243 FW 1
Safe Operation of Motor Vehicles and Motor Equipment

Supersedes 243 FW 1, FWM 444, 04/01/04

Date: April 4, 2011

Series: Occupational Safety and Health

Part 243: Motor Vehicle and Equipment Operator Program

Originating Office: Division of Safety and Health



PDF Version


1.1 What is the purpose of Part 243?


A. The chapters in Part 243 establish Fish and Wildlife Service policies for the safe operation of motor vehicles and motor equipment.


B. This chapter provides authorities and definitions of terms, assigns responsibilities, and outlines general requirements for all the chapters in Part 243.


C. The remaining chapters in Part 243 establish safety requirements for the following:


(1) 243 FW 2: For operating fish distribution, fire, and dump trucks.


(2) 243 FW 3: For operating heavy-duty motor equipment.


(3) 243 FW 4: For operating powered industrial trucks.


(4) 243 FW 5: For towing, carrying cargo, and securing loads.


(5) 243 FW 6: For operating Off-Road Utility Vehicles (ORUVs).


1.2 What is the scope of the chapters in Part 243?


A. The chapters in Part 243 apply to:


(1) Service employees, volunteers, and others conducting official duties for the Service in motor vehicles or using motor equipment, regardless of ownership;


(2) Managers and operators who are responsible for Service-owned, General Service Administration (GSA) provided, and commercial rented, leased, or loaned motor vehicles or motor equipment; and


(3) Operators identified in Service written agreements, e.g., Memoranda of Understanding and Agreement (MOUs and MOAs).


B. This chapter does not apply to:


(1) Contractors who operate or transport their own motor vehicles or motor equipment within the scope of an awarded contract or written agreement (e.g., cooperative farming agreements). Such contractors must comply with applicable Federal, State, and local regulations and the terms of their contracts/agreements.


(2) The operation of vessels and aircraft. They are covered in Parts 241 and 330, respectively.


1.3 What are the authorities for this Part?


A. Federal Agency Safety Programs and Responsibilities (Public Law 91-596, Section 19).


B. Occupational Safety and Health Standards (29 CFR 1910).


C. Safety and Health Regulations for Construction (29 CFR 1926).


D. Basic Program Elements for Federal Employee Occupational Safety and Health Programs and Related Matters (29 CFR 1960).


E. Driving of Commercial Motor Vehicles (49 CFR 392) and Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation, Department of Transportation (DOT) (49 CFR 393).


F. Executive Order 12196, Occupational Safety and Health Programs for Federal Employees.


G. Motor Vehicle Safety (485 DM 16).


H.  American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association Standard 1-2010.


I. ANSI/National Golf Cart Manufacturers Association (NGCMA) Standard Z130.1.


J. ANSI/NGCMA Standard Z135.


1.4 Who is responsible for the safe operation of vehicles and equipment?


A. The Assistant Director – Business Management and Operations:


(1) Establishes overall policy and guidance for the proper and safe management of motor vehicles throughout the Service, and


(2) Implements the requirements of this chapter in the Headquarters Office.


B. The Chief, Division of Safety and Health:


(1) Revises and updates Part 243 as necessary, and


(2) Interprets the requirements of Part 243 and serves as a consultant to resolve Servicewide issues or questions.


C. Regional Directors and Regional Special Agents-in-Charge (SACs) must provide sufficient support and resources to effectively implement the requirements of the chapters in this Part within their Regions.


D. Regional Safety Managers:


(1) Interpret the requirements in Part 243 and serve as advisors to resolve Regionwide issues and questions, and


(2) Evaluate implementation of the requirements of Part 243 during Regional field station safety program evaluations.


E. Regional Heavy Equipment Coordinators coordinate the training components and the logistical management of heavy duty motor equipment and the training for ORUVs.


