Massachusetts truck drivers and other commercial vehicle operators are subject to many specific commercial truck regulations. The skilled attorneys at The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan have handled countless truck accidents. They can tell you everything you need to know about trucking laws in relation to your truck accident case.
Call us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced trucking accident lawyer.
What Is Considered a Commercial Vehicle in Massachusetts?
The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) states that vehicles are considered commercial motor vehicles if they:
- Have a gross combination weight or weight rating that exceeds 26,000 pounds, including towed units with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) or gross vehicle weights that exceed 10,000 pounds; or
- Have a gross weight or weight rating that exceeds 26,000 pounds; or
- Are designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including drivers; or
- Are used to transport any hazardous materials, regardless of size.
The RMV definition of commercial vehicles specifically excludes:
- Private passenger motor vehicles
- Personal transportation network vehicles
- Motorcycles and antique motor vehicles
- Trailers, semi-trailers, auto homes, and house trailers
- Taxicabs and livery vehicles
- Ambulances and hearses
- Buses, school buses, and school transport vehicles
Weight Limits, Height Limits, Length Limits
Any truck owners or operators applying for a commercial truck permit in Massachusetts should first compare their truck’s overall height, weight and length to the following legal limits. These factors help truck operators determine whether they need a special permit for overweight or oversized commercial vehicles.
Maximum Weight Limits
- Motor vehicles with 2 axles – 46,000 lbs
- Vehicles or vehicle combinations with 3 axles – 73,000 lbs
- Vehicles or vehicle combinations with 4 axles – 87,000 lbs
- Vehicles or vehicle combinations with 5 or more axles – 99,000 lbs
- Vehicles with more than 18,000 lbs on axles spaced less than 6 feet apart
- Vehicles with more than 22,400 lbs on axles spaced over 6 feet apart
- Vehicles with an overall gross weight exceeding 80,000 lbs on 2 or more consecutive axles
Maximum Height and Width Limitations
- Vehicles with a width of 8 ft. 6 in., including load, if using tunnels
- Vehicles with a height of 13 ft., including load, if not using tunnels
- Vehicles with a height of 13 ft., 6 in., if traveling along Massachusetts turnpikes, the Ted Williams Tunnel, I-93 or the O’Neill Tunnel, or the CANA or City Square Tunnel
- Vehicles with a height of 12 ft., 6 in., if traveling through the Callahan Tunnel or Sumner Tunnel in Massachusetts
Maximum Length Limitations
- 33 feet, for trailers not in tractor-trailer combinations and other unlisted motor vehicles
- 40 feet, for auto homes, house trailers, and other trucks
- 45 feet, for buses and school buses
- 53 feet, for semi-trailers and trailers in tractor-trailer combinations
- 60 feet, for articulated buses and unlisted vehicle combinations other than tractor-trailers
- 65 feet, for traditional automobile transporters, traditional boat transporters, and truck-trailer boat transporters
- 75 feet, for stinger-steered automobile transporters, stinger-steered boat transporters, and saddlemount combinations
Hours of Service Regulations
Federal hours of service (HOS) regulations define the maximum number of hours commercial drivers are allowed to drive on duty. The regulations also provide minimum guidelines for trucker rest periods.
HOS regulations, as defined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), include:
- 11-hour driving time limits for cargo-carrying drivers and 10-hour limits for passenger-carrying drivers, after a minimum of 10 hours spent off-duty.
- 14-hour “on duty” time limits for cargo carrying drivers and 15-hour limits for passenger-carrying drivers, after 10 hours spent off-duty.
- 30-minute driving breaks after any 8 cumulative driving hours, for cargo drivers.
- Restrictions against driving 60 hours over 7 consecutive days or 70 hours over 8 consecutive days, for both cargo- and passenger-carrying drivers. Drivers may restart 7 or 8 consecutive day periods after 34 or more consecutive hours of rest.
- Cargo-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers with sleeper berths may split required 10-hour off-duty periods as long as one off-duty period of either 7 hours or 8 hours, respectively, is spent in the sleeper berth.
- All commercial drivers may extend their maximum driving and on-duty time limits by a maximum of 2 hours if adverse driving conditions exist.
- Any commercial driver may be considered exempt from the above requirements if they operate within a 150-mile radius and do not exceed 14 hours on duty.
DOT Numbers on Trucks
Since September 2018, all commercial motor carriers in Massachusetts have had to acquire and permanently display an official U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) number. DOT numbers may be obtained online from the FMCSA website. Trucking companies receive a single number to display on all commercially owned and leased vehicles.
Commercial truck owners who fail to obtain or display a USDOT number on their vehicles may face civil fines or out-of-service designations. All commercial trucking companies, whether they operate solely within Massachusetts or in interstate commerce, must comply with these regulations.
Massachusetts requires annual commercial motor vehicle inspections. A commercial trailer with a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) that exceed 3,000 lbs., and vehicle-trailer combinations or “heavy-duty” vehicles with GVWRs exceeding 10,000 lbs. are required to pass these commercial inspections.
The inspections evaluate criteria such as:
- Emissions and fuel systems
- Reflectors, marker lights, windshields and wipers
- Chock blocks and coupling devices
- Wheels, rims, tires and splash guards
- Frames, bumpers and fenders
- Seat belts, airbags and warning devices
- Brakes, air brakes and exhaust systems
- Steering mechanisms and suspension systems
Driver’s License Requirements
Commercial truck drivers must have specialized commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) in Massachusetts. These licenses are divided into Classes A, B or C based on the function, size and weight of the vehicles being operated. Only drivers 18 years of age or older may apply for Massachusetts CDLs. Only drivers who are 21 or older may drive in interstate commercial capacities. CDL holders under 21 are issued “K” restrictions, which limit them to intrastate operation only.
Certain commercial drivers, such as those who drive school buses or transport hazardous materials, may need to obtain specific license endorsements. These endorsements, such as “H” for hazardous materials or “P” for passengers, often require additional testing beyond the commercial driving general knowledge exam.
Truck drivers may need to provide proof of a vision, diabetes, or skills performance evaluation that shows they meet the minimum medical standards for a CDL.