Intrastate vs. Interstate: Which is Which?


Part 390.5 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) defines interstate and intrastate commerce in the following manner:

Interstate commerce means trade, traffic, or transportation in the United States — (1) Between a place in a state and a place outside of such state (including a place outside of the United States); (2) Between two places in a state through another state or a place outside of the United States; or (3) Between two places in a state as part of trade, traffic, or transportation originating or terminating outside the state or the United States.

Intrastate commerce means any trade, traffic, or transportation in any State which is not described in the term “interstate commerce.”

You may think the definitions make it easy to distinguish between these two types of commerce. But some additional information about interstate commerce is found in the interpretations to Part 390.3, question six: “How does one distinguish between intra- and interstate commerce for the purposes of applicability of the FMCSRs?”

The guidance provided by the FMCSR is: “Interstate commerce is determined by the essential character of the movement, manifested by the shipper’s fixed and persistent intent at the time of shipment, and is ascertained from all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the transportation. When the intent of the transportation being performed is interstate in nature, even when the route is within the boundaries of a single State, the driver and CMV are subject to the FMCSRs.” 

In most states, an individual can obtain an Intrastate Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) for the purpose of operating a commercial vehicle in intrastate commerce.

Assume that an 18-year-old driver with an Intrastate CDL picked up an intermodal chassis and container in Louisville, Kentucky to be delivered to a consignee in Lexington, Kentucky. The shipment moved from Chicago, Illinois to Louisville, Kentucky by rail. Applying the guidance from question six, Part 390.3, the driver and motor carrier employing the driver would be in violation of the FMCSR because a driver in Interstate Commerce must be at least 21 years of age.

Using a similar scenario, a 40-year-old driver picks up a trailer loaded in East St. Louis, Illinois and takes it to his employer’s terminal in Springfield, Illinois. Another driver picks up the trailer in Springfield, Illinois, and delivers the shipment to the consignee located in Indianapolis, Indiana. The 40-year-old driver has a Skill Performance Evaluation Certificate from the Illinois Department of Transportation. Again, applying the guidance in question six, Part 390.3, the 40 year old driver and the employing motor carrier would be in violation of the FMCSR because the intent of the transportation was interstate, and a Skill Performance Evaluation Certificate from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration would be required. 

For more on intrastate vs interstate, contact Great West Casualty Company for any questions or concerns. Also, feel free to contact us with any truck insurance questions or quotes.

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