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.


113 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.

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