How to get an FMCSA Operating Authority

Letter of Authority

Deciding to get your own FMCSA operating authority and DOT number is a big step. Most use agents to help them get started. Unfortunately they cost a lot of money. I’m going to share with you all the different regulating agencies and how to contact them. By doing so, I’m giving you the ability to get set up with all of them so you can avoid paying an agent more than necessary. What better way to start your business than by saving money and learning compliancy requirements at the same time! Here are the basic Federal requirements (there are more and I’ll discuss them soon).

1. FMCSA Operating Authority “MC” “FF” or “MX” number

2. Department of Transportation (DOT) number

3. Commercial Insurance

4. *Unified Carrier Registration (UCR)

5. *International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA)

6. *International Registration Plan (IRP)

7. BOC-3

* These 3 are frequently done at the same time at your state or jurisdiction office. In most cases you can apply, pay and receive all of them in person and on the same day. It is wise to verify in advance what types of payments your state or jurisdiction will accept as they are all different.

FMCSA Operating Authority “MC” number

The FMCSA website states…

“In general, companies that do the following are required to have interstate Operating Authority (MC number) in addition to a DOT number:

Operate as for-hire carriers (for a fee or other compensation)”

Since the one time fee is only $300.00, I recommend every “For-Hire” carrier to not take any chances or run the risk of operating without having their MC (Motor Carrier) number. It is a fairly simple process and can be done through the SaferSys website (an FMCSA website).

Department of Transportation (DOT) number

I have never seen a truck or met a truck owner that wasn’t required to have a USDOT number. The FMCSA’s website states…

“You are required to obtain a USDOT number if you have a vehicle that:

Is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous and transported in a quantity requiring placarding (whether interstate or intrastate).

OR

Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater”

and goes on to state…

“AND is involved in Interstate commerce:

Trade, traffic, or transportation in the United States—

Between a place in a State and a place outside of such State (including a place outside of the United States);

Between two places in a State through another State or a place outside of the United States; or

Between two places in a State as part of trade, traffic, or transportation originating or terminating outside the State or the United States.

You are required by FMCSA to obtain USDOT Number and comply with the Federal Regulations.”

The FMCSA concludes with…

“Apart from federal regulations, some states require commercial motor vehicle registrants to obtain a USDOT Number. These states include:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming”

Obtaining a USDOT number is free. The FMCSA made it convenient to apply for a USDOT number at the same time you apply for a MC number by using the SaferSys website. You will be required to complete and submit the MCS -150 form which defines your business to the USDOT before they will issue you a USDOT number.

Commercial Insurance

Once you have applied for your FMCSA operating authority you will need commercial insurance before your MC number is ready to be used legally. Your insurance company is required to notify the FMCSA once you have purchased your insurance. This process of the insurance company notifying the FMCSA of your policy and the FMCSA updating your MC number with the insurance does take time. Your insurance agent and/or company will be able to provide you with the coverage requirements from the FMCSA.

Unified Carrier Registration (UCR)

The Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) is a registration based on the number of vehicles (trucks) you operate. You can complete your UCR either through the UCR website or many times through your state you operate from. UCR is paid annually.

International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA)

IFTA accounts are free and depending on your state or jurisdiction you may or may not pay for the IFTA stickers that are required for each truck in your fleet. I normally start my IFTA account and receive my stickers on the same day I pay for and receive my IRP plates (which I will discuss next). Renewal each year is typically done either on a state or jurisdiction website or by mail. Filing your IFTA taxes is a quarterly requirement.

International Registration Plan (IRP)

The International Registration Plan (IRP) is the registration and license plates for all your vehicles. It is an apportioned registration. Meaning you will pay a portion of each states registration fee based on the percentage of miles you operate in each state or jurisdiction. When you apply for your first IRP you will be required to use “estimated miles.” This does not mean you get to estimate your miles. The estimated miles are provided to you by your state or jurisdiction. In most cases it will be your responsibility to put the correct estimated miles for each state or jurisdiction in the correct field. If it is not correct the IRP official (in most cases) will not fix the mistakes but rather give it back to you and have you fix them. That means going back to the end of the line. I failed to get the correct estimated mileage one time and it took me 3 hours to get back to the IRP official so I could pay my bill and complete my registration.

