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Commercial Driver

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Whether you operate one vehicle or a fleet, there are many federal and state regulations that you, your business, your vehicles, and your drivers are subject to if those vehicles operate on the public highways. Filing for authority, registering a vehicle, obtaining permits, qualifying a driver, preparing documentation, and operating a twenty-four hour a day business within the law is a challenge. Failure to comply with the economic and safety motor carrier edicts may subject you and your business to substantial fines, penalties, and even revocation of your license to operate. This summary is provided to help you with a few of the details.

What is a commercial motor vehicle (CMV)?
Do you operate a CMV? There are two basic definitions that may apply to you. First is Title 49, Part 390.5 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) and it defines a commercial motor vehicle as a vehicle:

  • with a manufacturers gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 or more pounds, or
  • designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) if for compensation, or
  • designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers (including the driver) if not for compensation, or
  • transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards.

All the rules in the FMCSR apply to the company, its drivers, and the vehicles in this definition except CDL Licensing (Part 383) and Alcohol & Controlled Substance Testing (Parts 40 & 382)

When is a CDL required?
The second definition of a commercial motor vehicle is found in 49 CFR 383.5 and it applies to larger vehicles:

  • a manufacturers GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds or GCWR of 26,001 or more pounds inclusive of a towed unit with a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more, or
  • designed to transport more than 16 passengers (including the driver), or
  • transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards.

The drivers of these vehicles are required to hold a commercial driver's license (CDL) and the company also must follow the guidelines of Parts 383, 40 & 382. In Georgia, CDL's are issued by the Georgia Dept. of Driver Services.

What does all this mean? If you buy a truck (even a large pickup or van) rated by the manufacturer for more than 10,000 pounds you may be subject to the requirements of the FMCSR.

When are you considered a motor carrier?
It is easier to explain what is not considered a motor carrier and when the FMCSR does not apply... You are a motor carrier if you operate a CMV described previously on a public highway for any reason except:

  • School buses (owned by the school) transporting students to and from school,*
  • Transportation by Federal, State, or local governments,*
  • Occasional transportation of personal property by individuals not for compensation,
  • Ambulance, fire, and rescue vehicles

* Although school bus and government drivers are exempt from many of the record keeping rules found in the FMCSR, they are not exempt from the CDL (Part 383) and Substance Testing (Parts 40 & 382) requirements. For-hire school bus operators must comply with all the regulations.

Are you private or for-hire?
49 CFR 390.5 defines a "for-hire motor carrier" as one engaged in the transportation of goods or passengers for compensation. That is compensation for the movement of the goods. A private motor carrier still operates commercial trucks that are subject to the regulations, however the company hauls its own cargo, and the use of the trucks is inter-company and not for-hire.

So I am a motor carrier, what now?
If you meet the definitions of a motor carrier operating CMV's on the public highway, there are several things that you must do:

-- Purchase a copy of the "management edition" Federal Motor Safety Regulations and prepare yourself. You will be asked to certify with several agencies that you are "familiar with and prepared to conduct your business in accordance with" these regulations. Although you are responsible for most of the book, here are the key sections to be familiar with:

  • Part 383-CDL Requirements;
  • Part 387-Insurance
  • Part 390-General & Record Keeping
  • Part 391-Qualifications of Drivers
  • Part 395-Hours of Service
  • Part 396-Vehicle Inspection, Repair & Maintenance
  • Parts 40 & 382-Alcohol & Controlled Substance Testing
-- Call your insurance agent and be sure that your policy has at least the minimum amount of public liability insurance required and that it is on the proper form.

-- Register your business with the agency in the state that deals with motor carriers. In Georgia, it is the Georgia Dept. of Revenue. If you will be doing business in more than one state, you must check the requirements for those other states as well.

-- File U.S. Tax Form 2290 on your truck(s) with a GVWR over 55,000 lbs. through your accountant or call the IRS at (800) 829-1040. Your county tag office and the Georgia Department of Revenue require proof of payment of this "Federal Heavy Vehicle Use Tax" before license plates will be issued.