F. Project Leaders/Supervisors ensure:


(1) Operations under their control comply with Service policies related to motor vehicle and motor equipment operation, such as 320 FW 1-10, 321 FW 1, and 243 FW 1-6;


(2) Employees complete all required training (e.g., training for load securement and heavy equipment operator safety, etc.) and are properly licensed for the class of vehicle they operate;


(3) Employees who must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) as a condition of employment participate in the Department of the Interior (Department) random drug testing program;


(4) The safety, security, and proper care and use of vehicles. Vehicle operators must conform to applicable State, local, and Federal Highway Administration regulations; and


(5) Employees obtain and use all required personal protective equipment (PPE).


G. Vehicle and motor equipment operators must:


(1) Operate vehicles and equipment in a safe and careful manner and comply with the requirements of applicable Federal, State, and local regulations; Part 243; and other Service policies related to motor vehicle and motor equipment operations such as 320 FW 1, 320 FW 5, and 321 FW 1.


(2) Park the motor vehicle or motor equipment before using a cell phone or other electronic device (see 321 FW 1).


(3) Wear required PPE, as well as the seatbelt or occupant restraint system, whenever they operate the vehicle/equipment. Operators must:


(a) Require passengers to wear their seatbelts (see 321 FW 1) before putting the vehicle/equipment into motion;


(b) Conform to vehicle manufacturers’ recommendations on activation, inactivation, and maintenance of secondary restraint systems (e.g., airbags); and 


(c) When operating heavy duty motor equipment, wear safety toed boots and head protection (e.g., hard hat), even in an enclosed cab.


(4) Check the route of travel to ensure sufficient overhead and side clearance. Operators should look for narrow culverts, width and load limits of bridges, low overhead power lines, and similar hazards.


(5) Maintain knowledge of load weight, width, and height permits. Employees must obtain required State-specific special hauling permits for each State through which they will travel.


(6) Make sure that all loads are secure and that no materials will fall from the vehicle. Check loads at each stop and at appropriate intervals as stated in 243 FW 5.


(7) Load, block, and secure large and heavy loads in an acceptable manner. You must secure loads and equipment in accordance with DOT regulations (49 CFR 393) and 243 FW 5.


(8) Keep personnel not involved in the operations away from the vehicle/equipment during loading, operating, repairing, or unloading. The operator must ensure that any person directing or spotting heavy duty motor equipment is wearing Class II high visibility safety apparel meeting ANSI/International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) standard 207-2006 (e.g., reflective vest, hard hat, etc.) and has adequate means to communicate with the operator verbally or through hand signals described in 29 CFR 1926.550(a)(4).


(9) Inspect and walk around the vehicle/equipment before starting the engine to check basic mechanical and safety features and to ensure that personnel are clear of the equipment.


(10) Identify any needed repairs, adjustments, and safety deficiencies and notify the supervisor of those findings. Any vehicle/equipment that is in an unsafe operating condition must be removed from service until it is repaired or replaced, and then it must be re-inspected before it is put back into service.


(11) Turn engines off before refueling and, where appropriate, ground the nozzle, funnel, or container when filling the fuel tank. To avoid static electricity buildup and fire potential, remove all portable gasoline containers from the vehicle or ground them with a grounding cable before filling them with fuel. You must place such containers on the ground or on a concrete surface prior to filling.


(12) Remove keys and lock vehicles/equipment to guard against theft or damage.


(13) Place all hydraulically raised components on the ground and disengage power take off before leaving the operator’s seat.


(14) Comply with the following regulations and standards: 


(a) CDL and Departmental random drug testing program requirements,


(b) State DOT regulations,


(c) Applicable equipment manufacturers’ operating manuals and guidance,


(d) ANSI Z358.1-2004, Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment, and


(e) ANSI B56.1-1969, Powered Industrial Trucks.


(15) Ensure that heavy equipment used in forestry operations (e.g., tree shearing, sawing, shredding, and logging operations) is equipped with operator protective structures (see 29 CFR 1910.266).


(16) Not allow personnel to work from an elevated bucket on a skid steer, backhoe/loader, four-wheel drive loader, or agricultural tractor with a front-end loader. Do not allow platforms for personnel use on heavy equipment with a pallet fork attachment on skid steers, backhoe/loaders, four-wheel drive loaders, or agricultural tractors with front-end loaders.


