Commercial Plates MA: Info for Massachusetts Business Owners

By: Tim Kane, LIA, AAI, ARM

Tim Kane comes to C&S with over 30 years of experience, specializing in arborist insurance, landscapers’ insurance, snow removal insurance and general contractor insurance.

MA trucks with commercial platesGot questions about your MA commercial plates? Our team is here to help. After 60+ years of insuring Massachusetts businesses—including those with sizeable fleets and heavy equipment—we are well-versed in state requirements and procedures. Further, we believe a key aspect of our job is helping clients handle commercial plate transactions.

How should insurance agents help with commercial plates?

Most business owners don’t have time to go on Massachusetts RMV errands every time they buy a new truck or trailer. That’s why our commercial lines team takes registry chores off our clients’ plates. We operate an in-house registry from our Mansfield, Massachusetts office, which means we can handle MA RMV Services for new plates, plate renewals, plate transfers, and more—without leaving our office.

For transactions that do require a trip to a local RMV branch, we employ several “runners,” who are dedicated to processing your commercial plates in a timely, efficient manner.

How has COVID-19 affected commercial plates in MA?

The Massachusetts RMV was already a pretty busy place, pre-COVID. And the pandemic has only made wait times longer. As you probably know, select registry branches are open by appointment only. Appointment availability varies by branch, but on average (as of October 2020), locations seem to be booking at least two weeks out. Delayed access like this can have a serious impact on your business. Ask us how we can help get plates done faster: 508.339.2951.

How does C&S Insurance streamline processing for commercial plates MA?

As noted above, we offer in-house registry services that allow us to bypass the RMV in many cases. For all other cases, our runners operate five days a week. The registry’s processing time for commercial transactions couriered by runner is approximately five to seven business days. This means our clients’ plates are getting processed faster (and easier!) than those of MA businesses who are scheduling their own appointments.

I’m not a C&S Insurance client. How can I process my commercial plates in MA?

You can visit the MA RMV website and follow the prompts to make an appointment. Meanwhile, we are happy to discuss your commercial auto insurance needs! There’s a good chance we’ll be able to improve on your current rates and coverage terms. We can definitely facilitate your RMV service needs.

When do MA commercial plates expire?

All MA trailer plates expire November 30th. All MA commercial plates expire on December 31st. In both cases, it does not matter when you first registered the vehicle or trailer. The expiration date is always the same each year.

How do I renew commercial plates MA?

You may have a few different renewal options, including online, by phone, by mail, or in person (by appointment only during the COVID-19 pandemic). Here’s our detailed advice on when and how to renew MA commercial plates and trailers.

Who needs commercial plates in MA?

Does your truck (or other vehicle) require MA commercial plates? In most cases, if you are using the vehicle for business purposes, the answer is yes—at least from an insurance perspective. (For example, if you plow snow for money, your truck should have a commercial plate and a commercial insurance policy to go with it.)

But if you think there’s some gray area surrounding your situation, here’s a closer look from two different bodies that define and regulate commercial trucks:

Federal Regulators (the FMCSA) – Says a vehicle is “commercial” if it weighs 10K lbs+ (including intended cargo/payload) or is designed to transport 8+ people (including the driver). If your vehicle(s) meet this definition, by the way, you may also need to obtain a USDOT number.

State Regulators (MA RMV)  – Massachusetts offers a longer, more detailed definition of a “commercial vehicle.” Essentially, MA law says your vehicle requires commercial plates if you’re using it to “carry goods, wares or merchandise for hire, gain or reward.” Also if you’re using it to get to and from a job site, where any compensation is involved. A breakdown of the official criteria is below (paraphrased for simplicity):

If your vehicle does NOT fit into one of these eight categories, then YES, it’s commercial:

  • an ‘apportioned vehicle,’
  • a private passenger motor vehicle
  • a personal transportation network vehicle,
  • an antique motor car,
  • a motorcycle,
  • a trailer or semi-trailer,
  • an auto home or house trailer,
  • a taxicab, ambulance, hearse, livery vehicle, bus, school bus, or school pupil transport vehicle

Additional Indications That Your MA Truck Needs Commercial Plates

  • If your vehicle weighs more more than six thousand pounds (unless it’s an SUV or private passenger van, pickup, or camper), the YES, it’s commercial.
  • If your vehicle has more than five wheels (unless it is registered to you for strictly personal use), the YES, it’s commercial.
  • If your vehicle is owned by a partnership, a trust, or a corporation (unless somehow it still meets the definition of private passenger motor vehicle), then YES, it’s commercial.
  • If your vehicle is carrying/storing supplies, materials or equipment at a “job site” and compensation is received for work at said job site (i.e. it’s not a personal project), then YES, it’s commercial.
  • If your vehicle has business branding or advertisements on it (unless your org is tax exempt or you’re indicating it’s a ride-share vehicle), the YES, it’s commercial.
  • If your vehicle is used for hire, for the purpose of snow removal, then YES, it’s commercial.

What do commercial plates in MA cost?

According to Massachusetts 2019 Schedule of Fees, the cost to register MA commercial plates is $40 per 1,000 lbs (up to 5,000 lbs),  and $20 per 1,000 lbs (over 5,000 lbs). This means a heavy-duty commercial pickup truck weighing 10,000 lbs (and capable of hauling 2,000 pounds of cargo*) will cost $240 to register. Commercial trailers likewise run $20 per 1,000 lbs.

*Keep in mind, per the MA RMV, commercial truck and trailer fees are determined by the combined weigh of the vehicle itself and whatever it might carry, at max. This combined weight is known as the “registered gross weight.” It’s up to you to determine this number, based on how you intend to use your truck/trailer, being mindful of max capacities set by the manufacturer.

If you need help with registering, transferring, renewing commercial plates MA–and you’re interested in reviewing your commercial auto insurance program–please don’t hesitate to contact our experts: 508.339.2951. 

Ask the right questions before choosing a MA commercial insurance agent.
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