December 9, 2022
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Hit the Road: Film Production DOT Travel Requirements

The Wrapbook Team
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As your production company and projects grow, so do the responsibilities. Setting out to new locales with larger crews and equipment is an exciting step in production. 

But as your projects grow, so too do the requirements to keep your production compliant. Particularly when transportation and larger vehicles get involved.

The mistake many productions and smaller companies make is not realizing that as soon as you use a commercial motor vehicle you are subject to the regulations set out by the Department of Transportation (DOT). 

It’s important to abide by film production DOT requirements along with local state agencies and avoid any non-compliance issues or fines

Not familiar with those requirements?  Never fear.  Below is a brief insight to the DOT requirements. Please note that this is a partial list and just information; please refer to FMCSA or your local DOT office for more information.

When do you need to follow DOT Compliance?

Film production DOT requirements will apply to your project as soon as you start utilizing larger commercial vehicles and begin paying drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA/DOT) defines a commercial vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) at or over 10,001. A regulated vehicle is +26,001 GVWR and requires the driver to have a commercial driver's license (CDL). 

The rules and regulations apply if your company is paying the driver and you own, rent, or trip lease a passenger van, bus, or commercial or regulated motor vehicle.   

It’s important to note that DOT does not allow you to drive on the rental company's DOT number, so it’s up to you and your production team to ensure you stay compliant. If you are paying the driver, then your company is the motor carrier. 

Your first step will be registering with the FMCSA and getting a DOT Number for your company's vehicles.

Register for a DOT number

Before jumping into FMCSA regulations, your company’s first requirement will be to apply and register your productions’ vehicles with a DOT number. 

DOT numbers serve as an identification number required by any company using commercial vehicles. It is a means of identifying a company’s drivers and tracking their adherence to safety regulations. 

Your DOT number will be the first step of the film production DOT requirements process.  It will serve as the identification number across any vehicles you rent, buy, or lease for production transportation.

Applying for a DOT number

In order to apply for a DOT number, you will need to submit an application via the FMCSA website. Under the Registration and Assistance tab, you’ll be brought to a registration application that you can easily fill out online to quickly receive your DOT number.

Among other things, your form will require:

  • Company name
  • Address 
  • Phone Number
  • Federal EIN number
  • Company Officer name and information

You will also be asked to provide estimates on your production company’s yearly mileage, the number of vehicles operated under the company (including those with passengers), and answers on your compliance with Department of Transportation regulations. 

The full list can be on the FMCSA website.  Suffice to say, there are a great many variables involved that will depend on your production company specifically.

Stay compliant with film production DOT requirements

The FMCSA provides the rules and regulations to ensure safe travel. If you are leasing, renting, or owning vehicles, your company becomes the Motor Carrier and must follow these rules.

Display DOT numbers

Once your number is obtained, all vehicles used for production transportation and travel rented for more than 30 days must clearly display your production’s name & DOT number for proper identification.

Check in at weigh stations

According to DOT regulations, commercial & regulated vehicles must stop at all open weigh stations along their route. These stations are regulatory facilities that inspect the size, weight, emissions, safety equipment, and driver credentials. You may also require a trip permit.

Keep regulatory documentation and safety equipment on on hand 

All drivers must be able to readily provide documentation accounting for requirements set for by the Department of Transportation. These documents include: driver’s log book (or ELD), DOT medical certification card (if required), vehicle registration, proof of insurance, fire extinguisher, and safety triangles. 

  • A Driver’s Log Book to account for driver on-duty driving, on-duty not driving, off-duty and Pre-Terminal Inspection (PTI) and the beginning and end of each shift. 
  • DOT Medical Certificate , providing proof of a medical exam by a DOT Medical Examiner (may be required for size of vehicle depending on the local state rules but always required when crossing state lines). 
  • Vehicle Registration, Vehicle Insurance, Vehicle Inspection 
  • Proof of Insurance from the Production Company 
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Safety Triangles

Meet DOT driver requirements

To operate vehicles over 10,001 GVWR across state lines, all employed drivers must have a Drivers Qualification File (DQF) as well as a regulated drivers need a Commercial Drivers License (CDL), in addition to other requirements you can find at FMCSA.

Each DQF must provide a three year employment history of the driver, any records of DOT tests or inspections, and proof of a DOT medical examination within the past two years. 

When hiring drivers, they must have a DQF as well as the specialized CDL permitting them to drive regulated motor vehicles.

State-by-state regulation

Film production DOT requirements apply whenever a driver of a commercial or regulated vehicle is transporting goods for service, but remember that each state will have its own unique driver regulations.

As you expand your range of production locations, be sure to contact the motor carrier bureau of each state you plan to film in. Stay informed on your locations’ regulations to ensure that your drivers, vehicles, and productions stay compliant and avoid any issues and/or fines.

Wrapping up

Each production comes with its own unique challenges. If you’re making the next step and expanding your productions and rented cube trucks and larger, it’s important to cover all your bases, and it’s important to ask what are the DOT requirements for film productions and get those answers quick.

Of course, often it’s not stuff that you’re worried about. You have to consider how your cast and crew are traveling as well. A producer’s work never ends.

Disclaimer

At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
The Wrapbook Team

The Wrapbook Team consists of individuals who are thrilled about building modern software tools for creators. We’re a team of compassionate and curious people dedicated to solving complex problems with sophisticated solutions. You can find us across the U.S. and Canada.

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