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Sorting out the United States Department of Transportation regulations and where the race industry stands…


have done a lot of research and there has been a lot of interest in my latest article about the DOT and racers. The main point of interest here is I feel the DOT is actually “reaching out” to inform and help make the tow vehicles and race cars “legal and safe” as we travel around the country. In fact I was actually contacted by a member of the DOT offering assistance with this article. I hope this article will clarify some of the rules and help you decide where you are as far as being a “commercial business” or a “hobby”.

I have received many questions and many letters of racer’s experience with the DOT inspectors and rules that they have found out about. What I am going to try to accomplish this month is to establish a few guidelines you can follow to get yourself prepared for that day when a DOT enforcement officer decides he needs to look at your rig.

1. Probably the most important thing that has come out of my investigation is you need to determine if you are involved in a “commercial business” or if you are just racing as a “hobby”.

a. The primary thing that separates commercial business from hobby is how you handle your racing expenses and income. If you have the tow vehicle or trailer titled in a business name or deduct and/or depreciate the costs of tow vehicle or trailer you are commercial.

b. The next thing that has a bearing on whether you are considered to be a commercial business or not is whether you deduct racing expenses from your income taxes. This would be parts purchases, travel expenses, cost of the race vehicle or supporting tools, etc. If you deduct expenses and costs associated with your racing you are a commercial business.

c. If you have enough winnings that a track sends you an IRS Form 1099 with your winnings on it and you show this as income for your racing business or another business you are a commercial business.

d. If you DO NOT deduct racing expenses, you purchase your truck and trailer with personal dollars and do not depreciate those items and any income you make from racing goes on your personal income taxes you are likely NOT a commercial business. Does this mean you are exempt from all the DOT rules? NO! But it will make it a lot easier to comply.

2. There is a very good website that will help answer a lot of questions that you may have, You can also check out your local phonebook for your state DOT offices. They can answer some of your specific questions.

The best way to break this down and keep it relatively short is to look at the smaller rigs first. Again, these requirements are for racers that operate as commercial businesses. For example I will use my tow vehicle and trailer, which is probably pretty common for a bracket racer who will do some traveling to other races for bigger events. These guidelines are for tow vehicles and trailers that would weigh or have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) UNDER 26,001 pounds as they go down the road. I will try to make a highlighted note about different requirements if your rig weighs 26,001 pounds or more.

1. My tow vehicle is a Class C Ford Motor Home. This is the E-450 van with a camper conversion on it. GVWR is 10,500 pounds. That can be found on the VIN sticker in the left doorjamb. The trailer I use is a 32’ enclosed trailer with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds.


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