(17) Do not allow riders in or on heavy-duty motor equipment at any time, even if the equipment has additional seating (i.e., instructor seat).


1.5 What terms do you need to know to understand the chapters in this Part?


A. Motor Vehicle. A motor vehicle is any self-propelled or mechanically drawn conveyance that is designed to operate on highways to transport property or passengers.


(1)  Motor vehicles include:


(a)  Sedans,


(b)  Station wagons,


(c)  Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV),


(d) Vans (including minivans)


(e) Recreational vehicles,


(f)  Ambulances,


(g) Buses,


(h) Motorcycles, and


(i) Trucks (including trucks with specialized mounted equipment, such as fish distribution trucks, fire engines, and garbage trucks).


(2) Our use of the term ‘motor vehicle’ in this chapter does not include:


(a) ORUVs (see 243 FW 6),


(b) Motor equipment, and


(c) Trailers.


(3) DOT categorizes motor vehicles as:


(a) Sedans and Station Wagons:


(i) Class I: Subcompact sedans and station wagons.


(ii) Class II: Compact sedans and station wagons.


(iii) Class III: Midsize sedans and station wagons.


(iv) Class IV: Large sedans and station wagons.


(b) Trucks: There are three general subcategories of trucks:


(i) Light Trucks: Pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans (including minivans) that have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 8,500 pounds (lbs) or less.


(ii) Medium-duty trucks: Trucks with conventional cabs, van bodies, dump trucks, and stake side trucks that have a GVWR of 8,501 - 35,000 lbs.


(iii) Heavy-duty trucks: Trucks with conventional cabs, van bodies, dump trucks, stake side trucks, and tractor trucks that have a GVWR of 35,001 lbs and greater.


(c) Commercial Motor Vehicle. Only operators with a CDL may operate commercial motor vehicles. Commercial motor vehicles may be medium or heavy-duty trucks used to transport passengers or property if the vehicle:


(i) Has a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds;


(ii) Has a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds. This GCWR includes a towed unit with a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds (see Table 1-1 below for examples of combination weights requiring a CDL);


Table 1-1: Calculating Gross Combination Weight

Truck GVWR


Trailer GVWR


Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR)

16,000 lbs.


10,200 lbs.


26,200 lbs.

22,000 lbs


12,000 lbs.


34,000 lbs.


(iii) Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver. This includes vans, buses, shuttles, passenger-carrying trams, tram trailers, and trolleys.


B. Motor equipment. Any item of equipment that is self-propelled or drawn by mechanical power or designed principally for operators to use off highways. The term includes construction and maintenance equipment, materials handling equipment, and forestry and agriculture equipment. There are three categories of motor equipment:


(1) Light Duty Motor Equipment. Light duty motor equipment includes:


(a)  Riding, zero turn, and front-mounted, self-propelled lawn mowers up to 35 horsepower (HP) and other equipment not required to have a rollover protective structure (ROPS) as defined in 29 CFR 1926, subpart W


(b) Electric powered utility vehicles (e.g., golf carts, Cushmans, E-Z-GOs, Tigers, and similarly designed equipment).


(2) Heavy Duty Motor Equipment. Table 1-2 describes many of the types of heavy duty motor equipment.


Table 1-2: Heavy Duty Motor Equipment


Comments/Examples (if applicable)

(a) Crawler-dozers and crawler-loaders


(b) Four-wheel-drive loaders

Articulating or straight frame

(c) Motor graders

Articulating or straight frame

(d) Draglines


(e) Power excavators


(f) Motor cranes


(g) Agricultural tractors that are:


·        Self-propelled,

·        2/4 wheel or track driven,

·        More than 20 engine HP,

·        Equipment designed to furnish power to agricultural/forestry/construction/ industrial tools or attachments,

·        Manufactured with a ROPS, and

·        Defined in 29 CFR 1928.51(b)(1).

