(First appeared in the July 2014 issue of The Equiery)

If you are hauling horses, you may be subject to licensing and vehicle registration regulations beyond those required for operating a passenger car.

If you are hauling horses for hire, or if you are hauling client horses, or if your truck or combination is over a certain size, you may be required to obtain a United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) number, a Motor Carrier (MC) number, and/or a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

You’ll also want to make sure your vehicle is safe and able to cope with the weight of pulling these animals. If you’re not confident that your vehicle will manage the trip, you might want to consider looking for a better truck to haul horses with. Trucks are one of the most popular vehicles used to pull horses with, perhaps they might be worth looking at. Additionally, speaking to other equestrians might be a good idea to see what vehicle they use to tow with. If you find that the vehicle you want is significantly far away from you, don’t worry. Companies like Cars Relo might be able to help bring the truck to you. This would allow you to carry on with your business, given that you have a reliable vehicle to tow with. Once you have an appropriate truck ready to tow, you should consider getting some vet checks before hauling the animal anywhere.

Certain Carriers Must Display a U.S. DOT Number
The Federal Motor Carrier regulations ( §390.5), as adopted by the state of Maryland, state that a commercial motor vehicle is any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate (or intrastate, as adopted by Maryland) commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle has either a gross vehicle weight rating, gross combination weight rating, gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 10,001 pounds or more.

“Commercial” Includes Trainers or Barn Managers Who Haul Client Horses
If your horse-hauling vehicle or combination is part of a business, you are considered a commercial carrier, and the vehicles you use for your business are considered commercial motor vehicles. According to the state of Maryland and federal definitions, your horse enterprise is considered a business if it generates any amount of income.

A business doesn’t need to be profitable to generate income. If you accept money in exchange for goods or services, regardless of whether or not you make a profit, your enterprise is considered commercial. Horse boarding, training, lessons, breeding, racing, and sales are inherently commercial. You also may be considered a commercial enterprise if you win money at competitions, even if you compete on your own horses solely as a hobby. To the best of The Equiery’sunderstanding, this means that, even if you are hauling only your own clients’ horses to shows, and even if you do not charge extra or a specific fee for this service, you are still considered a commercial hauler.

Police may stop and ticket you if they believe you are a commercial carrier and are not carrying the required licensing and/or registrations. The police will base their assessment of whether or not you are a commercial carrier on how your vehicle or combination looks and/or your destination. For example, if you are operating a very large vehicle or combination, hauling a large number of horses, or transporting horses to a racetrack or auction, you are most likely engaging in some type of commercial activity.

GCVW of 10,001 or more must display U.S. DOT Number

If you are a commercial carrier operating a vehicle or combination with a weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more, you are required to obtain a U.S. DOT number and properly display that number, along with some other information, on your vehicle.

Traveling outside of Maryland
If you are hauling interstate (between a place in Maryland and a place outside of Maryland) and meet the definition of a commercial motor vehicle, you will need to obtain a USDOT number from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). There is no fee for this number. To the best of The Equiery’s understanding, hauling interstate means even if you are only hauling to Virginia or Pennsylvania.

If you are hauling only within the state of Maryland, you can obtain a Maryland-specific identification number (MD DOT #) from the State Highway Administration, Motor Carrier Division of the Office of Traffic and Safety. There is no fee for this number.

Requirements Depend Upon Weight
Most Maryland drivers have a noncommercial class C license. A class C license allows you to operate a vehicle weighing up to 26,000 pounds or a combination weighing up to 26,001 pounds, given that the trailer is 10,000 pounds or less.

If you are operating a vehicle with a weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more or a combination rated at greater than 26,001 pounds or more, where the trailer weighs or is rated more than 10,000 pounds, you will need to obtain a different license . The weights are based on the gross vehicle weight ratings and gross combination weight ratings provided by the manufacturer.

