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Before you dismiss your company vehicles as exempt from the FMCSRs, you need to ensure your vehicles really are exempt according to the general definition of a CMV (Commercial Motor Vehicle). This broad definition, found in 49 CFR 390.5, defines CMVs as vehicles that operate in interstate commerce, on a highway, that weigh over 10,000 pounds (10,001 pounds or more).

FMCSA isn’t concerned with how you get to 10,001 pounds – by actual weight or by the manufacturer’s rated carrying capacity, including the unit being driven plus any trailing units (in combination). This is a situation where many fleets — private and for-hire — get in trouble. Light- and medium-duty trucks that are typically exempt find themselves over 10,000 pounds when they add a trailer with any significant load, for example, a portable cement mixer or earth mover.

The CMV definition also includes any vehicle of any shape or size carrying a placardable amount of hazardous material.

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FMCSA Rules for Exempt Vehicles

It will disappoint companies with light- and medium-duty vehicles to know that it’s easier to answer what rules you DON’T have to follow if a driver does not require a CDL. There are precisely three parts that don’t apply to your ‘exempt’ vehicles and drivers:

  • Special training requirements like Longer Combination Vehicles (LCVs) and entry-level drivers (Part 380)
  • DOT Drug and Alcohol testing rules (Part 382)
  • The requirements for CDLs and the corresponding licensee and endorsements (Part 383)

That leaves you with a lot of rules to address. Here’s a list of the most commonly FMCSRs:

Part 365 OPERATING AUTHORITY









Part 386 FMCSA PROCEEDINGS









Part 366 PROCESS AGENTS









Part 387 FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY









Part 373 RECEIPTS AND BILLS









Part 390 GENERAL REGULATIONS









Part 391 QUALIFICATIONS OF DRIVERS









Part 376 LEASES









Part 392 DRIVING CMVs









Part 393 PARTS AND ACCESSORIES









Part 395 HOURS OF SERVICE









Part 396 INSPECTIONS









Part 385 SAFETY FITNESS









Part 397 HAZARDOUS MATERIALS DRIVING

Section 390.3 paragraphs (a) and (e) sets the expectation from FMCSA that all FMCSRs apply to all carriers, drivers, and CMVs (including non-CDL) that transport people or property in interstate commerce.

Paragraph (e) has three sections.

  1. The first states that carriers need to know and follow the regulations. It’s essentially saying that “ignorance is no excuse.” You need to know them – all of them (or you better be partnering with someone who does).
  2. The second states that your drivers and employees have to be trained and comply with all the rules that apply to them. When it states “employees,” that means you, your managers, your mechanics, your dispatchers, your customer service folks, and whoever else in your organization “touches” transportation. NOTE: The regulations consider your independent leased drivers to be employees.
  3. The last section covers your vehicles, including vehicles that are only sometimes a CMV. They must be maintained in accordance with the rules, including all of the performance and design rules.








Is There Anything Else You Need to Do?

First, document every compliance activity and maintain organized records. If you don’t have proof of your safety activities, it’s like they never happened. As you can see from the above list of applicable FMCSRs, there are many requirements for ‘exempt’ vehicles. 

Second, go beyond what the FMCSA prescribes and follow established industry best practices. Involve a third-party (like J. J. Keller) for an unbiased examination of your organization. They can help you evaluate your risks and prescribe measures to protect your business.

This is critical because FMCSA isn’t the only entity that will assess your compliance and safety programs.

Insurance Companies They are researching your CSA scores, and you can bet they will ask for proof of the actions you are taking to stay compliant and keep the motoring public safe. They particularly favor proactive safety measures, like dash cameras, which not only help them reduce risk but also allow you to proactively train drivers with poor driving habits.

Trial Lawyers One accident is all it takes for your compliance program to be exposed. Do you have proof that your files and training meet the regulatory standards? What steps are you taking to proactively protect your drivers and company?  There’s nothing more powerful than video footage from a dash camera to exonerate an innocent driver and stop litigation.

General Public It’s your name on the side of the truck. What are you saying to the general public through the way your driver is behaving on the road? Their behavior speaks much louder than any advertisement.

It’s Not Easy

Meeting FMCSA compliance requirements for ‘exempt’ fleets — or any fleet — is challenging. The rules are complex and differ based on vehicle size, driver credentials, and loads hauled. Consider implementing J. J. Keller® Encompass® Fleet Management for complete DOT regulatory compliance, paperless recordkeeping, and proof of your safety efforts.





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