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.

Learn more about Arnold Safety compliance consulting services at ArnoldSafety.Com.


137 Responses to “Lightweight Vehicles and the DOT”

  1. Steve Aaron on April 7th, 2016 3:35 am

    Eric, I’m considering delivering RVs for a living and I have a Dodge Dually 3500 pickup truck with a king cab. I understand the rules for sleeping in your truck have changed recently something to do with if you log out you can sleep in your vehicle now…my question is can I build a custom sleeping area in the back of my king cabs (backseat area) by removing the backseats and then logging out and sleeping,and still be in compliance with the dot or do I have to purchase a stand-alone sleeper… and I have also heard that there is one company that manufactures a DOT compliant sleeping system that can be installed in the back seat and I was wondering if that is legal as well? I have heard several different opinions, can you clarify the previous rule, and also the rule change of 2013?

  2. Josh Jones on April 7th, 2016 4:40 pm

    Question, hope someone can help, i am wondering if i have a E450 box truck with a GVWR of 14000, is it possible to register it at 8000 or even 10000 pounds to avoid having to get a DOT number and go through that process? This truck would never carry enough weight to go over 10000, BUT it would travel across state lines from WI to IL AND be used for a business purpose, is this even possible? If this is not a solution then what would be? Find a box truck under 10k? Thank you in advance

  3. Eric Arnold on April 7th, 2016 6:10 pm

    You are subject to all of the DOT rules, except drug testing and CDL. The rules go by the GVWR of the truck, not what you register it at. Since the truck is over 10,000 lbs., it’s subject. It doesn’t matter what you register it at. If you don’t want to be subject to the DOT rules, you need a truck with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs., or less.

  4. Eric Arnold on April 7th, 2016 6:12 pm

    Steve, DOT will demand that you are using a sleeper berth which meets all the dimension requirements found in Part 393 of the rules, if you are logging ‘sleeper berth’. There are probably companies which will build custom sleepers for your pickup truck, but you are responsible for ensuring the sleepers meet the dimension requirements.

  5. Eric Arnold on April 7th, 2016 6:14 pm

    They are not subject to CDL. That only applies at 26,001 lbs. GVWR. They would be subject to medicals, if you are pulling a trailer, as the rules apply at 10,001 lbs. GVWR. All by themselves, your trucks are not subject to the rules, and do not need the USDOT numbers.

  6. Corey on April 9th, 2016 10:49 pm

    I bought a Ford F-250 and a 40′ gooseneck trailer with 8 lug axles. What do I need to do to be legal?

  7. Eric Arnold on April 19th, 2016 9:30 am

    Corey: generally speaking, you will probably need to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Of course, that may vary, depending whether you cross State lines, what’s the GVWR of your vehicle, etc. If you want a more specific rundown, I’d need to know more specifics about what you’re doing. My phone number is (610) 582-4356.

  8. Amy B on May 17th, 2016 8:54 am

    Hi There. I want to make sure I follow the rules and regulations. I have a Dodge Caravan that comes in at appox 6200gvwr. I will be transporting goods, some across state lines, on a part time basis. Do I need a DOT number along with MC#? Thanks And to follow up that question…if I stayed within state lines does the answer change?

  9. Tony Jones on May 17th, 2016 5:47 pm

    I work for a power company and wanted to know if I drive an F-250 and pull a trailer that GWV is 10,001 are over but not crossing state lines and not on the interstate do I have to fill a dot book out?

  10. Eric Arnold on May 18th, 2016 8:01 am

    Maybe. Some states only require you to fill out a log if the combination vehicle has a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., and requires a CDL. I think Texas is like that. Some states require it at 10,001 lbs. Sorry I can be more specific unless I know what State you are in. You could always check with the local State Police or Highway Patrol.

  11. Eric Arnold on May 18th, 2016 8:04 am

    Based on the information given, I would say you do not need a DOT number or MC number. The rules kick in at 10,001 lbs. GVWR, and since yours is less than that, you and your vehicle would not be subject to the rules. That should be the same no matter what State you are in, but some States have weird regulations, so you might double-check with whatever police you have where you are.

