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Navigating California DOT Regulations Has Never Been Easier

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California’s Motor Carrier Regulations Are Complex

Along with national FMCSA regulations, the California DMV and CHP set additional regulations that motor carriers operating in California must abide by. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines, out-of-service orders, and other penalties.

Whether you need help maintaining compliance with California DOT regulations or you’re looking to enter the California market, our industry veterans at NTCI have the experience you need — so you never have to worry about compliance again.

Our Compliance Services

Mock Audits

DOT Compliance Review

Enhanced Consultative Program

On-Site Training

DOT & Audit Management

Fleet Safety Managed Services Program

Failure To Comply With California DOT Regulations Can Be Costly

Basic Inspection of Terminals (BIT) Program

The BIT Program ensures truck terminals are inspected by the CHP on a performance-based inspection selection system.

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A motor carrier is defined in Section 408 of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) as the registered owner, lessee, licensee, or bailee of any vehicle set forth in Section 34500 CVC, who operates or directs the operation of any such vehicle on either a for-hire or not-for-hire basis.

During a BIT inspection, CHP Motor Carrier Specialist (MCS) personnel will inspect a sample of regulated vehicles, maintenance records, and driver records to determine if the motor carrier is in compliance with applicable motor carrier safety related statutes and regulations.

If the motor carrier transports hazardous materials or hazardous waste, relevant hazardous materials records and safety practices will also be inspected.

The CHP may use the CVSA Level 1 on-highway vehicle inspection reports to fulfill the terminal vehicle inspection sample requirements. The vehicle inspection must have been completed within 90 calendar days of the BIT inspection.

Unsatisfactory Ratings

Motor Carrier Specialist personnel do not issue citations for violations discovered in BIT inspections. Instead, a safety compliance rating is assigned in each of the following categories: regulated vehicles; maintenance program; driver records; and hazardous materials (if applicable). The ratings are either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. A conditional rating may be assigned under limited circumstances on reinspections.

If each category is rated satisfactory, the composite terminal rating will be satisfactory, and the next inspection is based on the performance-based inspection selection system.

If any category is rated unsatisfactory, the motor carrier is informed of the unsatisfactory condition, specific direction is given to correct the unsatisfactory condition, and a reinspection will be scheduled within 120 days to ensure the motor carrier has corrected the unsatisfactory condition.

Employer Pull Notice (EPN) Program

The EPN program is mandatory for employers of commercially licensed drivers and enables them to monitor driver records.

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Employers must enroll any driver employed to operate any vehicle if:

  • The driver is required to have a Commercial Class A or Class B driver’s license.
  • The driver is required to have a Commercial Class C driver’s license special endorsement (Hazardous Materials, Passenger Vehicles, Tank Vehicles).
  • The driver operates passenger vehicles with a seating capacity of 10 or fewer people (including the driver) for compensation by a charter–party passenger carrier.
  • The driver works for a passenger stage corporation with a certificate of public convenience and necessity, or permit issued by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

These requirements include:

  • Owners who own, lease, or otherwise operate more than one motor unit or more than three towed vehicles.
  • Owner/operators who have partners.
  • Family members and volunteer drivers.
  • Individuals employed for more than 30 work days in the preceding six months.
Driver Record Information

The EPN program automatically generates and sends a driver record when the driver is enrolled and when any of the following actions or activities are added to their driver record:

  • Convictions.
  • Failures to appear (FTAs).
  • Accidents.
  • Driver’s license suspensions or revocations.
  • Any other actions taken against their driving privilege.

Carriers must monitor these reports and take corrective action if a driver becomes disqualified.

CA Number

A California Assigned (CA) number is required to operate in California. It is assigned and enforced by the CHP, and it is not the same as a DOT number.

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The CA number is used as part of the motor carrier of property permit number (MCPP). Motor carriers who operate within the State of California must have a valid CA number to transport property or persons for hire. This may apply whether you are an in-state or out-of-state carrier.

In-State Carriers: To operate commercial vehicles within the State of California, motor carriers must obtain a valid CA number, in accordance with the Motor Carrier Permit Program (Per California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 34620). As of 2016, a US DOT number must be obtained prior to enrolling in the program. Although the CA number must be valid, if operating within California, either the DOT or the CA number may be displayed.

Out of State Carriers: Some Out-of-state carriers must obtain a Motor Carrier Permit and a CA Number in addition to the USDOT number to cross California state lines.

