It occurred to me today that I’ve been through the process but haven’t seen anywhere a good step-by-step format for getting your DOT number and MC authority. So I’ll do my best to tackle this topic…
There are basically two ways to do the process. One is to wing it and just get ready to go through a big flurry of paperwork. It’s not hard, just tedious and time consuming. The other way is to hire a processing agent, which, according to others I’ve talked to, costs somewhere around 100-200 dollars extra. It just depends on how you want to proceed.
Since I did it the hard way, (yes, this is my typical “MO”) I’ll go through it as well as I can.
The first thing you need to do if you’re getting your authority is go online to FMCSA and do the application forms.
If I recall correctly, the filing fee for the form is $300. It is non-refundable, but if for some reason you halt the process like I did and start up again, you don’t have to pay it a second time as they give you about a year to get it finalized.
You will need paperwork to show your company structure. I went with an LLC, which in my state is not a corporation, but a company, and I am listed as the sole owner and agent for the LLC. It’s pretty much just a fancy way of saying I run a sole proprietorship, but gives me the legal standing in my state and backs it up with documentation. And it assures I’m properly registered with the tax folks here.
You will also need a tax number. They call it the FEIN and you get it free, online, from the IRS. Get it in the company name you will be using.
Once you get your forms filled out with FMCSA, you will be deluged with phone calls from processing agents. I did hire one strictly to file my BOC 3 and I still don’t have a clue what the heck that is, but you have to have it filed. I think that cost me $75 and was done almost instantaneously.
You will also have to get insurance. In my state, I’m required to have a minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance and $10,000 in cargo coverage, in addition to my bobtail insurance (which covers your equipment on and off duty.) Federal regulations are for a minimum of 1 million in liability, so that is what I got. I also got a hundred thousand on cargo which is more than required, obviously, but I don’t want to buy a load out of pocket if something happens while it’s on my trailer.
Be prepared to fork over the bucks for the insurance. Right now mine is just over $4,000 per year but I’m older, I have a squeaky clean driving history and credit rating. They use all of that to determine your rates. My guess is a 25 year old would get hit with much higher rates.
Once the federal stuff is in, you get a DOT number and what they call a docket number, your MC number. Print out everything and keep a good file because you’ll need that when you go to your state to get your state level authority, apportioned tags, and your IFTA account set up.
If you want to haul hazmat, you also need a federal hazmat certification. That costs about $275 and is done online. It’s fast and you will get a certificate to print out.
That pretty much takes care of the federal portion, and be prepared to wait as it takes about 6 weeks (so says their website) for all of this to go through. In my case, it took a little less, but since I put a hold on things while leased out to another carrier, I can’t say exactly how long it actually takes.
Here’s a note that is important if you are thinking of leasing (which I do not recommend after having my own not so good experience with it, but if you are intent on doing so read this!)
A motor carrier that leases you on can only do so legally if you do not have your own authority. If you have it, you need to put it on hold before leasing.
Another note… if the leasing carrier does lease you and you do have your own authority, they have to have a broker’s license in addition to their MC license in order to give you work. Otherwise, they are engaging in “double brokering” which is a huge no-no.
So ask questions!
Ok, on the state level, you will need to register your truck for apportioned tags. Even if you are just running a 1-ton hot shot rig, it still needs apportioned tags if you are crossing state lines. To get these you must haul all of your vehicle documentation up to the state office that handles these things and you also have to have all of your documentation on leases, office space location and lease, insurance coverage, your federal issued DOT number * some states require this even to simply register your truck, check the map on the FMCSA website to see if your state is one of them*.
What I did to make it simpler for myself is to start a book, just a 3 ring binder with clear plastic sleeves. Every piece of paper I had was copied and placed in the book which lives in the truck. This helped a lot as they asked for things that seemed irrelevant to me, but without them you will be sent home to get them before they will even process your paperwork.
When I got to the OCC to get my tags they had to see and make copies of virtually everything and they filed that away. I had to fill out an application for my IRP – this is for your apportioned tags and just details what states you want to operate in. You have to fill in a certain number for mileage in each state. If you are just starting out and haven’t run in any states, they have a sample format you can use. It’s tedious but not difficult.
I got that done and turned it in. It took them about a week to call me and tell me my paperwork was finished and told me to come back up and get my tags. They also told me how much cash to bring. It was a lot…
So I drove another 75 miles back up to the office, and I got the bill for my apportioned tags and had to run downstairs to pay the cashier. Once that was done, it was back upstairs to turn in the reciept. Only then was I given my tag.
Then I had to get my application in for my state level operating authority. It was simply another form mirroring the federal form. I filled it in, paid the state fee of $100, waited several hours in the OCC office, and was finally given the license after my insurance company faxed them a “Form E” insurance statement.
You also have to have an IFTA license which you get from the same office. It’s a simple application and really didn’t take too long.
Another thing you have to do is file for your UCR. You can’t do this until you have your DOT and MC numbers. You do this online and it costs another $75. If I remember rightly, it was a pain in the neck because the website only takes your MC number. But it looks like you have to use your DOT number. At any rate, just keep trying and you’ll figure it out. Once you get that through, print it out and keep a copy in your book.
Oh, a note on the UCR… you cannot get it until the computer system shows your info. I think it took about 2 months for mine to finally register so I could get it paid.
If you don’t have the UCR you can and will get grief at the weigh stations. They started enforcement on this one this February.
I think that’s about it. Just to recap, I’m going to make a list of everything in my book to date…
1. Prorate Truck Registration – AKA Cab Card (From the State)
2. IFTA Tax License & Stickers – (From the State)
3. Proof of Insurance (Bobtail)
4. Certificate of Insurance and Form E – (Commercial + Cargo)
5. Intrastate For Hire Motor Carrier License and Stamp (From the State)
6. UCR Registration – (From online, Federal)
7. Trailer Registration (From the State)
8. Certificate of LLC, Articles of Incorporation (Filed w/secretary of State)
9. Equipment lease agreement (between me and my company)
10. Copies of truck and trailer titles
11. My long form Physical
12. FMCSA DOT application approval
Once I get my paperwork back from FMCSA and my license, a copy of that will be added to the book.
I also keep inspection reports in the book, and anything else that is relevant that they might ask for at a weigh station.
I think that about covers it. The total I paid in filing fees, tags, and various certificates was around $2200, and the insurance is extra on top of that.
Well, good luck with the process; I hope this helps at least give an idea of what is involved in getting your trucking authority.