Commercial Vehicle FAQ


What is a commercial vehicle?

Basically, a commercial vehicle is any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle in commerce that is used to transport property or passengers when the vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more or is designed or used to transport 15 or more passengers, including the driver or is used to transport hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placarding.

If you fit into one of these categories, you must abide by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations as adopted by the state of Maine in addition to state law. You may find the federal regulations here.

Maine has exempted some Maine motor carriers from some of the regulations if the motor carrier is operating strictly in state (i.e. intrastate commerce). View what exemptions exist: see Chapter 4 for the motor carrier rules and chapter 6 for the hazardous materials rules.

If you are in the transportation business, you are required to know the federal regulations. The rules are complex and technical and therefore may be difficult to understand for someone looking at them for the first time. You may want to consult a business organization such as the Maine Motor Transport Association for assistance.

Why does my pick-up truck have commercial plates when I am not in commerce?

In Maine, all vehicles over 6,000 pounds are registered by weight. This is true whether you are in business or are a private person. Any vehicle registering for a weight more than 6,000 lbs is given a commercial plate. "Commercial" is simply the name of the category of plate.

A pick-up truck can be registered as a passenger car, but then is limited to a weight of 6,000 lbs for vehicle and load. Many larger pick-up trucks weigh more than 6,000 lbs empty. These vehicles must register for a higher weight.

What weight should I use when I register my truck?

You should request enough weight to cover the truck, the truck's load, any trailer you might haul and the load on the trailer.

Do I have to stop at a truck check?

State law says that all vehicles subject to gross vehicle weight restrictions must stop at a truck check. Generally speaking, if you are in commerce and you weigh more than 10,001 lbs, or carry 15 or more passengers or carry hazmat, you must stop.

Do I need a DOT number?

Yes, if you are operating a vehicle in interstate commerce and the vehicle has

  • a gross vehicle weight rating or
  • gross combination weight rating or gross vehicle weight or
  • gross combination weight of 10,001 lbs whichever is greater or
  • is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation or
  • is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver and is not used to transport passengers for compensation or
  • is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous.

Yes, if you are operating a vehicle in intrastate (in Maine only) commerce and the vehicle has a

  • registered gross weight of 10,001lbs or more or
  • is a truck with three or more axles on the powered unit, or
  • is a bus for hire that has been issued a Permit for Operation of Motorcoach Intrastate Carrier by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles

Do I have to display the DOT number on the side of my truck?

Yes, if you are operating in interstate or intrastate commerce.

How do I view the safety rating for my business or that of another motor carrier?

You can view a carrier's rating at any of several websites, including

Agriculture & Farm related information pertaining to Commercial Vehicles