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What Is the Difference Between Interstate and Intrastate?

difference between interstate and intrastate

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We all drive or ride in vehicles regularly to get from one place to the next. But did you know that the roads we travel are distinctly different? For example, what is the difference between highway and freeway or the difference between interstate and intrastate? The distinction is made by how we use the roads, access them, and the types of vehicles driving on them.

18-wheelers and other large transport vehicles make up a large portion of the traffic on these roads. They keep commerce flowing inside and outside of states and the country. However, accidents involving 18-wheelers can be particularly deadly to those in much smaller passenger vehicles. Injuries from these accidents are often life-altering and cause significant property damage.

If you are in a wreck with a big rig, you need to know that the regulations governing that vehicle’s time on the road have implications for your potential lawsuit. Different regulations apply to transport vehicles engaging in interstate and intrastate commerce.

Speak with a Houston big rig accident lawyer if you’re confused about whether interstate or intrastate rules apply in your personal injury case. Reich & Binstock’s experienced legal team has worked with numerous clients involved in accidents with 18-wheelers. During a traumatic experience like this, it is our job to make sure you understand the facts while we work on getting the compensation you deserve. 

Difference Between Highway and Freeway and Interstate


Not every highway is a freeway. However, all freeways are highways. In addition, the interstate is a type of highway.

We know. That probably didn’t help clarify the difference between the types of roadways. In reality, these roads share many similarities that make it a little confusing.


The government builds highways to connect cities and places them higher in an area’s topography. These are major public roads. Access to them is limited, and the government may charge tolls for their upkeep. The state government handles maintenance, repairs, and updates.

Controlled-access highways are in areas with a high population density. There is high-speed vehicular traffic due to a higher speed limit. These are limited-access roads, which means there is little access to nearby property. Only cars and other similarly-sized vehicles may drive them.  

They contain grade-separated interchanges and few to no intersecting cross streets. On and off-ramps allow cars to enter and exit at intervals. The presence of traffic lights, bicycle lanes, bridges, and splits indicates it’s also a protected road. 


interstate vs intrastate

This is a type of highway to which access is also restricted. It’s called a “freeway” because vehicles don’t pay a fee to travel it. They connect cities with a state.

A freeway is a public road and tends to be elevated above the ground and contain no intersections. These also have off and on-ramps and regulated access. A traffic barrier, median, or grass runs down the center, separating the traffic flow on the different sides of the road. 

There is no cross traffic, and vehicles use overpasses and underpasses to cross to the other side. There are no traffic signals or pedestrian paths on a freeway. Allowing for the free flow of traffic is part of a freeway’s design.


Interstates are also a type of highway. These are multilane highways and are the fastest and most direct route to travel between or within states. They also have controlled access and may charge tolls. The interstate highway system connects the states and plays a significant role in economic development. This is how goods and services move to different parts of the country. 

Intrastate Definition

Commercial vehicles driven only within the boundaries of one state and not in other interstate commerce categories are intrastate. 

So, when you deliver goods just within one state and their final destination is within that same state, you are engaging in intrastate commerce.

Examples of Intrastate Commerce

An area farmer transporting food items and products to a farmer’s market in the same state is an example of intrastate commerce. The goods were grown or produced in State A and transported and sold within State A. At no time did the items travel outside the state. 

Interstate Definition

When a commercial motor vehicle travels across state lines or out of the country, it is interstate transportation of cargo. This is also true when goods travel within one state, but their final destination is located out of state. You are engaging in interstate commerce when you send items into another state.  

Examples of Interstate Commerce

If the area farmer in the above example took their goods from State A into State B to sell them, it is interstate commerce. This type of commerce is typically associated with 18-wheelers traveling the nation’s roads delivering goods to merchants. 

Interstate commerce also includes goods shipped outside or into the country. These items move via instrumentalities of commerce, including airplanes, trucks, cars, and ships.

Interstate vs Intrastate

The main difference between interstate and instate commerce is that the rules governing commercial motor vehicles, drivers, and trucking companies vary. Different organizations (state and federal) manage the types of commerce. 

Carriers participating in interstate trucking follow the laws and regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA). However, if a company only engages in intrastate trucking, it follows the rules and regulations of its state and state regulatory body. In Texas, this is under the purview of the Texas Department of Public Safety and its Texas Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (TMCSR).

