Confused About What's Considered Interstate Commerce under the FMCSRs?
While people often assume that if a vehicle never leaves a State, it must be considered intrastate commerce, this question deserves a closer look.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines interstate commerce as trade, traffic or transportation in the United States:
Between a place in a State and a place outside of such State (including a place outside of the United States);
Between two places in a State through another State or a place outside of the United States; or
Between two places in a State as part of trade, traffic, or transportation originating or terminating outside the State or the United States.
Numbers 1 and 2 are straightforward: a vehicle crossing a border is interstate commerce. But number 3 is a bit trickier. FMCSA explains that 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 commercial motor vehicle (CMV) are subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).
Clearly, this disproves the assumption that if a vehicle never leaves a State, it must be considered intrastate commerce. Even if a movement is entirely completed inside a State’s borders, a shipment can be regarded as interstate commerce. FMCSA also points out that the FMCSRs apply to drivers and CMVs when an empty CMV crosses State lines for repair or maintenance. This is interstate commerce, transporting property, where the property is the empty CMV.