BOC-3

The BOC-3 is one of the most overlooked requirements by the FMCSA. The reason is simple. There is not a “check and balance” or verification process before being allowed to operate using your new authority. The purpose of the BOC-3 is to provide the FMCSA with a list of agents from the states or jurisdictions you operate in that will receive legal documents. The FMCSA describes it’s purpose this way…

“A process agent is a representative upon whom court papers may be served in any proceeding brought against a motor carrier, broker, or freight forwarder. Every motor carrier (of property or passengers) shall make a designation for each State in which it is authorized to operate and for each State traversed during such operations.”

Now I don’t normally recommend using an agent for much of anything. However, in this case it is best. Otherwise you will need to locate representatives for every state or jurisdiction and continually verify that the representative is still in business. Personally, I have enough to do without calling 50+ representatives every week or 2 to verify they are still in business. Through an agent, a BOC-3 will cost you a 1 time fee of normally no more than $50.00. A list of agents is provided by the FMCSA on their website.

Deciding to get your own FMCSA operating authority and DOT number is a big step. Most use agents to help them get started. Unfortunately they cost a lot of money. I’m going to share with you all the different regulating agencies and how to contact them. By doing so, I’m giving you the ability to get set up with all of them so you can avoid paying an agent more than necessary. What better way to start your business than by saving money and learning compliancy requirements at the same time! Here are the basic Federal requirements (there are more and I’ll discuss them soon).

1. FMCSA Operating Authority “MC” “FF” or “MX” number

2. Department of Transportation (DOT) number

3. Commercial Insurance

4. *Unified Carrier Registration (UCR)

5. *International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA)

6. *International Registration Plan (IRP)

7. BOC-3

* These 3 are frequently done at the same time at your state or jurisdiction office. In most cases you can apply, pay and receive all of them in person and on the same day. It is wise to verify in advance what types of payments your state or jurisdiction will accept as they are all different.

FMCSA Operating Authority “MC” number

The FMCSA website states…

“In general, companies that do the following are required to have interstate Operating Authority (MC number) in addition to a DOT number:

Operate as for-hire carriers (for a fee or other compensation)”

Since the one time fee is only $300.00, I recommend every “For-Hire” carrier to not take any chances or run the risk of operating without having their MC (Motor Carrier) number. It is a fairly simple process and can be done through the SaferSys website (an FMCSA website).

Department of Transportation (DOT) number

I have never seen a truck or met a truck owner that wasn’t required to have a USDOT number. The FMCSA’s website states…

“You are required to obtain a USDOT number if you have a vehicle that:

Is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous and transported in a quantity requiring placarding (whether interstate or intrastate).

OR

Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 4,536 kg (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater”

and goes on to state…

“AND is involved in Interstate commerce:

Trade, traffic, or transportation in the United States—

Between a place in a State and a place outside of such State (including a place outside of the United States);

Between two places in a State through another State or a place outside of the United States; or

Between two places in a State as part of trade, traffic, or transportation originating or terminating outside the State or the United States.

You are required by FMCSA to obtain USDOT Number and comply with the Federal Regulations.”

The FMCSA concludes with…

“Apart from federal regulations, some states require commercial motor vehicle registrants to obtain a USDOT Number. These states include:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming”

Obtaining a USDOT number is free. The FMCSA made it convenient to apply for a USDOT number at the same time you apply for a MC number by using the SaferSys website. You will be required to complete and submit the MCS -150 form which defines your business to the USDOT before they will issue you a USDOT number.

Commercial Insurance

Once you have applied for your FMCSA operating authority you will need commercial insurance before your MC number is ready to be used legally. Your insurance company is required to notify the FMCSA once you have purchased your insurance. This process of the insurance company notifying the FMCSA of your policy and the FMCSA updating your MC number with the insurance does take time. Your insurance agent and/or company will be able to provide you with the coverage requirements from the FMCSA.

Unified Carrier Registration (UCR)

The Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) is a registration based on the number of vehicles (trucks) you operate. You can complete your UCR either through the UCR website or many times through your state you operate from. UCR is paid annually.

International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA)

IFTA accounts are free and depending on your state or jurisdiction you may or may not pay for the IFTA stickers that are required for each truck in your fleet. I normally start my IFTA account and receive my stickers on the same day I pay for and receive my IRP plates (which I will discuss next). Renewal each year is typically done either on a state or jurisdiction website or by mail. Filing your IFTA taxes is a quarterly requirement.

