric Arnold on April 23rd, 2014 10:06 am

    If I understand the question, do you need a CDL with less than 10k on the trailer? What’s the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the trailer? It’s not what the trailer weighs, it’s not how much is on the trailer, it’s not what the trailer is registered at. It’s the value assigned to the trailer by the manufacturer, and it’s probably on a metal plate on the trailer which says “GVWR” on it. If that is over 10,000 lbs., you’ll need a CDL (provided the entire combination is 26,001 lbs. or over).

  27. Eric on July 14th, 2014 1:36 am

    I live on a rural property. We own goats, sheep horses etc. We sell animals maybe once a year. I have a E-350 van gvw 8700 and several trailers with the greatest gvw being 12000. Do I need a dot number to haul a load of firewood to my dads house which is over state lines(he would not be paying for it)? What if about hauling animals to a livestock auction? The whole “commerce” definition appears very gray to me. Selling a goat for $100 is hardly a business.

  28. Eric Arnold on July 28th, 2014 7:00 am

    Oh yes, very gray. 50 shades of gray is not for lonely middle-aged women, it is talking about the government. Seriously, it sounds like what you are doing is a hobby. Granted there is no definition of hobby in the rules. Nevertheless, I think you would have a strong argument that what very little money does change hands is not designed to further trade, and therefore is not commerce. Certainly the firewood example does not need a DOT #. From a realistic standpoint, I very much doubt the police will ever stop you and question why you do not have a DOT #. The only time it could possibly happen is if there is an accident.

  29. chuck on August 4th, 2014 5:02 pm

    I run strictly within NY state with a 3500 dually and a 40 foot goose neck trailer, what rules and guidelines apply to operating the vehicle including log books, DOT numbers, HUT stickers 1400 hour rules etc. anything that may help. I run one load a week to the city.

  30. Jason Boldin on August 15th, 2014 7:09 am

    We have a one tone truck with dot numbers, some of the guys don’t have cdl’s. Are they required to have a cdl to drive just the truck with no trailer? We are a water utility company.

  31. Eric Arnold on August 26th, 2014 1:40 pm

    Probably not. You go by the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the truck, which is a value assigned by the manufacturer. It is found on a metal plate inside the door. In order to have a CDL, the vehicle generally has to be over 26,000 lbs. A one ton truck is probably 10,000 – 20,000 lbs., although you should check to be sure.

  32. Eric Arnold on September 15th, 2014 8:52 am

    Sorry, I missed this comment earlier. New York has adopted the Federal safety regulations, with a few exceptions. This means virtually the same rules apply to you, as if you were going out of New York. The rules apply when the vehicle has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 10,001 lbs. or more, which your combination almost certainly has. I’m sorry, but your question is too broad to answer in one comment. I can cover it for you in 60-90 minutes on the phone, though. I will charge you though for that time. I can be reached at (610) 582-4356. As I said somewhere else on the blog: short, concise questions I can answer quickly are answered for free. Open-ended questions such as this…. well, time is money.

  33. Miriam on September 16th, 2014 9:23 am

    My husband drives a 14,500 truck for his job – the job provides him with this truck to do service calls. He drives it home and to work and to residential calls around the city. It’s an Isuzu NPR-HD Diesel. I can’t seem to find anywhere on how to determine the ton classification for this truck. We just want to know if this vehicle is over one and one-half tons? Can someone help out with this.

  34. Eric Arnold on October 1st, 2014 8:22 am

    I guess I don’t understand the question. For pickups, 3/4 ton, and one ton used to represent the payload capacity of the vehicles. Now, the payloads are more than that, and the designation really doesn’t mean much at all. I am not sure how Isuzu classifies their 14,500 lb. NPR-HD Diesel. You might check with Isuzu.

  35. Shane on January 24th, 2015 12:52 pm

    Have a 1 ton ford. If I am not pulling a trailer, but still hauling equipment on a modified bed, will I need a USDOT and have to run logs?

  36. Eric Arnold on January 28th, 2015 5:50 pm

    Shane: I don’t know, what’s the GVWR of the vehicle? Are you taking it across state lines? How far are you going?

  37. Chris Nicoll on February 6th, 2015 2:27 pm

    I deliver pallets in PA with a Dodge 3500 with a 38 ft gooseneck. The rig is combinationed at 32000. I run not for hire magnets on both sides of trailer and I do not run out of state. Do I need dot numbers and company names on doors?

  38. Andrew on February 18th, 2015 5:34 pm

    I am looking into getting into the light trucking business. If I do I will start out in my Toyota Tundra and may upgrade as cash allows. I have a few questions 1) I understand that I will need a DOT number, but what about a MC number? and 2) If I’m pulling a trailer does it have to be registered with US DOT? Finally 3) I’m I correct that I will not have to have any special licenses as long as I am staying under 26,000 pounds?

  39. Eric Arnold on February 26th, 2015 7:03 pm

    If you operate wholly within PA, then you are subject to PA’s rules, not the Federal rules. You probably need to register in some fashion. If you transport for-hire, then it would be the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission. Otherwise, it would be PennDOT. If the GVWR of your vehicle is 26,001 lbs., inclusive of a 10,001 lbs trailer, then you need a CDL, and drug and alcohol testing. You probably need to register with PennDOT. Hope that helps.

  40. Eric Arnold on February 26th, 2015 7:13 pm

    1) Yes.
    2) Your company needs to be registered with DOT.
    3) You will need a USDOT number, and an MC number. Other than that, not sure, need more information.

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