UPDATE: You May Need A Commercial Driver's License
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According to the Department of Transportation, any truck over 10,000 pounds (a dually) must have a DOT number and comply with DOT restrictions. If you have a truck and trailer with a GVW (gross vehicle weight) combined 26,000 lbs. (a four horse or more) you must have a CDL (commercial drivers license).

UPDATE: received information that may be helpful regarding having to get a CDL license to haul your horse trailer. Bob Redmond at the Federal Motorcarrier Safety Administration in Washington DC said that as far as a National rule goes--as long as you are not in commerce you do not need a CDL license.

Redmond did say, however, that most officers (police) are not very well educated on the law. Some law enforcement officers just go by the rule that anyone hauling a trailer with a GVW of 26000 pounds or greater must have a CDL.

We asked how non professionals can explain to an officer if they are stopped that they are not required to have a CDL and he said it's difficult, however, if they were to get ticketed, they would probably be able to fight it and win--as it is not a business. That of course is no consolation if the officer does not let you continue on your way.

If you have anymore questions, you can contact the Federal Motorcarrier Safety Administration at 1-800-832-5660 for more information


ATTENTION ALL HORSE TRAINERS AND INDIVIDUALS MAKING A LIVING IN THE HORSE BUSINESS. You need to read this article--there may be some unforeseen costs coming your way. Due to an increase in horse trailer accidents in the past five years, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has decided to start enforcing rules regarding trucks and trailers of a certain weight. Check out the article to see if you may need to get your Commercial Driver's License (CDL).

Many horse trainers, and other people who make a living in this industry have been skirting the laws for years regarding their requirements of needing a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). GoHorseShow.recently talked to Lainie DeBoer about her recent "nightmare" of having to apply and test for a Commercial Driver's License (CDL).

According to the Department of Transportation, any truck over 10,000 pounds (a dually) must have a DOT number and comply with DOT restrictions. If you have a truck and trailer with a GVW (gross vehicle weight) combined 26,000 lbs. (a four horse or more) you must have a CDL (commercial drivers license). If you are under 26,000 GVW you still must comply with the DOT such as inspections, log books, driver physicals, and insurance.

According to the horse trailer regulations provided by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) means the GREATER of:

• The actual weight (weight of the truck plus the load it's carrying)


• Gross Vehicle Weight Rating GVWR, which is set by the manufacturer talked to Minnesota State Patrolman Travis Schapp about the CDL requirements for horse trailers.

"These rules have been in effect for years, but we are trying to now catch up the smaller vehicles and trucks and trailers with the dump trucks and the semi-trucks," Schapp said. "It is soley based on the weight of the vehicle whether you need a CDL. If you make your living my hauling horses or in the horse industry and are over the maximum weight--you need a CDL."

According to Lainie DeBoer, "If you are driving a truck and trailer, and you are receiving money for it, you have sponsors, you are earning money at the show through training or money won you are considered commercial. There is no such thing as 'not for hire.' The man at the DOT said that is the biggest red flag, and they pull those people over first."

What does it mean to have a DOT number? DeBoer says, "You must have all your vehicles inspected each year as well as trailers. Each driver must have a physical every two years and a file kept of their information. You must have a minimum of $750,000 worth of insurance," she said. "You have to have a CDL if you are over 26,000 lbs GVW. You can only drive 11 hours per driver. You must keep a log book. You must make inspections of your vehicle before and after a trip and keep them on file. You must go through weigh stations. You can also be randomly tested for drugs and alcohol."

If a driver of a truck and trailer gets pulled over and they do not have a CDL, and they are over 26,000 lbs GVW, they will not be allowed to go any further until a CDL driver can drive their rig. They could also face up to a $5,000 fine. In this past year alone, they are pulling over people actively. There is a big push by the DOT to bring safety back to the roads. According to DeBoer, even farriers are getting pulled over.