A class A or class B license is most commonly issued as commercial driver’s license (CDL) because most vehicles and combinations over 26,000 pounds are operated as part of a business. If you are a commercial carrier (meaning you haul horses not owned by you and you are compensated in some fashion) and need a license higher than a class C, you will need to obtain a CDL of the correct class. If you are not a commercial carrier and need a license higher than a class C, you can obtain a noncommercial license of the correct class.

“For Hire”
If you haul for hire or transport horses interstate as a business, you are required to obtain a motor carrier number from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This requirement is independent of the USDOT number requirement. There is a one-time fee of $300 for this number.

Farm Exemptions
Maryland transportation law (Transportation §13-911) defines a farmer as a person who raises, grows, or produces products on at least three acres. Breeding farms are considered farmers under the transportation laws, but not boarding, training or lesson farms. It does not matter that horse boarding or training operations are considered agriculture activities under the ag codes; under transportation codes, these are not farm activities.

According the the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension resource materials on hauling horses, if you breed horses and thus qualify under current transportation laws as a farmer, you may register class E vehicles (trucks) three-quarter ton and larger and class F vehicles (tractors) as farm vehicles. Farm vehicles must: 1) be owned by a farmer; 2) be used only as part of the farmer’s farming business; and 3) not be used to haul previously acquired products for resale or to haul farm products for hire for another person who is not a farmer (i.e., not client horses).

Maryland vehicles registered as farm trucks (as defined in Maryland law, Transportation §13- 921) or farm truck tractors (as defined in Maryland law, Transportation §13-924) and operated only within Maryland (intrastate) are not required to obtain US or MD DOT numbers.

What is gross vehicle weight rating?
The GVWR is the maximum capacity that any given vehicle can handle in weight.

How do I know what my GVWR is?
On the tow vehicle, look for the tag along the driver-side door. The GVWR is not the amount that the vehicle can tow; it is the amount of weight it can carry within itself. The maximum weight capacity of truck and trailer combined is the “Gross Combination Weight Rating,” which you will find in the owner’s manual.

On trailers, look for a tag attached to the tongue of the neck.

What if I am not hauling max capacity? Do I still need to comply?
Yes. If you own it and drive it, you need to comply, even if you never load your trailer.

What if I only have a 2-horse and I am only hauling one client horse?
The law does not make a distinction between the number of client horses versus personally owned horses.

What if my vehicle has a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or I am towing more than 10,000 pounds, but they are only my horses?

You will need a US DOT number.

What if I don’t charge a specific fee for hauling, but it is part of the overall monthly rate that clients pay me?
The law does not make a distinction. Carrying client horses makes a hauler commercial.

Where or how do I obtain USDOT and MD DOT numbers?
Both USDOT and MD DOT numbers are available online at fmsca.dot.gov by clicking the “Register Online” tab. A Maryland-only ID number is obtained by indicating “Intrastate Operation” on the application before submitting. DOT number applicants are encouraged to apply for a DOT number on the FMCSA website; online application enables motor carriers to update their own company information every two years as required or if there are changes in the company.

Maryland Department of Transportation

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration

Maryland State Highway Administration

Maryland State Police

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The University of Maryland Cooperative Extension

Do I have to go through Maryland weigh stations?
Yes, if your GVWR or GCRW is greater than 10,000 pounds.

What if I am only hauling my own horses?
Doesn’t matter, you still have to stop.

Will I have to go through a safety inspection?

Only if you are hauling client horses or are a “for hire” van.

Do I have to stop at Maryland ag inspection stations?

What if my trailer is empty or I am using it to move furniture?

Doesn’t matter, you still have to stop.

If I think applying these trucking laws to horse people is ridiculous, what can I do?

If you think the transportation laws should be amended to reflect the ag codes, join the Maryland Horse Council and share your thoughts, or attend the Maryland Horse Forum at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center on Aug. 7. If enough MHC members would like to amend the transportation laws for Maryland, MHC can take a lead on the legislative process.

Hauling: A few more things you need to know!
We received terrific feedback to our July 2014 article, “On The Road: Hauling Horses & Laws You Need to Know”–plus we learned about more points of clarification, and we learned about more questions you have.