(h) Amphibious/soft tracked equipment (wheeled or tracked) over 1,900 pounds curb weight including:


·        Weasels

·        Thiokols

·        Roligons

·        Marsh Masters

·        SnowCats

·        Muskegs

·        Gyro-Tracs

·        Geo-Boys

·        Hydro-Axes


(i) Self propelled scraper pans,


(j) Industrial tractors

Front-end loader/backhoes

(k) Skid steers,


(l) Forklifts

Classes 1-7

(m) Industrial powered lift trucks



(3) Off-Road Utility Vehicle (ORUV). ORUVs include:


(a) Off-road motorcycles;


(b)  Amphibious vehicles (wheeled or tracked) with a curb weight of 1,900 pounds or less, e.g., an Argo;


(c) Utility vehicles (multi-tired or tracked), commonly called UTVs, with a curb weight of 1,900 pounds or less (see ANSI/ROHVA1-2-10), e.g., Gator, Mule, Ranger.  This does not include electric golf carts (ANSI/NGCMA Z130.1) or personal transportation vehicles (ANSI/NGCMA Z135), e.g. Cushman, CarryAll, E-Z-GO;


(d) Snowmobiles; and


(e) All-terrain vehicles (ATVs). ATVs are off-highway vehicles that have a seat that the operator straddles, handlebars for steering control, and are specifically designed to travel on four low pressure tires (see ANSI/SVIA-1-2001). ATVs include vehicles that are manufactured for use by a single operator and:


(i) No passenger, or


(ii) One passenger (called 2+ seating).


C. Operator is a Service employee or volunteer who is authorized to operate motor vehicles or motor equipment and individuals identified in Service written agreements who are authorized to operate Service motor vehicles or motor equipment.


D. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). The GVWR is the value specified by the manufacturer as the maximum rated weight of a single motor vehicle.

E. Combined Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (CGVWR). The CGVWR is the maximum towing capacity for which manufacturers design and engineer Class 6, 7, and 8 trucks.

(1) The CGVRW is calculated by the combined scale weight of the truck, trailer, and cargo. Design features are incorporated into the manufacturing of a truck at the factory. Features include cooling system size, frame rail strength, engine torque curves, transmission style, axle rating, spring weights, tire size/rating, differential ratios, bearing size, etc.

(2) To determine what the CGVWR for a truck is:


(a)  Check the original purchase order documentation for that truck. Since the CGVWR is a selectable option under the GSA vehicle standards, it should be on the documentation; or


(b)  Using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), contact the truck manufacturer and ask for the CGVWR for that truck.


F. Powered Industrial Truck is a mobile, power-propelled truck used to carry, push, pull, lift, stack, or tier materials. These include fork trucks, high lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other specialized industrial trucks powered by electric motors or internal combustion engines. The term does not apply to compressed air or nonflammable compressed gas operated industrial vehicles, nor to vehicles intended primarily for earth moving or over-the-road hauling.


G. Volunteer is an individual who has signed a Volunteer Services Agreement in accordance with 150 FW 1.


H. Working Load Limit (WLL) is the maximum safe load that may be applied to a component of a cargo securement system during normal service.


I. Aggregate Working Load Limit (AWLL) is the sum of the WLLs of all the tiedowns of any securement system and must be equal to or greater than 50% of the weight of the cargo. You may add tiedown WLLs together to determine the AWLL. The formula for determining the AWLL depends on the method of the tiedown system you use (see 49 CFR 393.106(d)). If a State DOT program requires the aggregate WLL to equal more than 50% of the weight of the article you are transporting, you must follow the State requirement.


(1) Use 50% of the WLL of each tiedown assembly to calculate the AWLL if the tiedown goes from an anchor point on the transport vehicle to an attachment point on the cargo, or if it attaches to the transport vehicle, goes over, through, or around the cargo and attaches to the same side of the transport vehicle.


