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Vehicle and Heavy Equipment Transport Regulations in the United States

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Vehicle and Heavy Equipment Transport Regulations in the United States
Vehicle and Heavy Equipment Transport Regulations in the United States

Before a driver can get behind the wheel of a truck transporting vehicles or shipping heavy equipment, they are required to undergo training. The training that they receive is crucial to the safety of the materials they will haul for a potential professional transport company that they work for. Most professional transport companies are going to require that drivers meet the legal qualifications before they hire them.

What are the requirements for a transport driver?

There are multiple requirements for a transport driver that must be fulfilled before they can take to the road. One of the requirements required for driving transport vehicles of this size is a CDL, also referred to as a Commercial Driver’s License.

Most requirements for transport truck drivers include:

  • A Commercial Driver’s License
  • Prior experience may be required. A lot of professional auto transport companies will not hire drivers who have just completed a trucking program to obtain their CDL. Vehicles and other heavy equipment are valuable, and these companies don’t want to trust them with just anyone.
  • Trucks that haul other vehicles are prone to problems as they drive across the country. A driver should be able to diagnose the problem with their truck and even fix it if necessary.
  • It is also a job of the driver to understand the basics of documentation system types. Drivers handle a lot of paperwork while they are hauling vehicles or heavy equipment. The driver must know what papers are needed and what they are needed for.
  • Drivers who operate auto transport trailers need to be skilled in all sorts of terrain. They may encounter destinations that are in highly trafficked metropolitan areas or require multiple-point turns. No matter what the destination, the driver needs to be skilled in this.
  • A truck driver operating a vehicle or massive equipment shipment needs to understand how different trailers work. They need to know how to tie down their haul as well as cover it as deemed necessary.

What is a Commercial Driver’s License?

A Commercial Driver’s License, also referred to as a CDL, is the base licensing for the trucking industry. CDLs can be A, B, or C, depending on the type of hauling you will be doing. Each class of CDL has its own specific training.

Class A CDL

A Class A CDL is required to operate vehicles that have a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. This also requires that the towed vehicle is heavier than 10,000 pounds. Those who obtain a Class A CDL with proper endorsements may also be able to drive some of the vehicles specified under the Class B CDL and Class C CDL licenses.

Common Class A CDL vehicles, given proper endorsements, are met:

  • Tractor-trailers
  • Truck and trailer combinations
  • Tank vehicles
  • Livestock carriers
  • Flatbeds

Class B CDL

A Class B CDL is required in the operation of a single vehicle that has a gross combination weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. The towed vehicle cannot be over 10,000 pounds. Some vehicles that fall under the Class C CDL with endorsements may be driven by the holder of a Class B CDL.

Common Class B CDL vehicles, given proper endorsements, are met:

  • Straight trucks
  • Large passenger busses
  • Segmented busses
  • Box trucks
  • Dump trucks with small trailers
  • Tractor-trailers

Class C CDL

A Class C CDL is required in the operation of a vehicle that is designed to transport 16 or more occupants, in addition to the driver. These vehicles also transport hazardous materials (HazMat). 

Common vehicles operated with a Class C CDL, given the proper endorsements, are met:

  • Small HazMat vehicles
  • Passenger vans
  • Combination vehicles not covered by Class A or Class B CDLs

What are the US DOT’s Regulations for Auto Transport?

The United States Department of Transportation has many rules and regulations for truck drivers on the road. Above all else, the DOT wants its drivers to be safe on the road. This is the reason why rules and regulations are in place.

The highest priority for the US DOT and the departments related to it is safety. Safety protocols and regulations are regarded as high in the transportation industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established within the DOT with the primary mission of preventing commercial vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

The rules established by the DOT and FMCSA apply to the movement and transport of heavy vehicles and any machinery that operates on wheels or tracks. These types of vehicles often include front-end loaders, tractors, bulldozers, power shovels, and any other vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds.


The FMCSA has its own performance requirements. These requirements center around acceleration and deceleration rates of the vehicle with the cargo affixed to it. The rules require that the cargo be restrained and tied down using a minimum of four tie-downs. 

Each of the tie-downs should have a working load limit of at least 5,000 pounds. The tie-downs need to be attached in a way in which they do not come loose or unfastened during the transport process.

DOT Regulations

The DOT regulations apply to vehicles that fall under a specific set of categories. These vehicles:

  • Have a gross combination weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds, which require a Commercial Driver’s License
  • Have a gross combination weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
  • Haul hazardous materials within or outside of state lines
  • Are designed to carry more than 16 people, with the driver included

Do I need a USDOT and FMCSA number?

Any companies that are hauling cargo on the interstate are required to be registered with the FMCSA and have a valid USDOT number. The USDOT number is a means of monitoring and collecting safety information on the company. Not only are these companies required by the FMCSA to have a USDOT number, but they must follow all federal regulations.

