Governmental Fleets Not Covered by FMSCA Regulations? Think Again!

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) was established January 1, 2000, to regulate the trucking industry in the U.S.  The primary mission of the FMSCA is to improve the safety of commercial motor vehicles and truck drivers through the enactment and enforcement of safety regulations.

One question Oklahoma cities and towns ask themselves is whether FMSCA regulations apply to governmental fleets.

Many Oklahoma cities and towns believe they are exempt from FMSCA regulations governing truck weight limits and other safety regulations.  It is true that governmental fleets have exemptions for emergency vehicles and snow and ice control equipment.  However, government fleets are not exempt from operating a safe vehicle as defined by FMCSA regulations.

Oklahoma municipalities may be exempt from the highway loading limits; however, they are still subject to vehicle design loading restrictions.  For example, if you plan on loading the rear axle of a flatbed or dump truck to 26,000 lbs., the axle (including springs and tires) must be rated for at least 26,000 lbs.  Otherwise, the flatbed truck used in this example would be considered an unsafe vehicle as mandated by FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards).

The three common infractions for government fleets are driving without a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License), not conducting drug and alcohol testing when required and oversize or overweight municipal dump trucks, refuse haulers, or jet-rodders.  It is noteworthy that when municipal vehicles travel to other states, the size and weight violations for these vehicles are left entirely to the discretion of the state in which they are located.  It pays to be aware of the laws of states your fleet may be traveling into.

Over the last decade more and more states have adopted most, or all, of the FMCSA regulations as their regulatory guidelines.  It is important to note that exceptions for governmental agencies only apply to particular chapters and/or sub-chapters of the FMCSA regulations.  If your agency leaves its municipal boundaries or crosses a state line, regulations may apply to your agency in different ways. 

On a related note, private entities doing government contract work, such as for-hire hauling, may  mistakenly believe that FMSCA regulations do not apply to them when they are working for a government agency.  The municipal exemptions do not apply to these private entities, even when they are doing contract work for a municipality.


Government vehicles are not targeted by law enforcement for FMSCA violations.  However, accidents can involve serious ramifications for vehicles with FMCSA safety violations.  If you’re involved in a serious accident, Highway Patrol has the right to impound your vehicles to investigate the incident under FMSCA guidelines.  This is the same way they would treat other carriers; they don’t have special guidelines to follow for governmental agencies.  They will ask for the vehicle’s driver’s vehicle inspection report (DVIR), maintenance and inspection records, and the driver’s file.

It is important to know there is no exception to random annual drug/alcohol testing for all CDL drivers.  All municipal employees who operate vehicles requiring a CDL are subject to the CDL and drug testing requirements.  Only very specific, very narrow exceptions sometimes apply and most municipal fleets do not fit exemptions in these areas.

What are the consequences of violating FMCSA regulations? They are the same for municipalities as for anybody else. The operator of the vehicle could be ticketed. The driver could be ticketed or warned.  If your vehicle is overweight, and you are in a state that enforces that, then you are going to get an overweight ticket. Oklahoma does enforce weight limits.

For more information on CDL drug testing, driver files and FMCSA regulations, contact William Sheppard, OMAG Risk Management Analyst, at wsheppard@omag.org or (800) 234-9461.

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