I believe you'll find it's in your best interest to enter the "scales" as they are also "inspection points" for CMs. Weigh stations do more than weigh wagons.
DISCLAIMER: Read at your own risk.
Some states will post that ALL commercial vehicles must enter the scales. That includes bobtails. Still, some states have a weight factor (for example, all CMVs over 5 tons GVW--this still applies to bobtails unless the sign says over 9 tons).
Unless the signage specifically disqualifys you from stopping, you' are still a commercial vehicle -- and your current driving may be involved in the immediate movement of freight: ie, bobtailing to a pick-up, etc. I've seen no signage in my region out west where a bobtail didn't have to stop. Some signs will say "commercial vehicles over 10,000lbs GVW", but a typical bobtail weighs around 18,000lbs.
Make sure your log book is up to date. You'll need to be on line-3 unless you're not available for assignment, assigned a load, or under a load, and have to be logs-legal. Any movement of your truck related to moving freight in any way requires line-3 driving status. You may NOT drive your bobtail off-duty while performing any work-related driving. The only exception to line-3 driving is bobtailing home from a terminal where management has "released you from duty", or relocating your truck in another legitimate "off-duty" status. But regardless of your duty status, you still must pass the same muster as when pulling a trailer. This also applies to when your bobtail is pulled over by enforcement.
The tractor is always a commercial vehicle.
Nope, not always. Read the regs.
It is pretty much always safer to pull into the scales even when enroute home. Not much worry though because most often you'll get the green light to bypass or waved on because of weight. Bobtails are light.
When in Fl. going by the Agriculture station Bobtails are not required to stop. Neither are empty trailers such as flatbeds when it is clearly visible that you are not loaded. But the Ag stations check for more than just agriculture. They are looking for and documenting all types of equipment and machinery. So all loaded trailers must stop except when given the green light on the prepass unit in your truck.
Start with 382.107 Definitions
The paragraph, "Commercial motor vehicle means...." provides the basic definition of a commercial motor vehicle. John Q. Public is probably best qualified to identify other FMCSR references most applicable to the question.
But a typical tractor licensed and used for commercial transport is a commercial vehicle for the purposes of DOT regulation, regardless of its use at the time (bobtailing home off-duty, etc)
It's not just "safer to pull into the scales when enroute home," if not specifically authorized to bypass. It is the law. The driver's duty status or lack of freight at that time does not change the vehicle's commercial status or DOT's authority to weigh it and inspect it, etc. A driver who assumes he/she might be allowed to blow a scale just because they're bobtailing could be in for a major reality check, including a hefty fine and possible shut-down if not in HOS compliance.
Good point about State Department Of Agriculture stations and check points, however. They are not run by DOT of course, and have their own set of rules determined by that individual state's Agrilculture Department. In California, all vehicles, including passenger cars, may be inspected for certain ag material before being allowed to proceed. Similarly, some states have lifestock check stations, also separate from DOT authority.
Regarding the part about logging, no matter what the reg. quoted says, if you get inspected 90% of the time you will be written up for false logs if not on line 3.
You might beat it if you want to take the time and money to fight it, but don't count on it.
In some states, an antique or show (NON CMV) tractor may not be legally required to stop at a scale.
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, etc.
Most D.O.T. will run it down and give the driver enough hassle to make him wish he'd stopped.
If it is not for hire it is not a CMV. Lots of people own Class 8 trucks for personal use and many own them as RV's they do not have to stop. Although I overheard one guy complaining about being chased down and stopped. But there was no further trouble than that. The DOT for the most part know the difference in CMV's and personal vehicles and don't bother them.
You might be a bit amazed when you start to figure out who on the road is running commercial and who is not. You'll see grandpa in his RV pull into the scales or a couple cowboys pull their horse trailer in at times. They do it because they are for hire either transporting the RV to a dealer or the animals to some ranch. There is alot of products being hauled around on trailers, in the back of trucks and even in cars by people who are being paid to deliver what ever they have. At the same time the same items might be in some ones personal vehicle.
The below link is where you can find out what constitutes a CMV and what they are required to do. Personal vehicles do not have to have this, all CMV's do.
Marking of CMVs
It happened to me about five years ago. I was in Portland OR (where we have a terminal) waiting till midnight to pick-up new hours, and a trip home to Seattle. Freight was slow, so they approved "personal drive time" so I could drive home a day early, and they sent a confirmation message to my Qualcomm.
My bobtail got the red light at the Federal Way WA northbound scale. I was surprised because it's rarely open, I was bobtail, and almost always get the green light anyway.
Then they gave me the "Park and bring papers in" light. He asked me where I was headed and I said a few miles up the road for a few days off. He asked for my log book and I reminded him we're paperless. He said, "oh that's right, are you legal?" I said yes. He asked, "were you driving in line-3?" I said, "no, I was approved for personal drive time at our Portland terminal." He gave me a puzzled look, so I said, "It's on the Qualcomm". He said, "let's go take a look."
We walked to the truck and I showed him. He said, "bring your papers back with you inside again," and we walked back. He asked where I'd be picking up when I went back to work. I answered, honestly, that I didn't know. He asked if it would be Portland, and I honestly explained I'd probably pickup closer to Seattle.
He opened his citation book and said, "I'm writing you a ticket for driving off-duty to your next load," or words to that effect. He paused and waited for my reaction. I said, "ok". He smiled and then said, "I'll just make it a warning but be sure to turn it into your safety department."
I kept my mouth COMPLETELY closed at that point , thanked him (I think) and left a little humbled. I'm glad I didn't lie about what was on the Qualcomm, or I might have been placed OOS till I could finish the trip on-duty.
This was before the new HOS and many changes to the paperless system -- but he was right. I was driving off-duty to my next pickup after hometime. Under the old HOS (before the reset) it gave me 2.5 extra hours in my 70 when I went back to work, instead of logging the time for what was actually a partial deadhead.
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