The Ultimate Guide to USDOT Numbers for Commercial Trucks

This guide will explain how to receive a DOT number and if you need any additional identification numbers before you begin hauling.

us dot number on commercial trucks

If you are an operator in the trucking industry, you will most likely be required to get a US Department of Transportation number. The Department of Transportation sets safety regulations for all modes of transportation in the United States. It is also in charge of various highway projects in the country.

The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration is an agency within the DOT that regulates the trucking industry. It is in charge of issuing DOT numbers. The agency sets and enforces the standards for the trucking industry.

 The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires trucks hauling hazardous materials or interstate trucks of a certain weight to have DOT numbers. The majority of states require truckers to have a DOT number even if they only carry interstate hauls.

Before your company takes a single haul, you need to obtain a USDOT number. This guide will explain how to receive a DOT number and if you need any additional identification numbers before you begin hauling.

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What trucks need a DOT number?

A truck used for interstate hauls needs a DOT number if it has the following characteristics:

  • A gross vehicle weight rating or combination rating of 10,001 pounds or higher.
  • Designed to transport 8 or more people for compensation.
  • Designed to transport more than 15 people free of compensation.

Interstate commerce is considered traffic, trade, or transportation in the United States if it travels between a place within a state or anywhere outside the borders of a state. Transportation can also take place between two places in a single state if the truck has to travel through another state during a run. A run will also be considered interstate if it is part of any trade, traffic, or transportation starting or finishing in a location outside of the trucking company’s home state or country.

There are 35 states requiring interstate carriers to have a DOT number. They are:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Registering for a DOT Number

Before you register for a DOT number, you need to establish the type of business entity you will operate under. You can visit your state’s website to register your business.

You can operate as an individual under a fictitious business name or DBA (doing business as). Most small trucking companies form a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). If you form an LLC, you will be issued a tax number, which can be described as a social security number for businesses. The tax number gives an extra level of protection. If you register as a DBA and lose a lawsuit, the suing party can come after your personal finances. If you form an LLC and lose a lawsuit, the suing party will only have access to the LLC’s money. Large trucking companies are often corporations. A corporation has officers and can sell shares in its business to the public.

You also want to appoint an agent for service. An agent for services is an individual who can accept illegal paperwork for you. They are not required to work for your company. You must have an agent for service in every state you do business. There are professional companies that  provide agents for service if you do not have one.

When you register for your DOT number, determine if you also need special operating authority to carry the kind of products you haul. There are certain types of cargo that require a Motor Carrier’s (MC) number.

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You will need a MC number if you transport passengers across state lines for compensation or transport commodities regulated by the federal government and not owned by you. If a company arranges this kind of transportation, they need an MC number as well.

If your company’s headquarters are in Mexico, you need an MX number rather than an MC number. You can click for more details.

The type of hauls you take determine the kind of operating authority you require. If you haul household goods for a furniture company, you need a different type of operating authority than a moving company transporting household goods for individuals who are moving.

When you first set up your business, work with a company that handles trucking compliance. They will know exactly what type of authority you need. Not having the proper authority can delay your business opening by weeks.

Once you establish a business and understand what authority you need, you can apply for a DOT number. You can go to the Unified Registration System to report the information about your company. Remember to fill it out thoroughly. If you miss any information, it can delay your application.

You will receive your DOT number after about 6 weeks. Once you receive the number, you can buy trucking insurance. The FMCSA requires both cargo and liability insurance. You also need insurance for physical damage to your truck. You also should purchase general insurance for your business in the event someone injures themselves on your property.

As soon as you have a DOT number and insurance, you can begin hauling.

There are many rules and regulations you must follow if you want to operate a trucking company. If you comply with the rules, you will find the trucking industry is lucrative and rewarding.