What is Interstate vs Intrastate Trucking?

What is the Difference Between Interstate vs Intrastate Trucking?

Interstate trucking means that your commercial motor vehicle is involved in the process of delivering goods across state lines (including leaving the country) while Intrastate trucking means that you move goods that originate and stay within a single state’s boundaries. The important factor is where the goods start and end, not your truck.  If the goods themselves are transferred from truck to truck or driver to driver and the good move cross state lines, you are engaged in interstate trucking even if your truck does not cross state lines. You are engaging in interstate commerce by transporting goods that cross state lines during their journey. You are engaging in intrastate commerce by transporting goods that are starting within a state and whose final destination is within the same state.

Why is the Difference Between Interstate vs Intrastate Trucking Important?

trucks in a rowThe importance of the distinction between interstate vs intrastate trucking is that some of the laws that govern the driver, vehicle, and company are different and the operating authority will be federal vs state in interstate vs intrastate trucking.  To ensure you, as a truck driver, comply with the applicable laws, you must determine which laws apply to you. If you are engaged in interstate trucking, you are subject to the rules and regulations (FMCSR) of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA).

If you are engaged solely in intrastate trucking and your goods are truly only in intrastate commerce, then the state you are in may have different rules that govern your situation. In Texas, this would be the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (TMCSR). For example, the Federal DOT 14 hour rule, differs slightly from the Texas 15 hour rule.

What are the Legal Implications of An 18 Wheeler Engaging in Intrastate vs Interstate Commerce?

When a truck is engaged exclusively in intrastate trucking, it is subject only to state rules and regulations as well as state-imposed insurance requirements. These rules and insurance requirements often are far less stringent than their federal law counterparts and may require less insurance coverage for accidents. Additionally, insurance carriers for trucking companies and drivers engaged in interstate trucking are required to include in the commercial motor vehicle policy a  Form MCS-90 Endorsement–which requires the insurance company to pay any judgment up to their full policy limits for an accident caused by an interstate carrier even if there would otherwise be an exclusion or excuse not to pay under the policy.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) vs Texas Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (TMCSR)

Some examples of differences between the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and the Texas Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are as follows:

  • The Hours of Service of Drivers Requirements in the TMCSR allows for a maximum driving time of 12 hours following 8 consecutive hours of off-duty time whereas the FMCSR Hours of Service limits the maximum driving time to 11 hours following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • The TMCSR exempts farm vehicles that have a registered or actual gross weight of under 48,000 lbs. from regulation whereas the FMCSR does not.
  • Intrastate drivers in Texas may not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours.
  • Minimum liability insurance requirements under the FMCSR range from $750,000 to $5,000,000 depending upon the type of commercial vehicle whereas insurance requirements under the TMCSR range from $300,000 to $5,000,000. (The $5,000,000 amount applies to trucks transporting hazardous materials.)

A Houston truck accident lawyer can help you determine which laws apply in your specific situation.  Call for a free case evaluation now.

How Do You Determine if a Truck is Engaged in Interstate Trucking?

If you are a victim of a commercial truck accident, usually the police report will provide you with registration numbers that indicate whether the vehicle has been registered with the appropriate agency for interstate vs intrastate trucking. Thus, contacting the law enforcement agency to obtain a copy of the police report or simply asking the investigating office (if possible) is sometimes the best way to determine the answer.

Both Federal and State laws require commercial motor vehicles to display their Federal DOT number and/or State DOT number on both doors of the cab of the truck. The letters are required to be at least 2 inches in height and be in contrasting colors from that of the truck itself. This number can be run against the State and Federal trucking company databases to determine who owns the truck and what type of commerce it engages in.

It is often difficult for the layperson to know whether a commercial motor vehicle they see on the road is engaged in interstate vs intrastate trucking, particularly if the vehicle in question is a semi-truck. While any vehicle could be used for interstate trucking, some commercial motor vehicles are more commonly used in intrastate commerce. You can find a list of some of the trucks more commonly used in intrastate vs interstate commerce below.

What are the Insurance Requirements for Texas Intrastate Motor Carriers?

Texas intrastate trucks have the following minimum insurance requirements: Farm vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 48,000 lbs and all commercial motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 26,000 lbs must maintain liability coverage of 500,000. Generally, transporters of hazardous wastes, materials, and oils must maintain a minimum of 1 million in liability coverage. However, transporters of hazardous waste in cargo tanks and portable tanks or water gallon-style hoppers above 3,500 gallons must carry 5 million in liability insurance coverage.

