The difference between interstate commerce and intrastate commerce

If you have a trucking business, your vehicles cover a lot of ground. Sometimes that ground is within the borders of one state, or sometimes that ground takes truckers through multiple states (or even countries). So – with that in mind, there are a couple of words that are often tossed around in the trucking world: intrastate and interstate. What’s the difference? Aside from the definition, what differentiates an intrastate business from an interstate business? We’ll explain the implications of intrastate vs. interstate in trucking.

What’s the difference between intrastate and interstate?

So, let’s start out by seeing how the FMCSA defines intrastate and interstate:

Intrastate means that the motor carrier transports goods ONLY in their home state.

Interstate means that the motor carrier transporting goods meets one of the following criteria (includes places outside the U.S.):

  • Traveling from one state to another
  • Going from one place to another in the same state, but having to pass through a different state to get there
  • Transporting from one location to another in the same state, but originating outside the state

That’s a basic explanation of the difference between intrastate and interstate. But what does this actually mean for trucking businesses? What difference does it really make?


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What about DOT Numbers?

One thing that being an interstate business means is getting a USDOT Number. A USDOT Number is basically just an identifier that the government uses to keep track of safety information about motor carriers. Of course, it’s important to make sure that you have all the proper registration sorted out for your trucking business – and to adhere to all safety requirements from the FMCSA.

Okay, that aside:

You will need a DOT Number if you do interstate commerce and have a vehicle that:

  • Has a GVWR, GCWR, GVW, or GCW of 10,001 lbs. or more
  • Is designed to transport more than eight passengers for compensation
  • Is designed to transport more than 15 passengers (including the driver) not for compensation

You will also need a USDOT Number if your vehicle moves hazardous materials that require a safety permit in intrastate commerce. And you also have to be mindful that some states require interstate commercial vehicles to have a USDOT Number. You can check with your state licensing agency to make sure you’ve got what you need.

What about operating authority?

Another thing to consider if you’re an interstate business is that you need interstate operating authority (an MC Number) in addition to your USDOT Number. Basically, you need an MC Number if any of the following apply to you:

  • Operating as a for-hire carrier (for a fee or for compensation)
  • Transporting passengers or arranging for their transport in interstate commerce
  • You’re transporting regulated commodities or arrange for the transport in interstate commerce

Your operating authority is your registration with the federal government, and it tells you what kind of business you can run and the cargo you can carry. This also determines the limits of insurance that you need. And of course, it’s really important that you carry the appropriate level of insurance and that you have enough insurance to truly protect your business.

If you’re a new applicant, you’ve got to register online through the URS, or Unified Registration System. The bright side is that if you’re a new applicant, you’ll also get your DOT Number.


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Summing Up

So, that’s the deal with interstate versus intrastate trucking. Interstate basically means that you travel through multiple states while intrastate means that you stay within your state. Interstate trucking businesses need to make sure they have the proper registration – USDOT Number, MC Number, and so on. Although, intrastate businesses need to make sure they’re registered and set up properly, too!

As we mentioned above, it’s important to make sure that you have the right insurance. We can help with that. You can get started with truck insurance quotes by filling out our online form, giving us a call, or messaging us on LiveChat. Our transportation team is ready and happy to help with your insurance needs.


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