Motor Carriers’ CA Number: The motor carrier’s vehicle(s) must display the CA Number and/or DOT on both sides of each vehicle (according to the California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 34507.5).

Vehicle Length, Height, and Weight

California has additional restrictions on vehicle length, height, and weight, with numerous exceptions.

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Vehicle Length – California 1983 ISTEA regulations limit single vehicles to 40 ft. (CVC 35400) and combinations to 65 ft. (CVC 35401), respectively, when not on the National Network (Interstate Highways). Overall loaded length, projected loads, and vehicle length are also restricted, but there are numerous exceptions to all of these regulations. No triples allowed.

Vehicle Height and Width – California regulations limit height to 14 ft. (CVC 35250) and width to 102 inches (CVC 35100), with many exceptions.

Vehicle Weight – California limits are based on the Federal Formula B, but many exceptions exist.

Periodic Vehicle Inspections & Preventative Maintenance

Commercial vehicles in California must be inspected at least every 90 days, or more often if necessary. Vehicle inspections must be documented and retained for at least two years.

What Must Be Inspected?

At a minimum, the following items must be inspected:

  • Brake adjustment.
  • Brake system components and leaks.
  • Steering and suspension systems.
  • Tires and wheels.
  • Vehicle connecting devices.

At a minimum, each periodic inspection report must include:

  • Identification of the vehicle, including make, model, license number, company vehicle number, or other means of positive identification.
  • Date and nature of each inspection and any repair performed.
  • Signature of the motor carrier’s authorized representative attesting to the inspection and to the completion of all required repairs.
Hours of Service (HOS)

Carriers may be subject to a different set of HOS regulations while driving in California.

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California intrastate-only regulations differ from national regulations. These differences vary greatly (ELD, meal break, etc.).

Agricultural operations are alloted more drive time under HOS regulations.
Passenger carrier bus regulations outline 10 hours (not 15) in for-hire operation.
10k+ GVWR motor trucks are included.
Combo length and CMV endorsements are included.
HOS exempted driver (local exempted) regulations have NOT changed for California intrastate drivers.

Hazardous Materials – California abides by Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), with a few exceptions. Cargo tankers (intrastate-only) get fewer working hours. They are prohibited and restricted to travel routes for PIH and explosives as well.

Hazardous Waste – A driver transporting hazardous substances or hazardous wastes as defined in §171.8 of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), is subject to interstate HOS limits, regardless of interstate or intrastate operation.

Although a California intrastate driver transporting hazardous substances or hazardous wastes is subject to interstate HOS limits, they are not subject to the ELD requirement.

Common Violations

Some of the most common issues encountered in roadside inspections are:

  • Vehicle is required to be equipped with an ELD and is not.
  • The ELD is operating in Automatic On-Board Recording Device (AOBRD) mode.
  • The ELD cannot be viewed from outside the vehicle.
    The driver is operating a vehicle with a malfunctioning ELD for more than 8 days.
  • The driver failed to note a malfunction of the ELD and did not notify the carrier in writing within 24 hours.
  • Driver does not know how to transfer ELD data to the FMCSA “Web Service.”
  • California only accepts the “Telematic” method of transfer.
  • The driver does not possess blank logbook pages in case of a malfunction or instructions on how to operate the ELD.
NTCI Consultant Tip:

“California closely abides by the Federal regulations, but has a few additional requirements. Hours of service, 90/45 day periodic maintenance inspections, terminal inspections, motor carrier permits, and driver qualifications may seem daunting, but once in compliance with the California requirements, Federal compliance will be easy.”

– Jason Lamborne, Senior Safety Consultant

NTCI Simplifies Your Operations In The State of California

NTCI specializes in DOT compliance nationwide. Our consultants have an average of 20+ years of motor carrier law enforcement experience.

California is unique when dealing with commercial motor vehicles. The additional rules and regulations are why NTCI has former California Highway Patrol, Motor Carrier Enforcement officers on staff to help our clients navigate the complexity of these state specific regulations. This level of expertise is what you need to ensure your vehicles and drivers stay compliant.

Our California Compliance Services
Comprehensive Compliance Review

Assessment performed by a highly experienced former motor carrier enforcement officer

On-Site Training

Comprehensive inspection and record-keeping training for owners and drivers

Fleet Managed Services

Expert account management, file reviews, and documentation audits to maintain compliance

Mock Audits

A thorough report outlining areas of DOT / FMCSA non-compliance

Your Questions About California Commercial Vehicle Regulations: Answered