A transport company is required to display a USDOT number if they operate vehicles that fall under one or more of the following categories:

  • Transports hazardous materials which require a safety permit in intrastate commerce
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport the driver and seven other passengers for compensation
  • Is designed for transporting more than 15 passengers including the driver and is not necessarily for compensation

These requirements are also in place if the transport is involved in interstate commerce like trade, traffic, or transportation in the United States.

Federal Regulations Requiring Commercial Vehicles

There are a lot of federal regulations regarding the operation and handling of commercial vehicles. While these are subject to change at any given moment, the most updated versions are available online for reference. We have tried to touch on some of the most frequently encountered regulations faced by those transporting vehicles or heavy equipment.

Driver Hours of Service

The US DOT and FMCSA see safety as a focal point of all their actions. The safest drivers on the roads are the ones who are alert enough to do so. For this reason, there are federally mandated hours of service for the drivers of commercial vehicles.

There are limits to the amount of time commercial truck drivers can be behind the wheel of their truck and driving. The 14-hour rule is commonly mentioned when discussing work schedules and commercial driving.  The 14-hour rule refers to the amount of time a driver can be on duty before taking a consecutive 10 hours off duty. During that 14-hour on-duty time, the driver can only drive for a consecutive 11 hours before they are no longer allowed to drive again.

For longer haul drivers, they must also take a 30-minute break, off-duty, after eight consecutive hours. This rule is not enforced on those who are considered short-haul drivers.

During any given week, a driver cannot exceed a maximum duty of 70 hours. If the company does not operate their trucks daily, the hours cannot exceed a drive total of 60 hours. If you exceed the 60-hour limit, you will not be able to drive again until you fall under that total for a consecutive 7-day period.

For those that operate daily, a driver cannot exceed 70 hours in 8 days. A driver cannot get behind the wheel until falling below 70 hours for the given eight-day time period. Like in all rules, the driver is permitted to do other work exceeding this maximum, but they are not permitted to drive the truck during this time.

The primary goal of these rules is to make sure that drivers of commercial vehicles are safe. Tired drivers are more likely to make mistakes. The goal is to increase the alertness and awareness of the drivers on the roadways.

Does a driver have to be physically fit to drive?

All drivers who are on the road with commercial vehicles are required to pass a physical that is mandated by the US DOT. This physical is unlike a standard medical physical and is designed to check the fitness of a driver to withstand long periods of driving.

A part of the DOT physical is the drug and alcohol screen. The company that is hiring the driver may require them to take random drug and alcohol screening to ensure they are safe behind the wheel. The DOT has its own part of the physical that is dedicated to this testing.

The parts of the DOT physical for commercial drivers include:

  • Vision testing
    • A driver must have perfect vision. Their vision can be corrected with the use of glasses and contacts as long as they can pass the required sight test.
  • Color distinction
    • Some people are colorblind, and this can cause serious issues when on the road. There are corrective measures that can be taken to help rectify problems that could come up due to this.
  • Blood Pressure
    • High or low blood pressure can cause problems to the body that aren’t always apparent to the naked eye until it is too late. Doctors check blood pressure before approving a driving candidate. Medications can be used as long as they do not affect the driving of the vehicle.
  • Hearing tests
    • Drivers have to be able to hear their surroundings. Emergency vehicles, horns blowing, and other sounds of the road are vital. The DOT will allow for corrective hearing pieces like hearing aids.
  • Heart health
    • A healthy heart is essential in being able to withstand long periods of driving. The heart is the core of the body and must be in good working order.
  • Medications and Medical History
    • Some medications cause side effects that can hinder the ability to drive. A driver must be able to drive without side effects, causing problems. The doctor doing the DOT physical will review any prior and current medical conditions and their possible interference to the job.
  • Urinalysis
    • A urinalysis can tell a doctor more than a lot of the other tests. If there is an underlying medical condition that a patient doesn’t know about, the doctor may find out in the urinalysis test.
  • Physical Endurance
    • Driving a commercial vehicle requires a lot of sitting and driving for long periods. Some people are not built for such tasks. This part of the physical makes sure that they are up to the task of driving for eight hours straight if necessary.

Why are there so many rules and regulations concerning commercial drivers?

Safety is the number one concern when creating rules and regulations for commercial drivers. No matter how big or how small the cargo they are hauling is, they must be safe on the roadway. The DOT and the FMCSA do their best to make sure all drivers are vetted with safety in mind.

At A-1 Auto Transport, we take the rules and regulations put in place by the United States Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration seriously. We do our best to ensure that all transport drivers are highly qualified and physically fit for the job at hand.

If you find yourself in need of a vehicle or heavy equipment transport services, A-1 Auto Transport offers you the best services with the most qualified candidates. We want to make sure that safety is among our top priorities for you and your precious cargo.

Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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