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Commonly Asked Questions from the Agricultural Community Regarding Commercial Vehicle Operation

  1. When do I need a commercial plate?

You need a commercial (or farm, if you qualify) registration plate if your vehicle is a truck, and the gross vehicle weight will exceed 6,000 pounds. A truck is defined as a motor vehicle designed primarily to carry property. A truck also may draw trailers and semi-trailers. Gross vehicle weight (GVW) means the maximum weight of the truck and any load to be carried. If the truck is hauling a trailer, you need a commercial (or farm) plate if the combined gross weight of the truck, trailer and load exceeds 8,000 pounds.

A pick-up truck may have either a passenger or commercial (or farm) plate if the gross weight is 6,000 pounds or less; or the combined weight of truck and any trailer is 8,000 pounds or less.

Automobiles including passenger vans and SUV's generally do not need commercial plates regardless of the total weight or combined weight.

  1. For what weight do I need to register?

A truck in excess of 6,000 pounds GVW must be registered for the maximum weight of the truck and any load to be carried. If towing a trailer, if the truck and trailer together exceed 8,000 pounds, the truck must be registered for the combined weight of the truck, trailer and load.

  1. What constitutes commerce or commercial operation?

For purposes of the CMV regulations, you are in commerce if there is an expectation or possibility of earning money (above reasonable expenses), or receiving other valuable considerations. Competing for prize money at a fair would be considered commerce only if the underlying activity generates income (such as selling animals), or related expenses are taken as an income tax deduction, or if corporate sponsorship is involved. Simply winning a nominal cash prize is not commerce.

Even if you are not in "commerce", you still must stop at any open weigh station if your vehicle's GVW or GVWR exceeds 10,000 pounds. The GVWR is the vehicle's gross weight rating.

Even if you are not in commerce, if your truck's actual weight exceeds 6,000 pounds (8,000 pounds for truck and trailer combined), you must register for the actual gross vehicle weight.

  1. When can I use a Farm plate?

You may use a farm plate if the truck is used primarily in conjunction with the operation of a farm and the farmer's private transportation. A truck may not have a farm plate if the truck us used for retail delivery, timber harvesting, or for for-hire related work. There is no limit on how far a farm truck may travel based on the registration. However, see question number 8 for limits based on inspection.

  1. What is the definition of farming in Maine Motor Vehicle law?

Farming means engaging in farming in all its branches and the cultivation and tillage of the soil as a livelihood and includes dairying; raising livestock, freshwater fish, fur-bearing animals or poultry; producing, cultivating, growing and harvesting fruit, produce or floricultural or horticultural commodities; or any practices on a farm that are incident to or in conjunction with these farming operations. For the purposes of this motor vehicle law, "farming" does not include forestry, the growing of timber or the operation of a farm for recreational activity.

  1. Can a farm plate be used if you are in commerce (selling/delivering hay)?

A farm-plated truck may be used to deliver products produced on the farm directly to customers, such as delivering hay. A farm-plated truck may not be used for-hire, or for for-hire construction or landscaping-type work. A farm-plated truck may not be used for retail delivery to a customer.

  1. Can a farm plate be used to deliver products out-of-state or to Canada?

Generally, yes. Farm plates are a "restricted" plate in the IRP and as such are subject to Maine's bilateral registration reciprocity agreements with other states and provinces. Farm-plated vehicles being used properly may be operated in most other states and provinces, subject to limitations imposed on farm vehicles in those jurisdictions. Out-of-state farm plated trucks may operate in Maine in the same manner as Maine farm-plated trucks.

  1. What are the restrictions on a Farm plate?

A farm-plated truck is limited to use related to farming and the farmer's personal and family transportation. A farm-plated truck may obtain either a full or partial inspection. If a full inspection is obtained, then the truck is not limited as to distance for registration and inspection purposes.

If a partial inspection is obtained, the truck is limited to a 20 mile radius of the farm, and the name of the town must be painted on the sides of the truck. The partial inspection includes running gear, steering mechanism, brakes, exhaust system, and lights, safety glass and tires.

