The difference between interstate and intrastate commerce, and what HR pros should know

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

This post can help you determine if you have employees subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and, if so, how you can configure Canopy WS to manage FMCSA compliance issues.


A lot of our customers employ drivers. There are the obvious customers like trucking companies, but also healthcare providers, construction companies, and manufacturers; all of whom employ commercial drivers.


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is responsible for rules and regulations covering commercial drivers. You are subject to FMCSA regulations if your company employs drivers that operate any of the following types of commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce:


1. A vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating (whichever is greater) of 4,537 kg (10,001 lbs.) or more (GVWR, GCWR, GVW or GCW).

2. A vehicle designed or used to transport between 9 and 15 passengers (including the driver) for compensation, directly or indirectly.

3. A vehicle designed or used to transport 15 or more passengers (including the driver) and not used for compensation.

4. Any size vehicle used in the transportation of materials found to be hazardous (Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, 49 U.S.C. 5101 et seq.), and which require the motor vehicle to be placarded under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR Parts 100-177). This includes INTRASTATE Hazardous Materials carriers.


The first 3 categories require that your driver be involved in interstate commerce. Most administrators might assume that if a company does not do business out of state, they don’t have to worry about FMCSA. But, like everything HR deals with, it’s not so simple.


The State Lines Test

If a company driver passes through another state, that is interstate commerce, even if the driver ends up back in the same state. Let’s say the driver starts out in Kimball, Tennessee and travels to Chattanooga, via I-24. On this route, the driver will go through Georgia and end up back in Tennessee. That is interstate commerce, and you will need to comply with FMCSA requirements including Driver Files and SPE’s.


Stream of Commerce

The next "gotcha" area is found in part 390.5 of the FMCSA rules. If you want to look it up, you can find it at 49 CFR, Part 390.5. The rule states that interstate commerce includes trips made, “between two places in a state as part of trade, traffic, or transportation originating or terminating outside the state or the United States.”

Clear as mud, right?

Let’s analyze a customer in Louisiana. The company sends drivers to LaPlace, Louisiana to pick up plants imported for a landscaping business which is in the state of Louisiana. But, because the plants originated outside the country, this is likely classified as interstate commerce.


Or, how about a steel manufacturer in Oklahoma? The company delivers finished goods to a site in Oklahoma City, which will then ship the materials to New York for building railings. Again, because the “stream of commerce” ends outside of the state, this is also considered interstate commerce.


Find out how Canopy WS can help your company manage FMCSA compliance issues.

Product Tips:

Here’s how Canopy can help you stay in compliance and not run afoul of FMCSA.








Here’s how to do it:

1. First, create a "driver checklist," which will allow you to make sure new hires have all required certificates prior to being hired.

2. Second, create a "driver" page in your employment section, as well as an "FMSCSA checklist" for existing employees.

3. Third, create an alert to be sent to you and any other person in the company who will need to be aware of driver qualifications, for example, Risk Management.

4. Finally, create a "rolling 90 forward" report, which will show you which drivers have compliance items expiring in the coming 90 days. You can also share this with managers.


For questions or assistance, contact your Canopy WS representative.

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