It can be confusing to determine which applies to your particular case. That’s where a Houston truck accident attorney helps you figure out which regulations apply to the truck involved in your wreck.

Tell Me the Best Way to Determine Whether a Truck Is Involved In Interstate Commerce

highway vs freeway

When a commercial motor vehicle is involved in an accident, police create a report. This report contains registration numbers showing whether the truck registered for intrastate or interstate transport. You can get this information by calling and asking or obtaining a copy of the report. Your Houston commercial vehicle accident lawyer can help you with this.

Tell Me the Insurance Requirements for Interstate Motor Carriers?

The FMCSR set the federal minimum liability insurance requirements at $750,000 to $5,000,000. It depends on the kind of commercial vehicle. 

A minimum of $1 million in liability coverage is required for carriers of some oils and hazardous wastes. Haulers of dangerous other materials must have a minimum of $5 million.

At least $1.5 million in liability insurance is required for private buses that can carry 15 or fewer passengers. However, buses carrying more than 15 passengers must keep a minimum of $5 million in insurance.

What Are the Insurance Requirements for Texas Intrastate Motor Carriers?

Per the TMCSR, minimum liability insurance requirements range from $300,000 to $5,000,000. Farm vehicles weighing more than 48,000 pounds and commercial vehicles of 26,000 pounds or more must keep $500,000 in insurance. 

Those transporting hazardous materials/substances and oils must carry $1 million in insurance. It is $5 million in liability insurance for hazardous waste transporters in cargo or portable tanks or water-gallon-style containers.

Private buses that travel within the state carrying between 15 and 26 passengers need $500,000 in liability insurance. Meanwhile, it is $5 million for buses with the capacity for more than 26 riders.  

What Trucks Are Used in Intrastate Trucking?

Commercial motor vehicles like garbage trucks, dump trucks, concrete mixing trucks, box trucks, and tow trucks conduct business inside state lines. Intrastate trucks transport supplies to companies and government agencies within the state.

Trucks Typically Used in Interstate Trucking

interstate vs intrastate

Trucks that travel interstate carry bigger loads than those that travel intrastate. Understanding the differences between these vehicles is essential, since interstate truck accidents may be subject to stricter laws and higher insurance coverage.

Semi-trailers, 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, tanker trucks, and flatbed trucks are typically the transport vehicles traveling the country’s highways delivering goods from coast to coast.  

However, whether a truck does business and crosses state lines is the only way to know whether a commercial vehicle does interstate or intrastate business.

How Long Does It Take To Settle a Truck Accident Case?

intrastate vs interstate

Every accident is different. At Reich & Binstock, we don’t come up with a settlement timeframe until our big rig accident lawyers consider all the factors that affect the value of your injury claim. Your injuries, financial needs, you and the other party’s insurance coverage, fault, and damages are just a few factors that influence how quickly your truck accident case moves.

Disputes Regarding Liability

Agreeing on a dollar amount for your losses is the next step after the other parties involved in your claim accept fault. Our Houston truck accident lawyers vigorously negotiate for the total amount of your losses and consult experienced medical and financial experts to determine the dollar value of your damages.

However, insurance companies always look to place fault on the other driver. Sometimes the big rig’s insurance firm or other involved parties refuse to negotiate a reasonable settlement. In this case, your attorney may file a lawsuit. If this happens, you may have to wait longer to get the money for your claim. 

Contact Our Houston Big Rig Accident Attorneys Today

A big rig accident claim can be complex due to the number of different parties involved. Because trucks are the largest vehicles traveling the roads, accidents often cause significant damage. Those injured in an 18-wheeler accident often suffer catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injury, amputations, severe burns, paralysis, and even wrongful death.

At Reich & Binstock, our dedicated attorneys assist you throughout the legal process and make it as easy as possible for you. In addition to causing physical damage and property loss, a catastrophic collision can also be financially devastating. Don’t worry about costs. We’ll cover all upfront legal fees while your case is pending.

To begin working on your 18-wheeler accident case, contact the Houston big rig accident lawyers at Reich & Binstock right away. Please call us at 713-622-7271 for a free consultation, or fill out our online contact form.

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