"I am really worried for our industry. Things are expensive enough with rising gas prices and now this," Lainie told "I don't have my CDL yet, so I have had to hire drivers. That means paying a driver and flying them back and forth to a show. My insurance has skyrocketed. I have to rethink what horse shows I can go to without incurring too much costs."

Trainer and AQHA judge Stephanie Lynn tells GoHorseShow about one incident where she was pulled over. She was taking a horse to a veterinarian in Minnesota. After crossing the Wisconsin border into Minnesota, she was pulled over into the weigh station. Her fuel was tested, her vehicle was weighed, and she was ordered to have someone with a CDL come and drive her rig. "Of course, I refused, but the most they would allow is an escort back across the state line. I was not able to get my horses to the vet, because I did not know anyone with a CDL."

Lynn adds, "I think that we have been skirting the laws for years in all states. Technically, we should all have CDL's. I definitely think it is a financial burden - in any economy. We are so close to agriculture without really being considered agricultural. Horse trainers cannot afford the costs that go with CDL's. It will infinitely change the climate of our horse shows."

As reported on the EquiSpirit ( website that is dedicated to horse trailers and safety information. These are the regulations they have posted.

How do these regulations and terms apply to horse trailers?

"Commerce" can be more loosely defined as actually "involved in a commercial venture" or the "intent" to make a profit. This does not mean actually making a profit! Running a commercial stable, hauling horses for show (with intent to profit), race, sale, training, or for compensation are some examples of commercial enterprises. Prize money and showing to increase the value of the horse can be interpreted as profit.

1. If you are driving a vehicle or combinations of vehicles under 10,001 lbs. GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight--weight of the truck plus the load it is carrying) or GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating--which is set by the manufacturer), you don't have to be concerned with the FMCSR's (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations--that is set by the manufacturer) or a commercial driver's license (CDL). You must, however, follow the safety equipment requirements and driver's license requirements of your own state.

2. If you are driving a vehicle or combination of vehicles on the interstate that is 10,001 to 26,000 pounds GVWR, you must decide if you are commercial and subject to FMCSR. You do not need a commercial driver's license (CDL), although your home state may have an additional classification of driver's license. (The initial decision is up to the owner whether or not he/she is pursuing a hobby or is involved in interstate commerce and he/she bears the burden of proof. If you only travel within your state, you may follow the state definitions of commercial, but if you plan to travel into other states and your vehicle or combination is 10,001 lbs or more, the official recommendation from Federal Authorities is that you follow FMCSR's)

3. If you are driving a vehicle or combination of vehicles intrastate 10,001 to 26,000 lbs GVWR, you must follow your home state requirements if they differ from the Federal requirements.

4. If you are driving a vehicle or combinations of vehicles 26,001 lbs. GVWR or more interstate you must have a commercial driver's license (CDL) and you must follow FMCSR.

5. If you are driving a vehicle or combination of vehicles 26,001 lbs. GVWR or more intrastate, you must follow your state guidelines for commercial licensing (CDL), and FMCSR requirements.

Farm exemptions can be obtained in some instances, but the vehicle must stay within 150 miles of home.

Many states require trucks and trailers to have license plates that are labeled "commercial" but this does not always mean you are considered "commercial" in all states. Please check with your local DOT to find out the rules in your area. 

So, what do readers think about this new crackdown on horse trailers? Do you agree due to safety reasons? Or do you think it will put a financial burden on an already struggling horse economy?

Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.

**While we have tried to include the most accurate information, the DOT rules pertaining to horse trailers appear to be a very "gray area"--we highly recommend you talking to your local DOT office for more information and advice regarding the specific trailer you are hauling to shows and whether they consider you a commercial vehicle that requires a CDL.

