Trucking Industry Regulations: What You Need to Know

trucking industry regulation

Various federal and state agencies govern trucking industry regulations that ensure safety standards, compliance, and fair practices. For example, every individual or business that wants to operate commercial vehicles and transport goods or passengers must obtain a Motor Carrier Permit (MCP). However, other regulations are mandatory, and you should be aware of them. Here’s an overview of key regulations regarding the trucking industry in the U.S.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

The FMCSA is a federal agency responsible for regulating and overseeing the trucking industry’s safety and compliance through various means. This federal agency establishes and enforces regulations related to driver qualifications, hours of service, drug and alcohol testing, vehicle maintenance, and more.

Motor carriers engaging in interstate commerce must register with the FMCSA and obtain a USDOT number to perform their operations. 

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

You cannot operate a commercial motor vehicle without a CDL in the United States. The FMCSA sets the standards for CDL issuance, including the classification of licenses and specific endorsements for specialized operations such as handling hazardous materials or passenger transport. 

Hours of Service Regulations (HOS)

Automobile accidents that occur when operating commercial motor vehicles are often attributed to driver fatigue. Because of this, hours of service regulations were mandated to limit the number of hours a driver can work and drive consecutively to prevent fatigue-related incidents.

The FMCSA establishes HOS rules, which include maximum driving hours, mandatory rest breaks, off-duty periods, exceptions, and exemptions. In order to improve HOS compliance, electronic logging devices (ELDs) were made mandatory on December 18, 2017 for most commercial vehicles. These devices accurately record and monitor HOS compliance.

Motor Carrier Permits

Motor carrier permits, or operating authority, are required for most trucking operations. Interstate carriers involved in for-hire transportation of passengers or property need to obtain motor carrier authority from the FMCSA. This usually comes with other requirements, such as having commercial auto liability insurance. 

Operators conducting their business within a single state (intrastate carriers) may be subject to state-specific permits and regulations. Guidance is frequently required to obtain a motor carrier permit, so you should consider working with a trucking service company to aid you.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

To prevent impaired driving, the FMCSA implements various drug and alcohol testing regulations. Commercial drivers must abide by drug and alcohol testing programs implemented by motor carriers, such as pre-employment, random drug, post-accident, and reasonable suspicion testing.

Compliance with drug and alcohol testing regulations is a key condition for obtaining and maintaining a motor carrier permit, and in the long run, positively influences CSA scores and opens the gateway to advantageous offers, such as better insurance premiums.

Vehicle Maintenance and Inspections

Motor carriers are responsible for maintaining their vehicles in safe operating conditions. The FMCSA requires regular inspections, maintenance records, and compliance with safety standards. Routine inspections should prioritize brakes, tires, lights, and other critical components. 

Weight and Size Limits

Federal and state regulations establish various weight and size limits for commercial trucks to ensure safe and efficient transportation. These limits vary based on the type of vehicle, number of axles, and specific routes. 

Compliance with weight and size restrictions is essential to prevent damage to infrastructure and maintain road safety. Weight and freight also play a crucial role in determining the minimum amount of cargo insurance coverage required. 

Hazardous Materials (Hazmat)

Carriers that are transporting hazardous materials must comply with specific regulations set by the FMCSA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). These regulations cover proper packaging, labeling, placarding, and handling of hazardous materials, as well as driver training and other mandatory security requirements.