The Difference Between Intrastate vs. Interstate Trucking

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 vs. interstate. What’s the difference? Aside from the definition, what differentiates an intrastate business from an interstate business? We’ll explain the differences between intrastate vs. interstate in trucking so you can choose the right trucking authority package for you.

Intrastate vs. Interstate

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

  • Intrastate means that the motor carrier transports goods ONLY in one state.
  • Interstate means that the motor carrier travels through other states or countries to deliver their loads. Examples of interstate trucking includes:
    • 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

The laws are also different depending on what type of transportation you do. If you do interstate commerce you have to abide by the rules set by the FMCSA. Since you’re traveling through multiple states you have to follow federal rules and regulations. However, if you’re doing intrastate commerce you only have to abide by the rules of that state. Make sure you’re up to date on the rules and regulations you need to follow depending on where you’re traveling.

What Type of Trucks Are Typically Used for Each?

Intrastate Commerce

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

Interstate Commerce

  • Semi trucks, tractor trailers, and 18 wheelers
  • Reefers
  • Flatbed trucks
  • Tanker trucks




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.

Summing Up Intrastate vs. Interstate Commerce

So, that’s the deal with intrastate vs. interstate 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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