Q. What if my vehicle has a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or I am towing more than 10,000 pounds but they are only my horses?
A. Yes, as we told you, you will need a U.S. DOT number. But there is more. If it is not for commerce, you will need a Class A license. If it is for commerce (e.g., the horses are boarders), then you will need to go on a CDL Training course and obtain a CDL license.

Q. What if my vehicle is less than 26,000 and my trailer is less than 10,000 pounds, and I am only hauling my own horses?
A. According to what The Equiery understands, nothing is required.

Q. What is Apportioned Registration?
A. From Matt Teffeau, Maryland Farm Bureau: Earlier this year, the Maryland Farm Bureau held a number of successful farm trucking forums throughout the state. At each forum the question about apportion registration was raised by farmers. A complex issue, apportion registration is actually in accordance with the International Registration Plan (IRP). The IRP is an agreement among states and some Canadian provinces regarding the collection and apportioning of registration fees for commercial vehicles that travel across state lines.
According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration website, a Maryland-based vehicle must be registered under the IRP when it:
– Travels in other IRP jurisdictions; and,
– Is used for the transportation of persons for hire, or is designed, used or maintained primarily for the transportation of property; and,
– Meets one of the following criteria:
• Is a power unit having two axles and gross vehicle weight (GVW) or registered gross weight in excess of 26,000 pounds; or,
• Is a power unit having three or more axles, regardless of weight; or,
• Is used in combination, when the weight of such combination exceeds 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW).

Now, the issue is, while many farm vehicles fall into the categories above, there is a 16-year-old interjurisdictional registration reciprocity agreement between Maryland and Pennsylvania. This agreement grants full reciprocity to passenger vehicles, noncommercial vehicles, and interstate reciprocity to commercial vehicles that display a license plate, which is properly licensed under the laws of the issuing jurisdiction.

Many more questions come to mind for equestrians who also travel across state lines, such as, how does apportioned registration affect my private truck, which pulls my horse trailer? The answer is, it’s the same for any of type of vehicle. The PA-MD reciprocity agreement clearly states and grants full reciprocity to passenger vehicles, noncommercial vehicles, and interstate reciprocity to commercial vehicles that display a license plate, which is properly licensed under the laws of the issuing jurisdiction. Therefore, if your truck has a legal restricted plate, which was issued by the state of Maryland, you are granted reciprocity.

Now, at times a grey area will be exposed. If you own a stable and will be hauling your client’s horses to a show, are you then considered commercial? This was the number one question we had at our trucking forums, mainly asking if a DOT number was needed. In Maryland, if you are hauling someone else’s product (grain, manure, and yes, horses) you are considered commercial. If you are also making money at these horse shows you can also fall into the commercial category.

Once you have established whether you are commercial or not, you must take a look at the PA-MD Reciprocity Agreement that grants reciprocity to commercial vehicles that display a license plate, which is properly licensed under the laws of the issuing jurisdiction.

To view the full PA-MD Reciprocity Agreement of 1998, please visit equiery.com for the link. We encourage members who travel between PA and MD to have a copy of this agreement on hand. Sometimes, new law enforcement officers in out-of-state jurisdictions may not recall this agreement. If this were to happen, instead of getting into an argument with law enforcement, respectfully show the agreement to the officer. You may also use this agreement if cited and a court date were to follow. Again, this reciprocity allows restricted plates, such as farm tags, to enter Pennsylvania without an apportion registration. To view other states’ agreements on reciprocity, visit the IRP website at http://www.irponline.org/?page=Restricted.

“One thing we might be able to do is lobby the Farm Bureau, the Maryland Horse Council, and our local state reps for a change in the law. What I have specifically in mind is that Maryland uses a variation of the EZPass system, called Drivewyze (see News Article for more info), to allow trucks that are pre-approved to bypass weigh stations. If horse trailer owners could register for and get one of these transponders at a reduced rate, it would make life easier for everyone. I am pretty sure all the commercial truckers and the weigh station folks are going to be fussed if a mob of horse trailers start to slow down processing of the commercial traffic, especially on weekends.” – Mary Johnston