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Recent Enforcement of DOT Regulations Affects Commercial, Farm Vehicles

August 4, 2009
Agriculture Advisory

Reports have circulated that state and local police have recently begun enforcing a law requiring all commercial vehicles to display a USDOT number. Violations of this rule can interrupt operations and give rise to hefty fines. This advisory will provide a brief description of the rule and other related regulations, as well as an explanation of the vehicles and operators that are affected.

In 2005, Michigan passed a law requiring any commercial vehicle traveling in the state to obtain and properly display a USDOT number. Increased enforcement of the rule has been reported recently and it seems to be causing a good deal of trouble for farmers and others who operate commercial vehicles in the state. Violators will be ticketed and may have their vehicle towed until it is made compliant with the rule. What's more, failure to properly display a USDOT number makes a vehicle very easy for State Police and other law enforcement officials to spot and may greatly increase the likelihood of receiving citations for other infractions.

Besides displaying a USDOT number, commercial vehicle operators are generally required to do each of the following: abide by hours of service requirements, obtain and carry a medical card, abide by age and CDL licensing requirements, maintain driver files and accident reports, obtain proof of financial responsibility, and receive an annual vehicle inspection.

These rules apply to anyone who operates a commercial motor vehicle on public roads. The term "commercial vehicle," for purposes of the rule, is essentially any self-propelled or towed vehicle used on public highways weighing more than 10,000 pounds or carrying a hazardous material in a quantity that requires placarding (including anhydrous ammonia) that is one of the following: (i) operated in interstate commerce, (ii) transporting passengers for hire, (iii) used for the purpose of transporting goods, or (iv) used for towing other vehicles.

There are certain exceptions for farmers operating commercial vehicles within 150 air miles (173 statute miles) of the farm. Farmers who qualify for this exception will not have to abide by the hours of service requirement or obtain a medical card.

To learn more about the regulations discussed in this advisory, or to find out what you need to do to become compliant, please contact Steve Kluting or any other member of the Varnum's Agriculture Group.

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