International Registration Plan (IRP)

The International Registration Plan (IRP) is the registration and license plates for all your vehicles. It is an apportioned registration. Meaning you will pay a portion of each states registration fee based on the percentage of miles you operate in each state or jurisdiction. When you apply for your first IRP you will be required to use “estimated miles.” This does not mean you get to estimate your miles. The estimated miles are provided to you by your state or jurisdiction. In most cases it will be your responsibility to put the correct estimated miles for each state or jurisdiction in the correct field. If it is not correct the IRP official (in most cases) will not fix the mistakes but rather give it back to you and have you fix them. That means going back to the end of the line. I failed to get the correct estimated mileage one time and it took me 3 hours to get back to the IRP official so I could pay my bill and complete my registration.

BOC-3

The BOC-3 is one of the most overlooked requirements by the FMCSA. The reason is simple. There is not a “check and balance” or verification process before being allowed to operate using your new authority. The purpose of the BOC-3 is to provide the FMCSA with a list of agents from the states or jurisdictions you operate in that will receive legal documents. The FMCSA describes it’s purpose this way…

“A process agent is a representative upon whom court papers may be served in any proceeding brought against a motor carrier, broker, or freight forwarder. Every motor carrier (of property or passengers) shall make a designation for each State in which it is authorized to operate and for each State traversed during such operations.”

Now I don’t normally recommend using an agent for much of anything. However, in this case it is best. Otherwise you will need to locate representatives for every state or jurisdiction and continually verify that the representative is still in business. Personally, I have enough to do without calling 50+ representatives every week or 2 to verify they are still in business. Through an agent, a BOC-3 will cost you a 1 time fee of normally no more than $50.00. A list of agents is provided by the FMCSA on their website.

Aside from the cost of your insurance and IRP, the entire cost to you should not exceed around $400.00. Many agents charge thousands of dollars. Since I’m always looking to save money and improve my profits, it only makes sense for me to spend a little time educating myself, complete the applications or filings, and saving money at the same time. If you want to learn more check out the category Business of Trucking.

Aside from the cost of your insurance and IRP, the entire cost to you should not exceed around $400.00. Many agents charge thousands of dollars. Since I’m always looking to save money and improve my profits, it only makes sense for me to spend a little time educating myself, complete the applications or filings, and saving money at the same time. If you want to learn more check out the category Business of Trucking.

How IFTA Works

IFTA rates available from the International Fuel Tax Association, Inc.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “So how does IFTA work anyway?” Once truck owners understand IFTA they all change their fuel purchasing ways. In doing so they lower their fuel cost and improve their profits.

In the day of the original “bingo card” registration, which no longer exists, truck owners had to buy just enough fuel to drive in each state. Since then the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) was created. IFTA completely eliminated the need to buy fuel in every state. In fact, doing so all but guarantees you are paying far more for your fuel than necessary.

IFTA fuel taxes are collected in all states and jurisdictions that have a state or jurisdiction fuel tax. Oregon does not have fuel taxes but they do issue IFTA accounts. All carriers who operate an apportioned IRP are required to have an IFTA account and a list of states or jurisdictions they operate in. At the end of each quarter you will file your quarterly IFTA fuel taxes. Here is where the value of understanding IFTA turns into lower fuel cost. You owe each state it’s fuel tax based on how many gallons you used while driving in their state. Not how much you bought! What that means is when you buy fuel at the lowest cost BEFORE taxes you will almost always be due a refund at the end of the quarter. Here is how that works using 2nd quarter 2015 IFTA fuel tax rates.

Illinois Pump Price $3.399

Missouri Pump Price $3.259

Most truck owners will buy Missouri because it costs less at the pump.

2015 2nd Qt. IFTA Fuel Taxes

Illinois .4270

Missouri .1700

Your truck averages 5mpg

You drive 50 miles in Illinois and 50 miles in Missouri

You owe each state a IFTA fuel tax on 10 gallons of fuel

Buying fuel in Missouri

You buy 20 gallons of fuel in Missouri for $3.259 a gallon

Actual fuel cost without tax is $3.089

You have an IFTA tax credit of $1.70 from Missouri

You owe Illinois an IFTA tax of $4.27

You owe a IFTA tax Payment of $2.57

Instead, Buy fuel in Illinois

You buy 20 gallons of fuel in Illinois for $3.399 a gallon

Actual fuel cost without tax is $2.972

You have an IFTA tax credit of $4.27 from Illinois

You owe Missouri an IFTA tax of $1.70

You have a tax credit and Refund of $2.57

In this example the answer for “How Does IFTA Work” means purchasing fuel in Illinois is a 3 month investment that lowers your fuel cost by almost $.12 a gallon! If your truck averages 5 mpg, you are increasing your profits by $.025 per mile. If you drive 175,000 miles in a year, that is a total savings of $4,375.00! Yes, understanding IFTA can save you thousands of dollars every year for each and every truck you own! Learn more ways to save money and increase profits in my After Market Truck Parts post.

