Anyone who owns or operates a commercial vehicle such as a trailer truck or passenger bus knows the importance of being registered. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the governing body responsible for commercial vehicle registration, recognizes that operating a large commercial vehicle requires a higher set of skills, knowledge, and level of physical aptitude than operating a small vehicle, and so mandates more stringent licensing and certification measures.

The FMCSA’s mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. Initially established as an independent administration in the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) 2000, their main responsibilities include collecting and using safety information systems to enforce driver safety rules and regulations, spreading educational messages to drivers, companies, and the general public, and working with stakeholders including enforcement agencies, safety groups, and motor carrier industries to arrange efforts to reduce truck- and bus-related crashes.


The FMCSA Registration Process

In addition to safety criteria outlined above, the FMCSA monitors and ensures compliance with motor carrier safety and commercial regulations. Companies and individuals may find that they are subject to registration requirements for both safety and commercial regulations.

The registration process generally requires that companies or individuals define the type of Motor Carrier, Broker, Intermodal Equipment Provider (IEP), Cargo Tank Facility, Shipper and/or Freight Forwarder business operation they plan to establish. The agency will then administer the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) and Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) that govern interstate (and some intrastate) commercial truck and bus industries. This is typically determined based on self-classification of a company’s business operation by using specific criteria such as operation, cargo, and company type.


FMCSA Registration: Step by Step

Below we outline the steps to becoming registered with the FMCSA.

  1. Determine FMCSA registration needs/requirements – Establish whether a USDOT number or an Operating Authority (MC) number is required. Commercial vehicles that operate by transporting passengers or hauling cargo interstate must be registered with the FMCSA and must have a USDOT number. Additionally, commercial intrastate carriers that transport hazardous material in quantities requiring a safety permit must register for a USDOT number. Companies that operate as for-hire carriers, transport passengers in interstate commerce, transport federally-regulated cargo, or arrange for their transport in interstate commerce are required to have an Operating Authority number (MC number) in addition to a DOT number. Unlike the USDOT number previously described, a company may require multiple operating authorities in order to support planned business operations.  The operating authority governs the type of operation a company is allowed to run and the cargo it is allowed to carry.
  1. Determine State notification/registration requirements – Registration requirements may vary by state. Information on State notification/regulation requirements can be found here.
  1. New Entrant Safety Assurance Program – A New Entrant is a motor carrier based in the US or Canada that applies for a USDOT identification number in an effort to initiate operations in interstate commerce. Companies seeking to operate interstate are required to complete the Combined Motor Carrier Identification Report (MCS-150).
  1. Obtain permanent USDOT registration – Once the above items are completed, a registration application may be submitted via the FMCSA online portal.
  1. Maintain/Update USDOT Number and Operating Authority information – Whenever an individual or carrier needs to change a name, address, or other personal details on record, their USDOT and operating authority record should be updated. This is essential to maintaining an accurate and up-to-date registration. The FMCSA requires that all entities under its jurisdiction update their information every two years.

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