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DOT Regulations for Pickup Trucks and Trailers

Written by Nick Webster

Published on Dec. 11, 2023, 5 p.m.

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DOT Trailer Inspection - The U.S. Department of
Transportation (DOT) may restrict your vehicle if it tows a trailer or is heavy-duty.





Here are some of the most essential DOT regulations for pickup trucks and trailers:

  • The maximum weight allowed for a pickup truck and trailer combination is determined by the truck's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the truck and the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW).
  • The GVWR is the maximum weight the truck can safely carry, including passengers, cargo, and the weight of the truck itself.
  • GVW is the weight of the trailer when it's fully loaded with cargo.
  • The total weight of the pickup truck and trailer cannot exceed the GVWR of the car or the maximum weight allowed on any given axle or set of axles, as determined by the DOT.
  • Proper brake systems must be installed on the trailer, including electric brakes or surge brakes, to ensure that the trailer can be safely controlled and stopped.
  • Trailers must have functional taillights, brake lights, and turn signals and be visible from a certain distance away.
  • Safety chains or cables must be used to connect the trailer to the tow vehicle to prevent the trailer from separating in case of an accident or mechanical failure.
  • Drivers must comply with DOT regulations regarding driver hours of service, limiting the amount of time spent driving without a break.
  • Trucks and trailers must be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure they are operating safely.



When Do You Need a DOT Number for a Pickup Truck or Trailer?



You may need a DOT number if you're using a pickup truck or trailer for commercial purposes! Here are some key things to keep in mind. A DOT number is a unique identifier that the Department of Transportation assigns to commercial vehicles. You'll need a DOT number if your pickup truck or trailer meets specific criteria, such as:


  • The truck and trailer have a combined Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,001 pounds or more.
  • The truck and trailer are used to transport hazardous materials in quantities that require placarding.
  • The truck and trailer are used to transport nine or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation.
  • Even if you don't meet these criteria, you may still need a DOT number if your state or local government requires it.
  • Getting a DOT number is a relatively simple process that involves registering with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and obtaining your unique number.








Having a DOT number can actually be a good thing for your business! It shows that you're operating safely and competently, which can help build trust with customers and partners. Following DOT regulations can also help prevent accidents and keep you and other motorists safe on the road. While obtaining a DOT number may seem complicated at first, it's an important step for ensuring safety and compliance in your commercial operations. So don't hesitate to look into it and get started!





Brake and Tire Inspections Matter






Once you understand that your operations are subject to FMCSA policies, you must undergo DOT inspections routinely. These inspections may be time-consuming, but they're essential for keeping everyone on our roads safe.



When undergoing a DOT inspection, it is essential to ensure that the truck's lights are all in good condition. This includes turn signals, brake lights, and marker lights. Additionally, you should analyze each tire thoroughly. Inspect its tread depth for any uneven wear or bald spots. Lastly, check the brakes. For hydraulic brakes, press down on the pedal until it feels stiff. Afterward, hold it down to see if any pressure is lost. Make sure these areas are carefully inspected to pass your DOT inspection!



When it comes to air brakes, releasing the tractor brake is just the first step. To get down to a safe, legal pressure, you'll need to pump the brake pedal to gradually reduce air pressure in the brake line until the safety valve activates and sets your tractor brakes.




What Are the DOT's Regulations When Crossing State Lines?





The DOT has several regulations that commercial drivers and carriers must follow when crossing state lines. Here are some necessary rules to keep in mind:

  • A commercial driver must have a valid commercial driver's license (CDL) issued by their state of residence, and that CDL must be valid in the state(s) they'll be driving through.
  • Drivers must comply with DOT regulations regarding hours of service, which limit the amount of time that can be spent driving without a break.
  • Carriers must comply with federal motor carrier safety regulations covering various topics such as driver qualifications, vehicle maintenance, and hazardous materials transportation.
  • Vehicles must be appropriately marked and identified with the carrier's name and DOT number.
  • Carriers must have appropriate insurance coverage for the states they'll be operating in.
  • According to DOT regulations, hazardous materials must be appropriately labeled, packaged, and transported.
  • Carriers must comply with any state-specific regulations, such as weight limits, permit requirements, or mandatory rest periods.




It's important to note that regulations may vary depending on the type of vehicle being operated, the type of cargo being transported, and the states being traveled through. Commercial drivers and carriers are responsible for staying up to date on all applicable regulations to ensure safe and legal travel across state lines.




Does My Work Vehicle Have DOT Regulations?






If your truck is a heavy-duty model or hauls a trailer, it might be subject to the regulations of the DOT. The DOT’s rules apply to any vehicle that moves across state lines with a GVWR over 10,001 pounds. The manufacturer allocates the GVWR and shows how much cargo the vehicle or trailer can safely carry. You can find this number on the VIN Plate, typically located at the end of your truck's driver door.



The Ford F-350 pickup can be an example of a vehicle crossing state lines with a GVWR of 6,800 pounds. When this truck pulls a 16-foot ATV trailer with its own GVWR of 7,000 pounds, the combined weight limit surpasses 10,001 pounds and thus becomes classified as a commercial motor vehicle subject to the Department Of Transportation regulations.





Key Points: The Most Important DOT Regulations for Trailers & Pickup Trucks



Users of trailers and pickup trucks must comply with the weight restrictions set by the DOT, which limit the maximum weight of the vehicle and its load.

  • Trailers must be equipped with proper brake systems, such as electric brakes or surge brakes, to ensure they can be safely controlled and stopped. Also visit the website link.
  • All trailers must have functioning tail lights, brake lights, and turn signals that are visible from a certain distance away.
  • Safety chains or cables must be used to connect the trailer to the tow vehicle to prevent the trailer from separating in the event of an accident or mechanical failure.
  • Pickup trucks and trailers must be inspected and maintained regularly to ensure they operate safely.
  • Drivers must comply with DOT regulations regarding driver hours of service, limiting the amount of time spent driving without a break.
  • Commercial pickup trucks and trailers may require a DOT number if they meet certain weight or usage criteria.
  • Pickup trucks and trailers used for transporting hazardous materials may require additional safety equipment, such as placards, warning labels, and spill containment materials.
  • Some states may have specific regulations regarding pickup trucks and trailers, such as weight restrictions, permit requirements, or mandatory rest periods.




Following these DOT regulations is crucial for ensuring the safety of everyone on the road and avoiding potential fines and penalties. By maintaining your vehicles and staying up to date on rules, you can potentially save lives.



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