Junk Yard Truck Parts

Rebuilding ELD exempt 1999 9900i International with junk yard and after market truck parts!

When I modify my truck, I do so by locating and purchasing as many Junk Yard Truck Parts for the modification as I can. The easiest way to get used truck parts is to find a quality junk yard with OTR trucks. I have been known to spend hours with my tool bag at my favorite junk yard collecting Truck Parts. I enjoy the time invested in saving money while collecting parts to improve my trucks performance and profitability.

When truck owners see my truck and ask about my modifications they are shocked and in disbelief when I tell them that the majority of the parts I used are Junk Yard Truck Parts. Take for example the picture of my 1999 International 9900i shown above. As you can see I added 2 fuel tanks on the drivers side. The first is a 30 gallon fuel tank for my APU mounted directly in front of my first drive axle. The other is a 130 gallon fuel tank for truck fuel mounted below the drivers door. On the passenger side of the truck I added another 130 gallon fuel tank for the truck below the passengers door. With my original fuel tanks, that is a total of 560 gallons of truck fuel and 30 gallons of APU fuel! I purchased both 130 gallon fuel tanks, their carriers, their straps and all mounting hardware for a total of $300.00. If I had purchased all those parts new it would have cost an estimated $4,000.00. By using Junk Yard Truck Parts I saved $3,700.00. The best part is I improved my trucks performance and increased my profits by more than .30 cents per gallon of fuel!

After I decided to add the fuel tanks, I had to decided where and how to mount my battery box. You guessed it, I found my solution using Junk Yard Truck Parts. I simply walked around the junk yard looking at different trucks and focused my attention on the older trucks since they had different battery box styles and mounts. And I saw my solution on an old International cab over. A battery box mounted right behind the cab on the frame rails. Because of the other parts I was purchasing that day (fuel tanks, hangers, straps, etc.) it’s cost, free!

Watch for my upcoming post “How Does IFTA Work?” to see why I added 3 fuel tanks to my truck and exactly how I did increase my profits by more than .30 cents per gallon of fuel. I must read for any truck owner.

If you would like to learn more about modifying your truck using after market truck parts, lowering your maintenance cost and saving money, read my post After Market Truck Parts.

After Market Truck Parts

Once you have successfully financed your truck it won’t be long until you want to improve your profits. Using after market truck parts to modify your truck can lower your maintenance cost and save big money every year. I have had amazing success with some products while others left me disappointed. My best after market truck parts successes include oil by-pass filters, heated fuel filters, and tire inflation systems. My worst experiences were early on in my truck owning career because I failed to use common sense. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Before you buy after market truck parts there are a few rules to remember.

1. Ensure you really want or need any product before you purchase it! If your goal with after market truck parts is to increase your profits at the end of the year then you need to verify the ROI (return on investment). The only way to do this is to verify that your total cost paid for a product is lower than the estimated savings in 1 year. If it is a larger purchase and your ROI plan is for 3 years, then multiply your estimated annual savings by 3 and compare it to your total cost of the product.

2. Don’t automatically believe what the salesman is telling you. Ask for references that he has already sold the product to. Talk to other truck owners who are using, or have used, after market truck parts because they will provide you with their uncensored product information. Truck Owners that are not referred to you by the salesman are your most reliable resource for the performance of after market truck parts.

3. Look for any competitors that might offer a similar product. If you find one then repeat rule #2 until you decide on which product you are going to purchase.

4. Keep looking to improve your trucks performance by using after market truck parts. In doing so it helps you stay competitive with your competition while maintaining your profit margin.

After market truck parts aren’t the only way to lower maintenance cost and improve your profit margin. In my next post, Junk Yard Truck Parts, see how I dramatically reduced my fuel cost by over .30 per gallon!