39 comments for this article Reverse Comment Order
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Added: December 04, 2013. 10:49 AM CDT
Horse Show = Commercial
We were told taking a horse to a show where you can compete to earn money or prizes, whether you win or not, is commercial use and therefore requires DOT numbers and/or a CDL, depending on weight. My 1 ton ram without a trailer does not require DOT numbers. My 1 ton ram with a trailer, even if it's empty, is rated over 10,000 lbs. requires DOT numbers. Solution: magnetic signs that I remove when bobtail.
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Added: December 03, 2013. 02:35 PM CDT
CDLs and horse trailers
I have a CDL and have a commercial truck operation (not the horses). I have had friends pulled over and tiucketed for not having a CDL, etc. Combination weight makes the total for the 26,001 pounds which is what requires a CDL. If you are within 150 mile radius, no logbook is required. If you travel over 150 miles then you must keep a logbook. Farm tags revert to commercial tags out of state. MOST pickups are under braked for the trailer they pull; meaning they do not have enough brakes even with the trailer brakes to safely stop their rig. If you have a CDL and a USDOT number (and then will need a MC number)and have a rig over 26,000 pounds and you keep the logbook and you cross state lines, you must participate in the IFTA program which is even more expense and bookkeeping. And if you happen to get flagged for an audit, hang on to your shorts as the people conducting the audit know absolutely NOTHING about any transportation industry except over the road long distance trucking! Arghhh. It really is a safety program to get your CDL and have enough truck to not only tow but stop your trailer...
TX trucker
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Added: December 03, 2013. 01:24 PM CDT
My husband and I are vendors and travel to HJ shows. We were pulled over this year. My husband now has a CDL. Still waiting for his court date. It took him 3 weeks to get his CDL. Now he is doing his log and checks. This has been a topic at horse shows a lot over the last 6 months. Don't get red tagged on the road, out in the middle of no where and have to find a driver. Be safe.
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Added: December 02, 2013. 08:38 PM CDT
If you earn a dollar at the county fair, you are in business and need a DOT#. Since I haul mares and foals to the vet for breeding and since I sell the foals/offspring, I had to get a DOT#. In NY, all pickup trucks have a commercial license plate too. When the inspector comes to your farm, you must even have a job application on file for anyone who drives your truck and trailer. My husband and I each had to fill one out and keep it in a file. I don't haul horses for other people either, still had to get that DOT# because I file farm income taxes.
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Added: September 08, 2013. 10:23 AM CDT
CDL education
I have a CDL and have dealt w/horse trailer owner miss information till im blue in the face. The CMV vs State patrol differ so much on the information that they give people. Also when you ask at the DMV office.....those people don't know.... they just work there... I do think safety is a factor.... but the DMV owe's the public the opportunity to get educated as to the rules. I also see coments as to what you weigh... well when you get pulled over its how much your tab says you can weigh... If you have two axels over 5200. you could be subject to tickets. Most horse trailers come w/either 3500, 5200, 7000, or 10000 lbs axle s.... most living quarters are 10,000. so that is 20,000 lbs that you can potentially carry. Which is what you are now regulated on. So your truck must be tabed for that load, your tailer. and you must have the proper liscense. if you fit this catagory, you ARE over 16,000 and must have a CDL. the license center tells me.. it is your RIGHT to drive, when you get your liscense it is YOUR obligation to abide by the rules. So therefore it is YOUR responsibility to be up to code.
do your homework people... and write down where and when who,you get the info from, you made need this in court.
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Added: September 06, 2013. 08:38 PM CDT
Small Car Drivers
I have driven my horse trailer for years and people in smaller cars think we can stop on a dime. They pull out in front of you all the time it's crazy. I had some idiot do that to me while heading to a show. We had to swerve to miss him he jumped out in front of us from a stop sign right. It was amazing we didn't hit him. My horse got injured in the trailer attempting to avoid the dumb driver.
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Added: September 05, 2013. 02:39 PM CDT
Does anyone read these laws?
49 USC applies to those - and I quote:" in the business of transportation", then goes on to describe THAT "transportation business" as the business that predominantly makes the operator's income.
AND - according to 49USC Sec. 135 (specifically 13505) and copied directly:
(a) In General. - Neither the Secretary nor the Board has
jurisdiction under this part over the transportation of property by motor vehicle when -
(1) the property is transported by a person engaged in a
business other than transportation; and
(2) the transportation is within the scope of, and furthers a
primary business (other than transportation) of the person.

