I went back and re-read the old tutorial I posted, and thought it was lacking. This will hopefully be more useful as I’m trying to make it clearer, and adding links to the various sites you’ll need to visit when setting up your operating authority.
This is the federal portion of the process.
- Before you do anything else, decide on your company name. Be sure you like it, because once you get your authority filed, it’s a real pain to change it.
- Once you have that, get an EIN, a federal tax number (unless you are using just your own name and want to use your Social Security number.) If you’re not up to snuff on tax laws, it won’t hurt to consult an accountant to see how you should best set up your business in your particular state. Get your EIN here. The EIN is free, and the application is pretty straightforward. One note, this is an Employer Identification Number. You will need it whether or not you have employees if you use anything other than your own name for your business. You’ll use this on W-4 tax forms (the 1099 version of a W-2.)
- Once you have your EIN, you need to check with your state and see if you need to file any paperwork to operate legally. If you want to be set up as an LLC, corporation, etc., you’ll need to take care of that as well. If you google “business registration” and “your state” you should bring up the proper agency.
- The next place to visit is the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) website. It is here that you can apply online for your operating authority by filling out the MCS-150 (non-hazmat trucking) or the MCS-150B (Haz-mat trucking.) You’ll need a credit or debit card to process your filing online. I believe the filing fee is $300 unless that’s changed recently. You can also read through the kajillion or so pages of regulations while you’re there. Once you are in the system, you will be given a DOT number and a Docket Number (Your MC number.) Keep good records of all of this, as you’ll need both of those numbers as long as you stay in the business.
- Once you submit your FMCSA application, you will be barraged by phone and email offers to file your BOC3. Here’s a definition of the BOC3. You can save money by shopping around online for the best rate. I’ve seen it range from $20 to $80, and what you’ll get back is usually a fax or email showing your agent’s name. They will also file that info with the FMCSA.
- You need to get insurance coverage in order to obtain your operating authority. You will have to search for commercial coverage, with liability of $1,000,000, and most of us carry cargo for up to $100,000. You may need more or less cargo coverage depending on what you’ll be hauling. You will also have to tell your insurance company to make the proper filings with the FMCSA once you get set up, if they don’t, you won’t get your authority granted. One note here… if you have zero trucking experience, you may have to use Progressive as they’re one of the few companies out there that will insure new trucking outfits. And be prepared for sticker shock, commercial insurance ranges from around $5,000 and up per year, depending on your age, driving and credit history. The only silver lining to this particular cloud is that you’ll be expected to pony up 2 months worth, then you’ll pay off the balance in 10 monthly payments, so you don’t have to fork over the entire amount at once.
- If you decide to haul haz-mat, you will also need to register with the PHMSA and the fee for the haz-mat certification is $275.
- You will also need to file for your UCR (United Carrier Registration) online once you have your federal DOT and MC numbers. The cost is about $80.
That completes the federal portion of the process.
There will be a specific agency in your state that handles commercial truck licensing. In Oklahoma, it’s the Corporation Commission. You can find your state agency by googling “commercial truck licensing” and “your state.”
You should also file for operating authority in your state. This mirrors the federal filing and is simple to do, the fee in my state was $100.
It will benefit you greatly to go over your state’s website in detail. It should list the documentation you will need to register your truck for commercial use, and where you will have to go to get your paperwork filed. In my state, everyone has to go to Oklahoma City to get this done.
You may need commercial vehicle plates on your truck. These are known as “Apportioned Tags.” The way this works is, you purchase your apportioned tag (you get one that goes on the front of your truck) and along with the tag, you will be filing for IRP (International Registration Plan) and IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement.) These two plans are intended for vehicles over 26,000 lbs. used in commerce crossing state lines, but in my state, any vehicle used in commerce is required to be plated as Apportioned. Your state may have a different take on it.
States also have different methods of licensing trailers. In my state, we get non-expiring plates.
Once you’re registered, you should have the following items from your state…
- IFTA tax license and 1 set of stickers for each truck.
- IRP Cab Card, (Prorate Truck Registration) shows the states in which you are licensed to operate.
- Truck and trailer registrations.
- State Operating Authority Paperwork.
- One apportioned tag for your truck.
- One trailer tag.
- Intrastate For Hire Motor Carrier License and Stamp
And the following from the Federal agencies…
- FMCSA DOT Operating Authority Motor Carrier License (From Federal)
- UCR Registration – (From online, Federal)
- Haz-Mat Certification (Optional, only if hauling haz-mat)
The other paperwork you need to have on hand (and in your truck)…
- Proof of Insurance (Bobtail)
- Certificate of Insurance and Form E – (Commercial + Cargo)
- Certificate of LLC, Articles of Incorporation (Filed w/secretary of State)
- Equipment lease agreement (between you and your company)
- Copies of truck and trailer titles
- Driver’s long form Physical
Just to keep things organized, I keep copies all of the above in a 3-ring binder in my truck and the originals safely filed in the office. You’ll need the binder if you are stopped by law enforcement or during an inspection.
That pretty much covers the process from the Federal to State level.
One thing to keep in mind when doing your IRP/IFTA is that if you plan only to run in a limited grouping of states, you will spend less registering your truck than if you decide to register for all of the lower 48, for example. However, if you run outside of the states you are registered in, you’ll have to stop at the Port of Entry and buy permits to operate legally in each of the states you are not registered to run in.
I hope this is clearer and more helpful than the original tutorial!