Proper registration depends on the nature of you business. The following checklist should be used for a for-hire operation for transportation of goods between all points in the United States (interstate).

For-Hire Inter-state Motor Carrier

This is the most common type of motor carrier. You use your trucks for compensation and you operate across state lines for your customers. There are many agencies that want to hear from you. Use the online registration process if you have Internet access.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-Georgia Division
www.fmcsa.dot.gov - (678) 284-5130

You will need: MCS-150 Form -- application for a US DOT number and the OP-1 Application -- for interstate, for-hire operations.

In addition, if you are hauling hazardous materials:

U.S. DOT -- Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
http://hazmat.dot.gov - (404) 832-1140

You will need: DOT F 5800.2 Form -- Hazardous Materials Registration Program

Unified Carrier Registration (www.ucr.in.gov)
The UCR Agreement applies to the following types of operations of passenger and property in interstate commerce: Motor carrier; Motor private carrier; Freight forwarder; Broker & Leasing companies.

All registrants are required to submit an annual filing of information required within the UCR Agreement. Fees are based on the total number of commercial trucks, tractors and trailers in your fleet.

Georgia Dept of Revenue
www.dor.ga.gov - (855) 406-5221

IRP Division -- 4125 Welcome All Road, Atlanta, GA 30349
IFTA Division -- 1800 Century Center Blvd, Suite 9227, Atlanta, GA 30345

Crossing state lines (interstate) with a power unit or combination unit with a GVWR/GCWR in excess of 26,000 lbs. or a power unit with three or more axles (regardless of weight) requires that you have an "apportioned" license plate and fuel registration agreement. Georgia will be your base state and apportion your fees to other states however it is up to you to choose the other states in which you wish to operate. The IRP office will issue your license plate and give you a cab card for each truck or tractor however you must have your U.S. DOT number first. Since you are for-hire, you must specify the "C" series tag. Also, you must show proof of payment of ad valorem taxes (see County Tag Office). The IFTA office (similar paperwork to IRP but in a different office) issues the fuel tax decal and proof of registration that you will need as you travel to other states.

Georgia Dept of Driver Services
www.dds.ga.gov - (866) 754-3687
2206 East View Parkway, P.O. Box 80447, Conyers, GA 30013

All drivers of vehicles required to have a commercial driver's license (CDL) must go through the Georgia DDS to apply for and be road tested for their CDL. Appointment times are required for road tests. Visit the DDS website for a complete listing of state locations for CDL testing.

GA Dept of Public Safety - Motor Carrier Compliance Division
www.dps.georgia.gov - (404) 624-7211
P.O. Box 1456, Atlanta, GA 30371

This is the agency in Georgia that enforces highway safety compliance for trucking following the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). These standards, as well as the specific CVSA "˜out of service" criteria are used to enforce driver, vehicle and company compliance.

Georgia Department of Transportation
www.dot.ga.gov - (888) 262-8306

Oversize/Overweight Permits: If the load(s) you wish to transport fall outside the guidelines of the Article 2, Chapter 6 of Georgia Code 32, you must contact the permit office.

Customer Service - 1-888-262-8306
Single Trip Line - 1-800-570-5428
Annual Permit Line - 1-888-774-1460
Superloads/House Moves - 404-635-8216
Manager Line - 404-635-8176

Your County Tag Office

The International Registration Plan (above) covers your license plate and road use taxes after you pay your county ad valorem taxes. Interstate carriers pay apportioned ad valorem taxes to their county for all the trucks and trailers that they have registered. The Georgia form, "PT-95", is used to declare the number of miles you operate in Georgia and the amount in all other states. New motor carriers must estimate a certain number of miles for every state that you wish to be apportioned with, but in your second year of operation, you must use actual miles traveled in every state. Your ad valorem taxes will be based on the percentage of miles run in Georgia compared to your overall mileage. These taxes must be paid to your county before you can receive your license plates from the IRP section of the Georgia DOR. Remember, you must have proof of payment of your Federal Heavy Vehicle Use Tax on U.S. Tax Form 2290 on each truck with a GVWR over 55,000 lbs.