Unless you are in the "horse transport" business - as your actual BUSINESS providing/contributing to your livelihood - the law does not apply.
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Added: September 05, 2013. 02:09 PM CDT
Article Incorrect on SEVERAL points
I am a Certified Director of Safety with over 20 years of experience in transportation safety and compliance, and I have to say that while applicability to DOT regulations need to be addressed they need to explained correctly. This article Does NOT explain it correctly, in fact it contains several erroneous statements.

1. If you transport goods for profit (ie: haul clients horses) you must have a DOT number if you cross state lines, which is considered inTERstate commerce. If you do not cross state lines you may still have to have a DOT number dependent on your state's adoption of the FMCSRs. It is not dependent on the SIZE and WEIGHT of your unit. It is dependent on whether as a part of your business, whether directly or indirectly, you are transporting someone else's property.

2. IF you meet #1, you must comply with the bulk of the regulations, including keeping a log book, complying with the applicable hours of service rules (some exceptions for agricultural applications apply such as from the 30 minute mandatory break), DOT qualification file completed, valid DOT physical and pre-employment drug screen, and be included in a random drug testing program. There is no may.. you must enroll yourself and/or your staff who will drive in a drug testing program.

3. If your equipment meets the weight requirement you may also have to have a CDL with appropriate endorsements, such as air breaks. If you haul water in bulk over 140 gallons you may have to have tanker endorsement. If you procure a CDL after the date for the new entrant training requirement you will also have to complete and keep a record of your training to be in compliance.

If you have questions or need assistance with meeting federal compliance for safety and how it applys to your program you may email me at I work with all types of programs nationwide.
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Added: September 05, 2013. 01:08 PM CDT
California Driver's
Was told by a friend that another friend had gotten a ticket for this??? Called my Ex-hubby who was a CHP Officer for 25 yrs. to Clarify. He even spent a few yrs. at the Commercial Inspection Facility!!!! He said if it were true he would have never let me pull my trailer knowing very well I was breaking the Law!!! Told me to Contact DMV. I went into DMV in Fresno California and spoke with head person there. They pulled out a DMV Manual and said do you see yourself anywhere here on this Pamphlet w/Pictures?? I said "NO". He said there's your Answer!!!! I told him about a friend's friend getting a ticket and he handed me book and said give it to them to take to Court!! I gave it to friend and not sure what the person did about it. I have asked several CHP here in Cali about it and there like "Huh!!!!" I drive a Dually with a 4-Horse LQ Trailer all steel and I know I am Heavy!!!Never been stopped and even have gone thru Inspection Stations so I could weigh my Load to see just how heavy I was and all I got were a lot of curious Chippy's checking out my Horses and Rig!!! Also have been told that State Law only pertains to such Vehicles in there Home State. Example in some States you don't have to have the Safety Chains w/gooseneck. So if your in Cali and from Out of state they can't stop you and require you to have them because you are going by your registered home state laws. I found it kinda weird pulling an Out of State Trailer and not having Safety Chains!! The requirements should all be the same for all States!!!! But the Ex did tell me if the hitch Broke Loose that the Safety Chains would only make things worse and cause a worse wreck. He said it's better for it to break away than to be dragging it by the Safety Chains!!! He said the Trailer Brakes will stop it.
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Added: September 05, 2013. 12:57 PM CDT
Driver's Educatio
I feel the Education needs to start soon as soon as the driver does. The student should not get a Driver's License until thay have had to learn how to drive a manual transmission and hauled a trailer on a busy road. This should be mandatory to get your license. There are to many accidents on the road caused buy the smaller cars. Also the aged driver needs to be tested every year starting on their 60th birthday so they know what they are doing.
I am tired of taking the rap just as Truck Drivers are for unsafe conditions. It is not us with out valuable cargo that cause these problems.
I think DOT is trying to get money from every one. Watch out 4 wheelers you are next to be charged and to carry a log book.
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