AgDM Newsletter April, 2011

Melissa O'RourkeNo enforcement of USDOT number requirement for private trucks in intrastate farm operations

Melissa O'Rourke, extension farm and agribusiness management specialist, 712-737-4230,


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established within the Department of Transportation (USDOT) on Jan. 1, 2000.  The FMCSA’s primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. Strategies for achieving this mission include registration of commercial vehicles and partnering with state enforcement agencies, such as the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT), to implement safety regulations and related inspections.

During 2010 and early 2011, Iowa farmers were presented with conflicting information regarding requirements for farm trucks used solely within Iowa (referred to as “intrastate” operations) and the need to obtain and display USDOT numbers. The Iowa DOT first published information announcing that enforcement of such a requirement would begin in 2010, and later pushed back the enforcement date to January 2011.

As of April 2011, Iowa DOT Motor Vehicle Enforcement Officer Ron Schipper confirms that enforcement of this requirement is not being implemented by the DOT.  Specifically, Iowa farmers who privately (not for-hire) operate farm trucks entirely within the State of Iowa are not being required to obtain and display USDOT numbers.

Iowa DOT emphasizes that if the farm truck crosses state lines, the truck is then involved in interstate commerce, and USDOT registration is required.

Further, if the farm truck is operated for-hire – such as hauling livestock, chemicals or commodities for other operations – the USDOT registration and applicable regulations apply to the vehicle.

If there is any possibility that the truck will cross state lines in the course of farm operations, or if the truck may be used for-hire, farmers should consider USDOT registration. The proper form to request a USDOT number is the MCS-150. This form can best be obtained by going to the website at where complete, step-by-step instructions are available. The direct link to the form is:

Review of farm vehicle safety requirements

With spring planting just around the corner, it is worth noting that whether or not a farm vehicle is USDOT-registered, the legal requirements for proper lighting and marking of farm tractors, towed equipment and self-propelled implements of husbandry remain in place. This is the time of year to review the minimum requirements for lighting safety equipment and slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblem use. According to the Iowa DOT, these are the minimum requirements:

Additional ways to make farm vehicles and equipment more visible, beyond the minimum requirements, include the following suggestions:

For more information about farm truck and implement requirements, farmers may wish to review materials contained on pages 59-69 of the Iowa Truck Information Guide (2010-2011 version) available at These materials outline truck and implement equipment requirements as well as licensing regulations. If farmers have questions about these regulations, the Iowa DOT can also be contacted at 1-800-925-6469.