  12. Aaron Zapol on May 18th, 2016 11:52 pm

    I have a 1/2 ton pickup and towing a vehicle on the back with a steel 2 axle flat open trailer. Do any of these apply? It is not for work purposes nor going over state lines. Please get back to me if you can thanks

  13. Eric Arnold on May 25th, 2016 5:02 pm

    The rules probably do not apply to you, if your rig is not for a commercial purpose. However, DOT stretches the definition of ‘commercial’ pretty broadly. If you are using the rig to generate any kind of money at all, they may call if commercial. Hope that helps.

  14. Larry on May 26th, 2016 3:13 pm

    Hi Eric-
    I have 2 F250 Super Duties, one pulling a trailer of 10,001+ lbs and one is pulling a trailer under that weight. This is for work, and I do cross state lines. There are 2 things that I’m unclear on regarding DOT compliance. The F250 hauling the 10,001+ trailer, does the driver of that truck require a CDL A? (GCWR is under 26,000 lbs.) Also, is there a max length for both I need to be concerned about for DOT compliance?

    Thank you for your help!

  15. Steve Aaron on May 30th, 2016 11:27 am

    Eric Happy Memorial Day,
    I have a question: I own a Dodge 3500 Dually and it is my understanding that I can pull up to 10,000 pounds on a trailer behind me and still not require a CDL, the trailer I will be Towing is a 30 foot aluminum which weighs 4000 pounds and I will put two recreational vehicle pods on top of that 30 foot trailer that eac weigh 2500 pounds, for total trailer weight of 9000#. Since my dually weighs under 10k#,does it sound like to you that I will be safe driving these units without a CDL required?
    2nd Question: I am considering removing my 8-foot regular pick up bed and replacing it with a 9-foot deckbed on the back of my truck, thus allowing me to put a third RV pod onto the back of my truck, yet not increasing my tow weight at all.In All, my truck will weigh 10k#, plus one RV pod on deck bed at 2500#, plus trailer and two RV pods at 9000# for a total CGVW of 21,500#…does it sound like to you that this scenario would also not require a CDL? I understand that CDL requirements are on a state-by-state basis, however the states I will be traveling through, and live in, all have a requirement of 26001 pounds combination gross vehicle weight. thank you!

  16. Eric Arnold on May 31st, 2016 7:32 am

    1) The CDL is contingent on the GVWR of both vehicles. The GVWR is a metal tag found on the vehicles. If you take the values on the metal tags, add them together, and they are over 26,000 lbs., AND the value of the trailer is also over 10,000 lbs, then it is a CDL vehicle. If the weight on the trailer itself is over 10,000 lbs., AND the entire rig weighs more than 26,000 lbs., then it’s a CDL vehicle. IE: you can’t take a rig which rates out at 24,000 lbs., and load 33,000 lbs on it, and say, ‘haha! I don’t have a CDL vehicle’. They get you coming and going.

    2) See Question 1. The CDL requirements should be uniform amongst all the States. In other words, if you don’t need a CDL in Florida, you won’t need one in Illinois.

    Hope that helps.

  17. Eric Arnold on May 31st, 2016 7:35 am

    No, if the GCWVRs is under 26,000 lbs. AND the entire rig weighs less than 26,000 lbs.

    The length of the vehicles is governed by each individual State, and frankly I don’t know what that is. I would check with the States you think you’ll be operating in.

  18. Kevin Powers on June 7th, 2016 11:46 am

    I am running a one ton with 4 car wedge trailer. I have heard that I can not have the factory bed on my pickup as it has 7 cubic foot of storage which makes it a box truck. I am 65′ in length with or without the box. I’m told I can put a flatbed on it and be legal as long as it doesn’t have rails. What’s the correct answer

  19. Eric Arnold on June 8th, 2016 9:04 am

    Kevin: the short answer is: I don’t know. Size and weight regulations are generally handled by each individual State, and I am not an expert in the size and weight requirements in all the States. I would check with the commercial division of your Highway Patrol or State Police. Sorry.

  20. monica nelson on June 9th, 2016 10:00 pm

    hi I have a 550 ford truck for work. we do swimming pool do we need a dot number on it and do we need a commercial driver license

  21. Eric Arnold on July 12th, 2016 6:27 am

    Monica: Sorry for my tardy reply. You determine whether or not you need a CDL by the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the F550. If it is 26,001 lbs. or more, then you need it. As for the DOT number, if you cross state lines, you would need one. If not, you need to check with your State.