(2) Use 100% of the WLL of each tiedown assembly to calculate the AWLL if the tiedown goes from one side of the transport vehicle, over, through, or around the cargo and attaches to the opposite side of the transport vehicle.


1.6 What are the general requirements associated with operating motor vehicles and motor equipment?


A. Service-owned, rented, leased, or loaned vehicles and equipment must comply with appropriate State requirements regarding items such as safety equipment, retro reflective sheeting/tape, lights, placards, warning flags, oversize/wide load signs, and special hauling permits.


B. We must maintain vehicles and equipment according to the manufacturers’ recommended guidelines. If operating manuals are not available, contact the dealer or the manufacturer to request a copy.


C. We must operate vehicles and equipment in compliance with Service safety requirements. Also see 320 FW 1, 320 FW 5, and 321 FW 1.


1.7 How long can a driver operate a vehicle/equipment in one day? When possible, trip planning should not require more than 8 hours driving in one duty shift.  Employees must not exceed 10 hours driving time (behind the wheel, including rest stops) during a 16-hour duty period. However, if an operator cannot complete a run within 10 hours, he/she may drive up to 2 additional hours to complete the run or reach a place offering safety for the vehicle occupants and security for the vehicle and its cargo. Trip planning must allow for at least 8 consecutive hours off duty, prior to each duty period this section covers. We allow exceptions to these requirements when exceeding these times is essential to addressing immediate and critical law enforcement issues. When a driver must exceed a 16-hour work shift, the driver's supervisor must document mitigation measures used to reduce fatigue. Drivers of commercial motor vehicles must comply with the driving times required in 49 CFR 395.


1.8 Are passengers allowed in Service vehicles? See 320 FW 5, section 5.5.


A. You may transport passengers employed by the Department for official business.


B. You may transport people who are not employed by the Department only under the following conditions:


(1) Employees of other Federal agencies and non-Federal employees conducting official business when it benefits the Government and does not interfere with accomplishing the Service employee's primary business.


(2) Anyone in emergency or disaster situations to help people with injuries, who are in pain, and to prevent death or serious damage to people or property.


(3) If the Regional Property Manager develops a policy for transporting non-official passengers that the Chief, Division of Contracting and Facilities Management and the Department’s Director – Acquisition and Property Management have approved.


1.9 What are the specific safety considerations for passenger vans?


A. Supervisors must ensure drivers of these vehicles are trained and experienced in the vans’ unique handling characteristics. Significant differences in the design and handling characteristics make them drive differently from other passenger vehicles.  


(1) 15-passenger vans are substantially longer and wider than a car, so they:


(a) Require more space and additional reliance on the side-view mirrors for changing lanes,


(b) Do not respond as well to abrupt steering maneuvers, and


(c) Require additional braking time.


(2) We recommend no more than 9 passengers and a driver (10 people total) to ride in a 15-passenger van on public roadways. When carrying 10 or more passengers, the vans have a rollover rate nearly three times the rate of vans that are lightly loaded because the van’s center of gravity is raised and shifted rearward. The vans become more difficult to control in emergency situations, such as unexpected evasive maneuvers at higher speeds. 


(3) Tire wear and inflation are major contributing factors in many rollover accidents with these vehicles.


B.  Supervisors:


(1) Should select one or two experienced drivers to drive passenger vans. These designated drivers will gain valuable experience from their continued use of the vans.


(2) Must provide a briefing on avoiding van rollover and the authorization requirements to operate the vehicle. You can find guidance about operation of passenger vans on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s and DOT’s Web sites. Check with your Regional Safety Office for additional assistance.


(3) Must ensure drivers have a valid State license for transporting up to 15-passengers, including the driver, or a valid State CDL for transporting 16 or more passengers, including the driver. This includes both on-road and off-road operations.


(4) Must ensure compliance with 320 FW 5 and all State requirements for marking.


(5) Must not allow seasonal employees or volunteers to drive these vehicles unless they have substantial experience operating 15-passenger vans. 


