A Tutorial on Getting Your Own Trucking Authority…

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.


21 thoughts on “A Tutorial on Getting Your Own Trucking Authority…

  1. Hi, Lynda here @ D & L Shipping in Pa…my husband and I run a 1 ton, with a 20 ft flatbed, 3 horse slant, and a 24 ft enclosed. Insurance really sucks doesn’t it? We have to carry the same as you do – we’re in Pa. It’s been a lot of fun with all the forms and this person means one thing, while someone else in the same office interprets it totally different on what you have to do…but at least we got our authority this past friday…yeah us! I just happened to stumble on your blog…it’s pretty interesting…thanks

  2. Congrats on getting through the process and becoming official! Yes, insurance is a big pain in the wallet, but what are you going to do? Gotta have it…

    I’m glad you found me and hope you find something here that’s useful to you, and you are very welcome.

  3. Hi I also stumbled onto your site….it’s very helpful. I’m also from PA. My husband and I are in the process of getting our own authority. The mounds of paperwork. We’ve hit road blocks on every step, but it’s coming together slowly. If we just can get through the irp/ifta process we’ll be doing good. We are still trying to determine if we even need an IRP account since we are going to be registered at 16,000 lbs. for now. We have a trailer that can haul heavier, but the truck has a gcwr of 16,000. (we didn’t think of that one, got a little too excited.) Any how I just wanted to say thanks for your posting it has helped tremendously.

    • Hi Tricia,
      You have my sympathy, the process can make you want to beat your own head on a rock! I hope getting answers in PA is easier than in my state! Good luck, sounds like you’re getting there.

  4. Hello I also just stumbled on your site. I am gathering all the info I can find about starting my own hotshot service. What is the difference between working for a “logistics” company with your own owner/operator truck and owning your own business. Can I do both? Work for them and myself? Also, I went to legal zoom to gather info about beginning my own business. They seem very legit about all the forms and paperwork. I was leaning towards an S-corp. Any info is greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Marilyn,
      It depends on the company you want to work for. Some will work as your load broker, and expect you to have all your own authority and insurance, etc. Others don’t want independents, they will require you to lease to them and pay them for the use of their authority and insurance. So normally, no, you have to do one or the other, and to work for someone else and yourself you would have to go with the broker, not the leasing company. If you just get loads through a broker you can get your own loads too. I can’t give any advice over legal zoom or any other corp setup, I’m simply a registered company in my state and technically for tax purposes a sole proprietor. That’s the simplest for a small business IMO. Good luck, do lots of research, and make sure you’re in a good oilfield area for the best paying work.


    • Haha, yep, it would! You only have to go through most of this once. Once you have your authority, it’s a matter of keeping records but that is fairly simple. You do have to file certain reports for IFTA and specific states quarterly though. So I suppose it’s a fact that the paperwork never really ends.

  5. Hi, I appreciate you taking your precious time to create this helpful blog. I have a couple of questions though. Do i have to pay $300 for every state that I plan on running in or not? Also do you know any company that offers cheap insurance for a car hauler?

    • Herman,


      The $300 is the filing fee to get your motor carrier authority which allows you to operate as a motor carrier, and you only pay that once to the feds. It’s another $100 or so to get your state authority (check your particular state agency that covers transportation to get specifics.) You do have to pony up for apportioned tags if you cross state lines, which is xx amount per state you want to operate in, but for my tags for the lower 48 averages out to about $30 per state per year. Then you also have to pay quarterly IFTA taxes based on how many miles and how much fuel you buy in each state.

      Unfortunately, there is no such thing as cheap commercial insurance. The best bet is to start making calls. If you haven’t been insured commercially before, try Progressive. I know, lots of people don’t like them, but they are the only company I know of that will cover you when you have less than a year as a carrier.

      Hope this helps!

  6. Thanks, I’m looking into this because there are just too many one way trips while leased to a company. I can’t get ahead of the curve waiting two weeks for a load I ran and bought fuel for, only to come back empty. I’m hopeing having my own authority will allow me to bid/find runs while on the road

  7. So are you hotshotting or other trucking? I almost always come home empty, which is pretty normal for hotshot work. Some guys leased to the big hotshot outfits get backhauls since they have a fairly high volume of loads, but most independents get enough profit out of the load to cover coming back empty.

    I used to look for backhauls, but it was a pain in the neck, nobody wanted to pay hotshot rates for what I could find, and most of it was very low paying stuff… turns out it’s better for me not to mess with it, just get out, get back, and be ready for the next run.

  8. Hi, excellent information. Thank you for sharing! I’m in the process of joining the trucking industry and wanted to confirm that even though your article was written and shared a few years back 2011 would you say it’s pretty much still relevant today in the 2016 year?

    • Yes and no. The difference now is that the oilfield is having a terrible time and a lot of oilfield workers are hurting for work all over. The price of oil has really beat up the whole energy sector… Now if you’re talking hotshotting, now is not the time as work is down and super hard to get. If you are thinking of other types of hauling not dependent on energy, then yes, fuel prices are down which means profits should be up some. Does that make sense?

  9. For your reply, however I was referring primarily to the cost associated with getting started (fees, permits, insurance etc) and whether or not the cost you discussed in your article/blog is still around the same in 2016? Also, from what I googled the term hotshotting is something different than a normal owner operator and does not require as much as a driver with their own authority correct? Would I still be ok to join the trucking industry right now as an owner operator with my own authority and expect to make a decent living or has the oil industry stress affect that as well? Thank you so much.

    • I can point you in the right direction to get some prices, go to the FMCSA website and check there, the costs to file for authority should be posted. I’m going to say insurance will be at least as high as it was a few years ago, and of course that’s dependent on your driving and credit histories.

      Hotshotting is exactly like regular freight trucking as far as fees and costs go, it’s just the equipment that is smaller (sometimes) and the freight that is oilfield dependent. Hotshotters still pay commercial insurance, have to run under authority, most require a CDL, run apportioned plates, etc… But being reliant on oilfield freight, right now hotshot trucking is really struggling.

      As to the state of normal trucking these days, my best guess is that it’s probably about the same as it was when I retired, with the exception of much, much cheaper fuel, which in theory should be very good for trucking.

      It’s always been difficult getting started in trucking as a newbie owner/operator and making much of a living for the first few years. I never advise anyone to just jump into trucking until they work in the industry first to test the waters. Tons of people get “fleeced” by getting talked into buying or leasing new semi trucks and spend the next several years scrambling to make the 4-600 dollar a week lease payments on them, or have them repossessed and trash their credit.

      Baby steps are encouraged in the trucking business, get a job working for someone else first so you can check it out and see how life on the road works for you, and pay attention to how the business works and how much the operating costs are. Then you can make a more informed decision if you want to do the owner/operator side of things.

      And you are very welcome!

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