  1. When do I need to keep a log book?

A driver needs to keep a log book when the driver is driving a vehicle that is being used in any commerce, and:

  1. the vehicle exceeds 10,000 pounds GVW or GVWR and is used interstate; or
  2. exceeds 10,000 pounds GVW or GVWR and is used in intrastate commerce and travels more than 100 air miles from its customary garage.
  1. When do I need flags and flares?

Any vehicle being used in commerce exceeding 10,000 pounds GVW or GVWR must carry flags and flares for an emergency. There is no exception for distance or intrastate operation.

  1. When is a medical certificate required and how do I obtain one?

If the operator of a farm-plated truck operates 150 or more air miles from the farm, or is carrying hazardous materials, they must have a medical certificate.

Medical certificates are available through your physician or other health care provider.

  1. When do I have to stop at a weigh station?

Any vehicle or combination of vehicle exceeding 10,000 pounds GVW or GVWR must stop at an open weigh station. The officer may need to ask the driver some questions to determine if the operation is subject to the motor carrier regulations.

  1. When do commercial motor carrier regulations apply to my vehicles?

CMV regulations apply if your vehicle is being used in any commerce and;

  1. the vehicle is being used interstate and exceeds 10,000 pounds GVW or GVWR; or
  2. the vehicle is being used within the State of Maine, is traveling more than 100 air miles from it principal location, and exceeds 10,000 pounds GVW or GVWR.
  1. When do I need a DOT number?

You need a DOT number if your truck exceeds 10,000 pounds GVW or GVWR, or has 3 or more axles and is used in commerce.

  1. How do I register an SUV that is towing a trailer?

Generally, SUV's are considered passenger vehicles. However, if the combined weight of the motor vehicle and trailer exceeds 10,000 pounds actual weight, or the combined gross weight rating of the SUV and trailer exceeds 10,000 pounds; and the vehicle is being used in the furtherance of any commerce, the driver and vehicle are subject to motor carrier safety requirements regardless of the type of registration.

  1. How do I register a trailer that is used for hauling animals and includes a lodging area?

Any trailer with living quarters must be registered as a camper trailer. Camper trailers are subject to municipal excise tax requirements.

  1. How do I register a true trailer?

True trailers are registered for their actual weight. A true trailer is a trailer where the weight rests on itself, not on the towing vehicle. The registered weight of the truck and true trailer are added together to obtain the total combined gross weight.

  1. When does my trailer need to be inspected?

A trailer or semi-trailer must be inspected as follows:

  1. Interstate Commerce: A trailer or semi-trailer must be inspected annually if it is used in interstate commerce and the total combined gross weight exceeds 10,000 pounds.
  2. Intrastate Commerce: A trailer or semi-trailer must be inspected annually if it is used in intrastate commerce and the total combined gross weight exceeds 10,000 pounds, except that trailers or semi-trailers with a gross weight of 3,000 pounds or less are exempt.
  3. Trailers or semi-trailers not used in commerce must be inspected annually if they are towed by a commercial motor vehicle. A CMV generally is defined as a vehicle that weighs 26,001 pounds or more, is used to transport hazardous materials or is a bus.
  1. When do I need a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) and when are farm-plated vehicles exempt from certain CDL requirements?

You need a CDL if the weight of a single unit vehicle exceeds 26,000 pounds GVW or GVWR; or if a towed vehicle has a GVWR in excess of 10,000 pounds.

A person may operate trucks registered with farm plates, without a CDL when the vehicle is:

  • Controlled and operated by a farmer, including operation by the farmer's employees or family members;
  • Used to transport agricultural products, farm machinery, or farm supplies to or from a farm; or
  • Used within 150 miles of the registered owner's farm.
  1. Do I have to register my tractor?

Generally yes, if used on a public way. Farm tractors used only for farming and going to and from a farmer's field or lot do not have to be registered.