What Is The FMCSR?

The FMCRS’s regulations are essential for every trucker and commercial driver to know and understand.  Short for federal motor carrier safety regulation, the FMCSR was founded in January of 2000 as part of the Federal Highway Administration.

The main goal, or purpose, of the FMCSR is to prevent accidents and deaths caused by commercial vehicles.

The FMCSR is part of the United States Department of Transportation and now acts as its own agency. The rules and regulations set forth by the agency apply to private and exempt carriers. There are several rules that apply under the agency, from qualifications to the maintenance of vehicles.

Federal Motor Carriers Safety Regulation 101

Federal Motor Carriers Safety Regulation

Working with other agencies, the FMCSR compiles data to better implement rules and regulations in the commercial sector to reduce accidents and deaths on the road. High-risk carriers in the United States may have their licenses terminated and may not be able to legally operate on the country’s highways.

Ensuring safety on the nation’s highways is the first priority of the agency.

Safety Assistance and Research

Active in every state in the country, the agency offers financial support to states to ensure safety. Financial support is granted for:

  • Roadside inspections
  • Safety programs

All of the financial assistance provided is only granted to the commercial sector – not general driving safety. Along with financial assistance, the FMCSR also conducts research on a regular basis. Research and development is continuous in an attempt to develop better safety standards.

The agency may work with state and government officials to better analyze motor vehicle data, prevent accidents and implement safeguards to prevent unnecessary accidents.

License Guidelines and Programs


Working closely with the Department of Transportation’s various agencies, the FMCSR develops guidelines to license and examine all commercial motor vehicle drivers. The agency also runs commercial driver programs.

Under the agency’s operation, all commercial drivers must be:

  • Highly experienced
  • Knowledgeable
  • Possess the skills and ability to drive a commercial vehicle

Commercial drivers need to possess a different skillset and experience level than non-commercial drivers. Obtaining a CDL license, the applicant must:

  • Pass a skills test
  • Pass a knowledge test

The CDL test will require on-the-road demonstration of the driver’s skills as well as an in-depth test to ensure that the driver understands all of the safety and operation standards that are outlined by the FMCSR.

And unlike non-commercial drivers, all drivers with a CDL are held to a much higher standard to maintain their license. Serious traffic accidents may result in a driver’s license being suspended or terminated indefinitely.

All major commercial driving outfits will require a clean driving record, with some exceptions based on time. For example, a driver may only be able to drive for a trucking company if he or she hasn’t had a major traffic violation in the last three years, or more depending on the company.

Licensing requirements do vary depending on the type of vehicle driven. Not only must drivers pass a skills test, but they’ll also need to obtain special licensing or certification based on the vehicle or vehicle content. Hazmat certification, for example, is required for any commercial driver that will be transporting hazardous materials.

Every state has its own licensing requirements which must be met by both the driver and the company he or she is employed by.

Regulations Outside of Licensing Controlled by the FMCSR

Federal Motor Carriers Safety Regulation Guide

Drivers rely on the rules and regulations of the FMCSR for more than just licensing. The agency also outlines regulations for several different areas of driving:

  • Exemptions, terminal areas and commercial zones
  • Fees and motor insurance
  • Standards for registration
  • Reporting for motor carriers
  • Passenger regulation
  • Payment of transportation charges
  • Special training requirements
  • Record preservation

The financial responsibility of the motor carrier is also outlined by the agency. But one of the most vital areas that is regulated under the agency is the parts and accessories necessary for safe operation. Commercial drivers that do not own their own rig must be provided a vehicle that is safe and has all of the parts and accessories necessary to safely drive on the road.

Vehicle maintenance and upkeep will fall within this category as well.

Truckers are known to drive for long durations, which leads to safety risks on the road.  Hours of service is regulated by the agency to ensure that drivers are not on the road for such a long duration that it can affect their ability to safely operate their motor vehicle. There are exemptions in place that allow drivers to go beyond the normal hours of service.

For example, if a driver is at risk due to weather conditions, he or she is allowed to continue driving until safety is reached. Ice road truckers that are not able to stop on the ice for fear of breakage would be exempt under these regulations.

Hourly regulations are outlined in Part 395: Hours of Service of Drivers.