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January 4, 2021

What Is the Difference Between Interstate and Intrastate in Trucking?

Tow truck putting a car on the back.

If you’re planning on starting a trucking company, you’ll need to decide where you want to operate. While many trucking companies operate in interstate commerce, there are advantages to hauling intrastate, too. But first, what does this mean?

In terms of trucking, this determines where you plan to haul loads:

  • Intrastate commerce – You’re hauling loads in only one state.
  • Interstate commerce – You’re going across state or country borders for your loads.

It’s also considered interstate if you have to cross state borders to deliver in the same state you started in. If what you’re hauling started in or will end in another state or country, that is interstate commerce too.

Examples of Intrastate Commerce

Not every trucking company needs to haul in more than one state. Some examples of commercial motor vehicles that require a CDL to drive but may be only operated in one state are:

  • Tow trucks
  • Garbage trucks
  • Dump trucks
  • Concrete mixing trucks

These types of jobs are often run by a company, not independent owner operators. These companies often operate as a short-haul business. Short-haul businesses often do not have to follow the FMCSA regulations in the same way long-haul trucking companies do. For example, the Hours of Service rules are often very different.

Examples of Interstate Commerce

Most trucking companies haul loads across more than one state or country. Being an interstate company provides a lot of opportunities for trucking business owners. Trucking companies that operate in interstate commerce can haul loads all over the country. Truckers commonly haul food and products for grocery stores. But, they can also haul construction materials and equipment, just to name a few.

The type of trailer your trucking company has can determine the types of loads you can haul. Some of the most common trailer types are:

  • Refrigerated trailers (reefers)
  • Flat-bed trailers
  • Dry vans
  • Tankers

What you choose to haul can determine the price of your loads. Trailers like reefers are more expensive to buy than flat-beds, but there may be opportunities for better-paying loads with more expensive trailers. The type of load you haul can affect your pay, as well. Loads that have a higher risk, such as HAZMAT can pay much more.

Read More: Pros and Cons of Different Kinds of Trailers

Truck on a wet road.

Which Is Best for Your Business?

If you’re planning on starting a trucking company, how to organize your company varies based on what you’re planning on hauling. Staying in only one state means you’re required to follow fewer regulations. A common example is that you may only need your DOT Number and not your trucking authority.

Learn about the differences between interstate and intrastate authority.

The types of loads you can haul and the type of equipment you need drastically change between intrastate and interstate commerce too. While choosing to only haul intrastate might be easier to get your business started, it often limits your load choices and in turn, your profit.

Most independent owner operators or small fleets should choose to start with an interstate trucking company, because that gives them more options and increases their likelihood of success.

Similarities Between Interstate and Intrastate Commerce

Intrastate commerce is mandated by the state while interstate commerce is handled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). However, there are still certain requirements that all trucking companies have to worry about, such as:

  • CDL requirements
  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • Commercial truck insurance
  • Hazardous materials

You have to make sure your drivers are qualified to drive commercial motor vehicles, and you have to make sure your loads are covered by insurance. If you’re planning on hauling HAZMAT that is federally regulated, you may have to follow all interstate commerce regulations as well.

Other Interstate Rules

When hauling in interstate commerce, you’ll need your trucking authority and other permits if you’re planning on hauling in certain states. The most common ones are:

  • New York – New York HUT Permit
  • Kentucky – KYU Number
  • New Mexico – Weight Distance Permit
  • Oregon – $2,000 Bond

You may also have to register under the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) and the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR). You have to get apportioned plates, too.

It may cost more money upfront to start an interstate trucking company, but the potential for profit is usually greater.

Should You Haul Interstate or Intrastate Loads?

Choosing what and where to haul is one of the most important decisions when starting a trucking company. While there could be opportunities for a successful intrastate business, many independent owner operators choose to haul in interstate commerce. Operating this way opens up more opportunities for profitable loads.

How To Go From Intrastate to Interstate Trucking

When shifting from intrastate to interstate, you’re moving from state requirements to federal requirements. The process is going to look a little different for each state, as some states have similar regulations to the FMCSA while others don’t.

You can change your trucking company from intrastate to interstate by following FMCSA’s regulations instead of the state. You’ll need your trucking authority, and you should apply for other registrations, too.

It may feel like starting your trucking company all over again, but you don’t have to do it alone. No matter where you are in the process, the coaches at Motor Carrier HQ can help you get and keep your trucking company on the road.

Set Your Trucking Company Up for Success

If you’re thinking about starting your own trucking company, get all of your questions answered with the help of Motor Carrier HQ. Let us take care of all the paperwork for you and help you make the right decisions for your business, such as if you should haul interstate or intrastate.

Contact Motor Carrier HQ

Do You Need a DOT Physical To Drive Intrastate?

Not necessarily. If you’re operating under the FMCSA and are using a vehicle with a weight over 10,000 lbs., you will need a DOT physical. If you’re hauling intrastate, you are required to follow state rules. Some states may require it while others may not.

Talk to one of the coaches at Motor Carrier HQ if you’re planning on running an intrastate company, and we’ll help you navigate those regulations.

How To Change Your CDL From Intrastate to Interstate

As a CDL driver who drives a commercial motor vehicle, you’re required to report your status to the FMCSA if you’re hauling:

  • Interstate non-excepted – You are required to meet Federal DOT medical card requirements if you are driving interstate.
  • Interstate excepted – You are not required to meet Federal DOT medical card requirements even if you are driving interstate.
  • Intrastate non-excepted – You are driving intrastate and are required to meet the state medical requirements.
  • Intrastate excepted – You are driving intrastate and are not required to meet the state medical requirements

If you’re a trucking company business owner, it’s your job to make sure your drivers are qualified and registered.

How To Get More Information

If you have any questions about information not covered here, listen to our podcast Haulin Assets! We started our own trucking company and documented the process from start to finish. You can learn more about:

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