  22. MARY V on July 14th, 2016 10:32 am


  23. Eric Arnold on July 14th, 2016 1:25 pm

    If the truck is required to be placarded, then yes, it would require a CDL C. If the driver does not haul a placardable amount of HazMat, and the GVWR and weight of the truck is below 26,001 lbs., then he would not need a CDL. Hope that helps.

  24. Rex Hickman on July 16th, 2016 9:26 pm

    I recently started a Landscaping business in md. I drive a GMC 2500 with a dump trailer. The combination weight is 11,860 when I carry my compact tractor it roughly is an extra 3 thousand lbs. I have a dot number but I need to know what is expected. I am getting several 3rd party compliance letters. What do I do if anything. Thank-you for your time.

  25. Eric Arnold on July 19th, 2016 8:41 am

    You have to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. You find them online at, or a company called JJ Keller sells them. They consist of many rules, not the least of which are: driver qualification files, medical cards, time records, and maintenance records. If you want me to want you through them, in preparation for your New Entrant audit, I can do that over the phone. (610) 582-4356. I hope that helps.

  26. Stephanie on July 26th, 2016 4:18 am

    I have a Ram 3500 GRVW 14,000 and gooseneck trailer GRVW 11,200. No CDL would I need a combination or token plate/apportioned plates will start intrastate for now in Texas eventually interstate. Last Do I need CDL or med card. Thank you

  27. Lynn Milton on July 26th, 2016 11:38 am

    I work in a pipeline department. We have 3/4 ton pickups to do our field work and right of way observations. Every now and then we do pull a trailer, but we are not involved with interstate commerce. do we still have to be under the DOT guidelines as far as weight.

  28. Eric Arnold on July 26th, 2016 2:32 pm

    If you pull a trailer with the 3/4 ton trucks, the GVWR of the combination would be 10,001 lbs. or more, most likely. You would then be subject to the DOT safety rules (except for drug testing and CDL), if you cross state lines. If you don’t, then you must go by your State rules. Many states have adopted the Federal limit of 10,001 lbs. GVWR to be subject to the safety rules.

  29. Eric Arnold on July 26th, 2016 2:33 pm

    Not sure about the apportioned plates. Probably not, but you need to check with your State DMV office. You do not need a CDL, but you do need a medical card, if going interstate.

  30. Banks on August 2nd, 2016 9:26 am

    My F350 DRW GVWR is 14000 lbs and car wedge I am looking at is GVWR of 14000 lbs. Take it I need CDL to run this equipment, even if empty or under 26000 lbs due to combined weight rating. I already plan to obtain DOT and Motor Carrier. I would really like to run double car hauler until I get my CDL, then get larger trailer. Second question (if applicable), do I need IFTA?

  31. CHIP CORLEW on August 8th, 2016 2:45 pm


  32. Eric Arnold on August 23rd, 2016 8:30 am

    I think the question is, do I need a CDL? Yes you would need a CDL, because when you add the GVWR of the truck, and the trailer, it is 28,000 lbs., which is more than 26,000 lbs. Also, the trailer is greater than 10,000 lbs., so you would need a CDL, regardless of whether the rig is loaded or not. You would also need IFTA, I believe, as well as operating authority, a DOT #, etc.

  33. Eric Arnold on August 23rd, 2016 8:31 am

    As long as it’s for strictly personal purposes, then no, you shouldn’t need a DOT #. I can’t be used to support any sort of business, though.

  34. Jonathan on August 23rd, 2016 7:03 pm

    Hey Eric I have a class a cdl but my question is I have a chevy 3500 HD that’s rated for 26,500 and a goose neck that has 3riple 15,000 pound axles how do I determine what I’m legal allowed to carry? I was once told you can add the trucks gvwr and the trailers gvwr and divide it by two is this true?

  35. Edward on August 30th, 2016 12:36 am


    I would like to use a F250 or F350, single tires not dulley, to pull a three car wedge trailer, (14,800 three axel rated at 7,000 each axle. Do I need a CDL and medical card if only hauling cars in Texas? Thank you.

  36. Eric Arnold on September 6th, 2016 8:33 am

    Jonathan: I really don’t know. Maybe weigh the truck empty and then subtract that from 41,500, which seems to be your GVWR of both vehicles combined, or whatever you have them registered for, whichever is less.

  37. Eric Arnold on September 6th, 2016 8:35 am

    It sounds like your rig is a CDL rig. If so, you would need a medical.

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