Private buses that travel only within Texas borders and can transport a minimum of 15 but no more than 26 passengers must carry $500,000.00 in liability insurance coverage. Buses that can carry over 26 passengers must carry five million in liability insurance coverage.

What are the Insurance Requirements for Interstate Motor Carriers?

Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, for-hire general freight carriers must carry a minimum of $750,000.00 in liability insurance coverage. Fore-hire and private carriers of certain oils and hazardous wastes must carry a minimum of 1 million in liability coverage while carriers of other hazardous materials must carry 5 million in liability insurance coverage.

Private buses equipped to carry 15 people or less must carry 1.5 million in liability coverage. Buses that carry 15 people or more must maintain five million in coverage.

What Trucks Are Typically Used in Intrastate Trucking?

The following vehicles are commercial motor vehicles that are commonly licensed to conduct business within state lines. Intrastate trucks carry necessary materials for local businesses and government entities.

Garbage Trucks

Sometimes referred to as a dustcart, garbage trucks are uniquely designed to collect and transport solid waste to the appropriate treatment facility or landfill. Today, these trucks come in many variations as some load trash from the front, rear, and side of the vehicle. They may belong to a city or other government body or they may be privately owned and operated.

Dump Trucks

Mostly used for transporting loose construction material, a dump truck is characterized by its open-box bed, which uses hydraulic pumps to hinge loads on and off the truck. These vehicles range in size, as some are also used to transfer movable cargo and deliver larger loads to and from work sites. The hydraulic pumps make it easy to lift the bed and dump the debris in a city dump or other dumpsite.  They are often used to haul sand, rock, or other building materials to a work site as well.

Concrete Mixing Trucks (Ready Mix Trucks)

Concrete mixing trucks also called ready-mix concrete trucks, are vehicles that continually combine cement and other necessary aggregates to form concrete. Concrete mixing trucks are designed to transport and mix concrete at the same time. They are used to deliver concrete to construction sites, as well as smaller sites, such as residential areas.  These trucks weigh 20,000-30,000 pounds empty and can carry another 40,000 pounds of concrete.  Their heavy weight makes them extremely dangerous when a collision occurs. Even when empty, they can do substantial damage to people and property.

Bucket Trucks

Bucket trucks are vehicles with mounted, mobile platforms designed to lift workers and their supplies safely into the air to allow them to easily work on overhead lines. Industries such as telecommunications, public transportation, and electric utilities use bucket trucks to perform specific functions not otherwise possible. Telephone and cable trucks are good examples of these types of vehicles.

Tow Trucks

Tow trucks or wreckers come in several shapes and sizes and are mostly used to tow vehicles. Except for some heavy tow trucks (used to haul 18-wheelers), most tow trucks engaged in intrastate commerce.  These include hook and chain tow trucks, flatbed tow trucks, wheel-lift tow trucks, and rollbacks. They are typically built on a 1-ton pickup truck-style frame.

Box Trucks

Box trucks are trucks with an attached cargo area. Typically, they have a garage door exterior that opens into a large cube space, ideal for transporting many packages and large appliances. Box trucks are commonly used as delivery trucks, such as FedEx and UPS, but can also be rented as moving trucks by rental companies such as Uhaul, Ryder, and other moving companies.

Trucks Typically Used in Interstate Trucking

Commercial motor vehicles used in interstate trucking are usually larger and carry bigger loads than those used in intrastate trucking. It is important to know the difference between these vehicles because accidents involving interstate trucks may have stricter regulations and more insurance coverage than intrastate trucks.

Semi-Trailer, Eighteen-Wheelers, and Tractor-Trailers

Semi-trucks, eighteen-wheelers, and tractor-trailers are used to carry large loads with most of their weight being in the rear. They are usually designed as a combination of a tractor unit and a trailer. With the variety of trailers available today, it is easy to recognize these interstate trucks by their size and shape.  Tanker trucks are a specific type of 18-wheeler.

Tanker Trucks

Tanker trucks are commercial motor vehicles that are designed to carry liquid, gas, and hazardous substances from one location to another. Similar in size to a railroad tank car, tanker trucks can be difficult to drive due to the volumes of the loads they carry. Fuel trucks also use tanks to transport materials to and from work sites. Tanker trucks can be very dangerous in a collision when they are carrying flammable or explosive liquids.

Flatbed Trucks

As the name suggests, flatbed trucks are trucks with a leveled bed attached to the rear. Ideal for transporting large, and sometimes oversized loads using webbing straps and rope, these trucks make the process of loading and unloading deliveries time-efficient and convenient.




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