* This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should consult your attorney for advice specific to your own circumstances.

Transporting Alpacas is Interstate Commerce

Are We Subject to Regulation by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration?

By Rick Johnson

What is Interstate Commerce

Do you take alpacas to shows outside of your home state? Do you deduct the expenses of the show and trip as business expenses for Federal Income Tax purposes? If you answered “Yes” to both of these questions, you are involved in interstate commerce.

Oh, you take alpacas to shows outside of your home state, but do not deduct the expenses. It could be argued that the value of your alpaca has increased because of the ribbons awarded to the alpaca. As such, you would be deemed to be engaged in interstate commerce.

Do you deliver alpacas that you sell to out of state customers? Do you take alpacas to be breed outside of your home state? You guessed it, you are involved in interstate commerce.

Do I need a USDOT Number?

Your vehicle will be required to have a USDOT number, if your vehicle and travel meet the following conditions:

  1. Your truck and trailer are considered commercial vehicles (This applies if you use your truck and trailer in the normal course of your business activities or for the “furtherance of a commercial enterprise.”);
  2. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the truck and trailer is greater than 10,000 (Please note that this is not the actual combined weight of the truck and trailer as weighed on a scale, rather it is the maximum combined weight capacity of your truck and trailer); AND,
  3. You travel into other states (See above.).

How do I obtain a USDOT Number?

To get a USDOT number, new applicants must register online via the Unified Registration System at: fmcsa.dot.gov/registration. As of December 12, 2015, paper registration forms will no longer be accepted for initial applications, only for updates to existing registrations.

Until the Unified Registration System is fully implemented, there is no charge for a USDOT number. Operating authorities cost $300 each.

Do I need to pay an annual Unified Carrier Registration fee?

Since reference was made in the prior section to the Unified Registration System, I will attempt to address the current state of the Unified Carrier Registration fee.

In North Carolina, the annual Unified Carrier Registration (“UCR”) fee is currently in suspense until a determination is made on how to proceed with this process. I have been advised to check with the NC Department of Transportation on the status of this process in January, 2018. If you currently have a USDOT number, I would advise everyone to check with their states’ Department of Transportation in January to see if this issue has been resolved.

There is speculation within the North Carolina Highway Patrol that the one-time fee for a USDOT number and the annual fee for the Unified Carrier Registration will somehow be combined into an annual fee to keep your USDOT number active.

What can I expect once I obtain my USDOT number?

Once you obtain a USDOT number, you will be required:

  1. To maintain a paper log book for all travel (In certain circumstances, you may be required to have an Electronic Logging Device (“ELD”). We will discuss ELDs a little later.);
  2. To have a fire extinguisher and extra set of fuses for you truck;
  3. To have drivers pass a USDOT physical every two years (If a driver has any medical conditions, e.g., high blood pressure, the driver will be required to pass annual USDOT physicals.); AND,
  4. To get annual inspections by an authorized USDOT company of your truck and trailer.

Furthermore, you will have an FMCSA correspondence audit within one year of getting your USDOT number. You will be required to provide certain documentation to prove you are in compliance.

When do I need a Commercial Driver’s License?

If your truck and trailer have a CGVR greater than 26,000, your drivers will need a Commercial Driver’s License (“CDL”). Drivers with a CDL may be subject to random drug tests.

Do I need an Electronic Logging Device?

It depends. Do you qualify for the agricultural exemption offered for Electronic Logging Devices (“EDLs”) since alpacas are defined as livestock by the US Department of Agriculture?

Drivers transporting “agricultural commodities,” including livestock, are exempt from the ELD requirement while operating within 150 air-mile of the source of the commodities. Drivers are also exempt if they haul farther away the 150 air-mile AND are not driving more than 8 days, assuming one driver, in a 30 day rolling period. In these instances, a paper logbook is required to be maintained.

An ELD is required if you are hauling farther than 150 air-mile AND are driving more than 8 days in a 30 day rolling period. This may create a dilemma for those driving a truck (e.g., a dually) with a GVWR in excess of 10,000 pounds because you be considered driving on those days when you are simply driving from the hotel to the show arena.


While the ELD requirement is new, the FMCSA has been around since 1986. For the most part, these requirements have been on the books for 30 years. Granted, there has been selective enforcement by states. Honestly, I think that is why we have not heard of this issue more often. The horse industry has done a much better job of educating their members than we have.

Please reference Protect The Harvest’s post on FaceBook on Tuesday, November 28, 2017, at 10:54 PM entitled "Not for Hire"' Is Not Good Enough — How the ELD Mandate Will Impact the Horse Industry.

Other excellent links include: http://instrideedition.com/2014/09/are-you-legal-transporting-horses-across-state-lines/, http://www.horseforum.com/horse-talk/dot-cracking-down-horse-trailers-235738/, and http://www.equispirit.com/info/articles/fedrgulations.htm. All of these are excellent reads, granted some are more technical than others.

If you are one of the unfortunate ones to be pulled over by the Highway Patrol for an inspection and are not in compliance, the fines will add up. Personally, it has been our experience that the cost of compliance is far less than the cost of getting caught and besides who likes playing Russian Roulette with your hard earned money.