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” 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)
* These 3 are frequently done at the same time at your state or jurisdiction office. 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).
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.
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.
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.