If you're a truck driver planning to operate in the United States, you'll need to obtain your trucking authority. Having authority gives you legal permission to operate commercial vehicles on public roads, either intrastate or interstate, as part of your business operations. Obtaining your authority is an important part of running your own trucking company in which you get to set your own schedule, choose your loads and control your earning potential, flexibility that many drivers prefer. In this blog post, we'll walk you through the necessary steps for getting your authority. Let's get started!
Step 1: Register your trucking company.
The first step is to register your trucking company with the federal government. You'll need to provide some basic information about your company, such as your name and contact information. You'll need to specify how you plan to operate, as a sole proprietor or limited liability company, for example.
You'll also need to complete either an OP-1 or OP-1 (P) form in addition to the BOC-3 form. An OP-1 form is for motor carriers, brokers, or freight forwarders. An OP-1 (P) form is for motor carriers with passengers. You can find these forms on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website.
Step 2: Obtain your MC number.
If you plan to operate as an interstate carrier, then you'll need to get an MC number. For first-time applicants, you'll need to register with the Unified Registration System. For existing carriers, you'll need to pay fees through the FMCSA Legacy Registration System. Once finished, the FMCSA will assign you an MC number, which is your trucking company's identification number. You'll need to include this number on all of your documents such as your registration paperwork and insurance policy. You'll also need to display the number on your truck.
Step 3: Acquire a USDOT number.
Your USDOT number is a unique identifier that proves you're authorized to carry goods across state lines. The number serves as your company's official registration with federal trucking authorities, allowing you to legally operate in your jurisdiction. To get a USDOT number, you'll need to provide your name, address, company operation, operation classification, vehicle type and number of vehicles, among other details. You can apply for a USDOT number directly with the FMCSA by submitting an application through the mail. Obtaining a USDOT number is essential for ensuring compliance with federal regulations and an important step for establishing authority.
Step 4: Get insurance for your company.
Every company needs to have insurance, including liability insurance, in order to operate commercially in the U.S. Insurance covers potential damage to your vehicles and to the cargo that you're hauling for your customer. There are many insurance companies that offer different coverage options for truckers. It's important to compare rates and coverage levels before choosing a policy that fits your needs. In general, trucking insurance policies will need to cover liability, cargo, and workers' compensation. You can get this insurance through a trucking authority service or directly from an insurance company.
Step 5: Complete an IRP.
An international registration plan (IRP) is essentially a license plate that allows your trucks to operate in multiple jurisdictions. If you plan on operating in more than one state, you'll need to complete an IRP. You'll need to provide some basic information about your trucking company and the vehicles that you'll be using, including make, model, year, VIN, and title. You'll also need to pay a registration fee. Once completed, apportioned tags will be issued to your fleet.
Along with an IRP, an IFTA account is required if you plan to operate interstate. IFTA stands for International Fuel Tax Agreement and involves the lower 48 U.S. states along with Canadian provinces. The intent is to simplify fuel tax reporting as trucks travel across state lines. On a quarterly basis, you'll need to report miles traveled and gallons of fuel purchased in each state.
Step 6: Comply with drug and alcohol testing.
Mandatory drug and alcohol testing is needed to comply with DOT-FMCSA regulations. Regulations specify procedures for testing, frequency of tests and the substances for which these tests are conducted. Compliance with FMCSA drug and alcohol testing guidelines demonstrates credibility as a trucking company and helps to ensure safety on the road. There are a number of third parties through which truck drivers can complete the required testing.
Step 7: Finalize your authority.
Once the steps above are completed, you're ready to finalize your trucking authority. Applicants will need to pay a fee when submitting the paperwork to request their authority. Payments are accepted by credit card or check and should be remitted to the FMCSA.
To check the approval status, applicants can go to the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records System (SAFER) website and enter their assigned DOT number. The FMCSA will send a notice to your company once your authority has been approved. Keep in mind that this process can take up to 90 days before approval of an application is complete, so plan accordingly.
Obtaining your trucking authority is an involved process that, at times, can seem complicated. It's important to do your research and get everything in order before you start. With a little planning and patience, you'll have your authority in no time and be on your way to running a successful trucking company.