Don't forget your trailer license plates. The permanent trailer plate (yellow in color) is a one-time fee for the plate (you still pay the annual ad valorem tax). If you plan to keep the trailer for at least four years, it is less expensive to get the permanent plate rather than getting a new trailer plate each year.

For-Hire Intra-state Motor Carrier
If your operations stay wholly within the boundaries of Georgia, you are considered an intrastate motor carrier. The Federal Safety Regulations (FMCSR) still applies to your operation as Georgia has adopted most of these regulations in the state. The Georgia Dept. of Public Safety -- Motor Carrier Compliance Division is the lead agency for enforcement of these regulations. If your home state is Georgia and you do not intend to leave the state with your truck, contact the following agencies:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-Georgia Division
www.fmcsa.dot.gov - (678) 284-5130
You will need: MCS-150 Form -- application for a "Georgia Only" US DOT number.

Georgia Dept of Public Safety - Motor Carrier Compliance Division
www.dps.georgia.gov - (404) 624-7211

P.O. Box 1456, Atlanta, GA 30371
For the GIMC (Intrastate motor carrier UCRA registration)

Georgia Dept of Revenue
www.dor.ga.gov - (404) 675-6135

Georgia Department of Transportation 
www.dot.ga.gov - (888) 262-8306

County Tag Office
If you are not crossing state lines, you do not need the IRP tag or the IFTA fuel decal. Simply go to your county tag office and obtain the "for-hire" Georgia base plate for each truck.

Private Motor Carrier
Hauling your own goods and not using your vehicles for compensation makes the paperwork requirements somewhat easier. Your "˜private carrier" tag is less expensive than the "˜commercial" type however all the safety regulations still apply. You still need the following registrations:

For Interstate (private): U.S. DOT #, IRP Tag, IFTA Fuel Decal & applicable permits for Haz.Mat. and Oversize/Overweight loads.

For Intrastate (private): U.S. DOT #-Georgia Only, GIMC# (Intrastate GA UCRA), County Tag & applicable permits for Haz.Mat. and Oversize/Overweight loads.

That's it! Now you are ready to tackle the motor carrier registration process. Don't forget to follow the safety guidelines found in the FMCSR and make sure you train your drivers and other support staff in these rules. These agencies will check up on your operation from time to time so you want to be prepared.

Agencies Contact Information

Safety Regulations Georgia Department of Public Safety
Motor Carrier Compliance Division
P.O. Box 1456
Atlanta, GA 30317
(404) 624-7211
Driver Licensing Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Services
Driver Licensing
P.O. Box 80447
Conyers, GA 30013
(866) 754-3687
Size and Weight Limits Georgia Department of Transportation
Oversize Permit Unit
935 E. Confederate Avenue, Building 24
Atlanta, GA 30316
(404) 635-8529
(888) 262-8306 (customer service)
Registration Requirements Georgia Department of Revenue
IRP Division
4125 Welcome All Road
Atlanta, GA 30349
(855) 406-5221
IFTA Division
1800 Century Center Blvd, Ste 9227
Atlanta, GA 30345
(404) 675-6135

Finally, you will want to keep up with the changes that occur in the industry. Economic and safety regulatory updates on the state and national level are available in various publications and through membership in trade associations. Here are a few to consider:

Industry Publications
Georgia Motor Trucking Association - www.gmta.org
American Trucking Associations - www.truckline.com
American Transportation Research Institute - www.atri-online.org
Transport Topics - www.ttnews.com 
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration - www.fmcsa.dot.gov
The Trucker - www.thetrucker.com
Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance - www.cvsa.org