Hitching a Ride

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The following section is an ongoing column where readers can ask questions regarding legal matters. To ask your own question, send it to Stable Management, P.O. Box 644, Woodbury, Conn., 06798, or email jenn@stable-management.com.

I have been told that I can not charge shipping fees when I trailer my client’s horses to shows or trail rides, etc., because that puts me in a new category of transporter. Is this true? Do I need a separate license? How do I get around this?

—David

There are two separate issues involved in transporting horses for money. The first is the question of insurance coverage. The second issue involves commercial driving laws. Let’s look at each.

Insurance

Broadly speaking, there are two classes of insurance: business/commercial insurance and personal insurance. Normally, a person’s automobile coverage does not qualify as business insurance and that’s the problem. Most personal automobile policies contain a clause that states if the vehicle is used for hire, then coverage will be void.

Most insurance companies do not consider it a commercial activity when someone offers you gas money or if they drop some money on the floor and forget that it’s there. When, however, you develop a plan to charge people for transportation, that’s commercial and probably won’t be covered by your automobile insurance.

Considered Commercial

If you are hauling for cash, you’re going to be considered a commercial operator (the U.S. Department of Transportation has a very expansive definition of what is “commercial”). If your weight goes over 10,000 pounds, you are required to follow the laws for commercial drivers. The fines for failing to follow the law can be anywhere from several hundred dollars to more than $1,000.

And, almost every vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds (meaning either a truck or a truck and trailer’s combined weight when loaded), with the exception of RVs, requires that the driver have a medical card, vehicle inspection report and a driver’s log. These are required despite the fact that a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is not required until the vehicle’s weight exceeds 26,000 pounds.

Driver’s Log

The medical card and vehicle inspection report are not much of a problem, but the driver’s log is. Basically, a commercial driver is required to record all of his hours and note whether they are on-duty or off-duty. He or she is limited to a maximum of 10 hours of consecutive driving time or a maximum of 16 hours of driving and work time, which refers to loading or unloading. After reaching the limit, the driver is required to take a minimum of eight hours off. There are also combined totals for the week, but unless you are doing a lot of hauling, we won’t worry about them.

“...a police officer can order you to park your rig (including the horses) at the next safe place for a minimum of eight hours.”

If you read “The Horse Whisperer,” you may recall that the truck driver was caught by the state trooper and forced to park his rig because he was out of hours. If you are found to be out of hours, a police officer can order you to park your rig (including the horses) at the next safe place for a minimum of eight hours. Ouch!

Some states require special licenses for people driving vehicles weighing from 10,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds, but because this varies from state to state, you need to check with your local department of motor vehicles. Some states also require that vehicles weighing over a certain amount be registered as commercial, but that is separate and distinct from driving licenses.

You will need to consider the problems involved versus the limited amount of money you are likely to receive to decide whether you want to charge people for transporting their horses. Will the money that you earn be greater than the increased insurance premiums and the aggravation of maintaining the records required of a commercial vehicle? Perhaps you can make up for any loss of income by increasing your coaching or training costs.