C. Because of the hazards associated with these vehicles, drivers must:


(1) Inspect the vehicle before operation and pay special attention to tire wear and inflation;


(2) When they drive the van on public roadways:


(a) If practical, limit the number of passengers to nine,  


(b) Not exceed posted speed limits,


(c) Require passengers to sit in the front-most seats, and


(d) Not allow storage or transportation of any item on the roof.


1.10 Are there special requirements when the vehicle is used in firefighting? In addition to conforming to the requirements in this Part, vehicles we use for prescribed fires and to fight wildland fires and their operators must meet the requirements in 241 FW 7, applicable Departmental policies, and Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operation (National Fire Equipment System 2724).


1.11 Must vehicles have emergency/first aid equipment?


A. All motor vehicles must have a first aid kit containing the minimum contents outlined in ANSI standard Z308.1, including blood borne pathogen PPE. Supervisors should brief operators about the contents of the kit and check the kit annually to ensure it is appropriately stocked.


B. There must be a Departmental motor vehicle accident reporting kit (DI-135) in the vehicle at all times. Supervisors must instruct operators on what to do if there is an accident and how to use the kit’s contents. See 320 FW 4 for a complete list of the information that must be in every Service-owned or leased motor vehicle.


C. Personnel who operate vehicles in remote or isolated areas must plan their trips taking into consideration preparations for mechanical breakdowns or other emergencies. Vehicles should be equipped with communication gear such as two-way radios or cell phones and survival kits appropriate to the operating environment (also see 320 FW 4).


D. Motor vehicles we use in undercover law enforcement operations are exempt from this section.


1.12 What are the fire extinguisher requirements?


A. Sedans, station wagons, light trucks, and medium-duty trucks less than 26,000 lbs. GVWR used for field work or carrying passengers must be equipped with not less than a 2 ½ lb. ABC type fire extinguisher rated at 1A:10BC. We also may require fire extinguishers on all other motor vehicles less than 10,000 lbs. GVWR if they are identified as a fire risk in a Job Hazard Assessment (JHA).


B. All commercial motor vehicles (see section 1.5A(3) and 49 CFR 383.5) must be equipped with not less than a 5 lb. ABC type fire extinguisher rated at 3A:40BC or as required in 49 CFR 393.95(a).


C. All heavy duty motor equipment (see section 1.5B(2)) must be equipped with not less than a 2 ½ lb. ABC type fire extinguisher rated at 1A:10BC unless the equipment is used in a combustible environment or in a manner that may generate sparks or heat. If the equipment is operated under these conditions, it must be equipped with a fire extinguisher not less than a 10 lb. ABC type rated at 4:A:60BC. For instance, heavy equipment similar to Gyro-Tracs, Hydro-Axes, excavators with mowing heads/shears, wildland fire attack equipment, and Marsh Masters normally operate in a combustible environment and must be equipped with not less than a 10 lb. ABC fire extinguisher.


D. The operator must adequately secure each fire extinguisher within or on the vehicle using a cage, harness, or strap that protects the extinguisher and vehicle occupants. Fire extinguisher brackets may not be bolted to or through, or welded to any ROPS components. Strapping or clamping around ROPS components is acceptable. Operators must maintain and inspect each extinguisher as required by 29 CFR 1910.157.


E. There must be a fire extinguisher rated not less than 10B (see 29 CFR 1926.150) at job sites that are within 50 feet of where more than 5 gallons of flammable or combustible liquids or 5 pounds of flammable gas are being used. This requirement does not apply to the integral fuel tank of motor vehicles.

F. Operators may use combinations of smaller fire extinguishers to achieve the larger required size (e.g., two 5 lb. rated extinguishers = one 10 lb. extinguisher).

1.13 Are there requirements for servicing tires? Yes, we must service tires mounted on multi-piece rims in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standards, 29 CFR 1910.177. (Also see 320 FW 6 for additional guidance.)



 For information on the content of this chapter, contact the Division of Safety and Health. For information about this Web site, contact Krista Bibb in the Division of Policy and Directives Management.  

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