Lightweight Vehicles and the DOT

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.

149 thoughts on “Lightweight Vehicles and the DOT

  • April 7, 2016 at 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?

  • April 7, 2016 at 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

  • April 7, 2016 at 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.

  • April 7, 2016 at 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.

  • April 7, 2016 at 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.

  • April 9, 2016 at 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?

  • April 19, 2016 at 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.

  • May 17, 2016 at 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?

  • May 17, 2016 at 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?

  • May 18, 2016 at 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.

  • May 18, 2016 at 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.

  • May 18, 2016 at 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

  • May 25, 2016 at 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.

  • May 26, 2016 at 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!

  • May 30, 2016 at 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!

  • May 31, 2016 at 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.

  • May 31, 2016 at 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.

  • June 7, 2016 at 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

  • June 8, 2016 at 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.

  • June 9, 2016 at 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

  • July 12, 2016 at 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.

  • July 14, 2016 at 10:32 am


  • July 14, 2016 at 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.

  • July 16, 2016 at 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.

  • July 19, 2016 at 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.

  • July 26, 2016 at 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

  • July 26, 2016 at 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.

  • July 26, 2016 at 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.

  • July 26, 2016 at 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.

  • August 2, 2016 at 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?

  • August 8, 2016 at 2:45 pm


  • August 23, 2016 at 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.

  • August 23, 2016 at 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.

  • August 23, 2016 at 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?

  • August 30, 2016 at 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.

  • September 6, 2016 at 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.

  • September 6, 2016 at 8:35 am

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

  • September 13, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    I have a Med card, a CDl permit and am driving a single cab dually from Wisconsin to New York for work to grab a load. The vehicle has US DOT numbers on the side. On my route there am I required to run a log book even though I am empty? The GVWR placard on the inside of the door says 13,400lbs.

  • September 26, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Sorry for the tardy reply, but I have been swamped with paying work.

    Yes, you need to run a log book. The vehicle has a GVWR of 10,001 lbs. or more, you are crossing state lines, and you are going beyond 100 air miles. Hence, a logbook.

  • September 27, 2016 at 7:47 am


    Truck is over 26,001 gvw and pulling trailer over 10,001 for private use.

    I bought two trucks and trailers that falls under the description above to move my private belongings across country from Kansas to New Jersey we plan to take i70. It’s going to take two trips with these two truck/trailers, my son is driving one and I’m driving the other. We both have cdl’s (my son just got his to help me) and both of us have medical cards.

    I have tons of house hold items and lots of tools etc… from my shop. I live on a large estate with years of accumulated belongings. Some belongings might even look commercial to some but in fact are my private belongings. I had a hard time getting the large trucks insured so my bother that’s owned a construction company here in Kansas put the two trucks and trailers under his insurance policy so the trucks are insured through a company name but the registration is in my private name.

    I have signs on the sides of both trucks that say “Not For Hire”. We are trying our best to be legal!! I have asked a lot of people including DOT personnel that have given me conflicting information of what is required of us to drive these two trucks across country adding to the confusion!!!

    I’ve asked truckers and they tell me just jump in the truck and drive across country and don’t drive through the scales other truckers tell me to jump in the truck driver cross country but be sure to go through the scales to be on the safe side and some have suggested to maintain a log book.

    I am so confused with all the conflicting information out there. This is my belief and understanding with regards to private used vehicle of this weight class.

    .1 must have cdl
    .2 must have medical card
    .3 I have mixed feelings if I should stop in the scales or not
    .4 no logbook! logbook I think would imply that I’m commercial
    .5 No DOT numbers

    My question to anyone that clearly knows the laws and regulations of DOT. What is required of us? Please if you are giving your opinion please indicate so, but what I’m really looking for is the facts, and maybe that changes from state to state who knows! I’ve had many opinions and they are very conflicting, this is why I’m so confused!!

    Thank you

  • October 27, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Sorry for the tardy reply. I have been buried in paying work, which always supersedes free work. You’ve probably made your trip by now. If not, you would not need anything, except possibly the CDL and the medical. Since you are not in business, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations would not apply, which are logbooks, etc. However, some States require a special CDL for large, non-commercial vehicles, like RVs, or your rig. With the CDL comes a medical examination, as the States are marrying the medical requirements to the CDL. You would need to check with your State DMV to determine if you need a CDL or not.

  • June 7, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    If I pull a non commercial trailer with a commercial f250 do I fall under the same DOT requirements

    Thank You

  • June 21, 2017 at 9:35 am

    Is the combination vehicle being used for a commercial purpose? If it is, then the whole rig is subject to the rules. If you are using the rig for a non-commercial purpose, ie, transporting your ATV’s somewhere to go four-wheeling for fun, then it would not be subject to the rules. Hope that helps.

  • August 5, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    I used my company’s 3/4 ton pick up truck to go purchase a cargo trailer (7,000 GVWR) and its content in Canada as we are shutting down operations there and figured I should buy the assets instead of auctioning there for pennies on the dollar. Driving back to California, I was pulled over and handed a Bill of sale showing the trailer and equipment inside have been personally acquired as I plan to use them to finish my house renovation and build a shed. The trailer was still lettered with the Canadian company details and the officer made me sign all the documents with a 15 day notice to become DOT compliant. I have no desire to commercially haul merchandise or equipment. What is the best way for me to proceed considering I have no desire to commercially haul equipment and intend to use the trailer mostly for toys hauling in the future?

  • August 8, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Well, if you were truly transporting the trailer and equipment for strictly personal use, it should be unregulated. If that is the case, I would ignore the DOT writeup, and take no further action. If you received tickets, then you need to respond to them. It may be necessary to go to court to fight the tickets.

  • September 12, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    I used a personal F150 licensed in Alabama to transport materials from one area of a job site to another area of a job site in Kentucky. Is this considered interstate commerce? If so, does my vehicle which has a 10,000 GWVR need to be registered with the DOT?

    Do any company vehicles weighing greater than 10,000 GWVR need to be registered with the DOT if they cross state lines for business purposes?

  • September 20, 2017 at 4:49 am

    Can I drive under 10k gross delivery interstate without a DOT physical?


  • October 16, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Jordan: I apologize for the late response. It sounds like the pickup you used was under 10,001 lbs. GVWR. If so, then it does not need to be registered with DOT, ie, subject to the DOT rules. If vehicles have a GVWR of 10,001 lbs. or more, and is used for a business purpose across State lines, they are subject to the DOT rules.

  • October 16, 2017 at 10:12 am


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *