Whether you oversee a fleet or your company owns vehicles that regularly take part in interstate commerce, it’s important that you are in-the-know about the ins and outs of the USDOT number system. When compared to other FMCSA guidelines, it’s relatively straightforward, but it still takes some time and dedication to ensure that your vehicles and drivers are on the right side of the strict compliance regulations enforced by the association.
A Definition of a USDOT Number
A USDOT number is a unique identifier that is given to companies that engage in interstate, and in some cases, intrastate, commerce. It aids in monitoring to streamline safety compliance and is used when conducting official audits, reviews, and accident investigations. The number itself is granted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
USDOT Number Best Practices to Follow
To ensure that your fleet is operating legally, you must first determine whether or not you need to register with the FMCSA to obtain a USDOT number. It is the responsibility of the motor carrier operator or driver to know their USDOT numbers, so make sure that you equip your employees/contractors with the right registration information before you send them on the road.
Screenshot via FMCSA
There are a few ways to determine if you need a USDOT number, but the simplest is to visit the FMCSA’s website. There, you will find an interactive quiz that asks a series of questions about your vehicle(s) and your business. Once completed, the administration will give you an answer as to whether or not you will need to register.
If you’d prefer, you can also read the FMCSA’s official guidelines to confirm that you are compliant. You must register your vehicle with the agency and obtain a USDOT number if:
- The vehicle transports hazardous materials that require an intrastate commerce safety permit
- Has a GVWR, gross combination weight, or gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more
- Is designed to transport more than 8 passengers for compensation (driver included)
- Is designed to transport more than 15 passengers, not for paid purposes (driver included)
AND is involved in interstate commerce (in this case, interstate commerce is defined as “trade, traffic, or transportation in the United States”):
- When commerce is conducted between a location in and out of a state (including outside of the United States)
- Between two locations in a state through another state or a location outside of the United States
- Between two locations within a state, as part of trade, traffic, or commerce that originated outside of the given state or outside of the United States
Another quick way to determine USDOT number compliance is to take a quick look at the list of states that require the special registration code. Here are the current states that demand that the specified vehicles obtain the number for intrastate commerce:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Puerto Rico
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
If the state(s) in which you operate is not listed above, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t necessarily off-the-hook when it comes to complying to similar regulations. Always be sure to check with your state’s intrastate commerce regulations before you activate your fleet.
Important Facts to Know About Obtaining a USDOT Number
As stated, determining whether or not a USDOT number is necessary is a relatively straightforward process, but there are a few challenges associated with the procedure:
- Timeframe – When registering for the first time for a USDOT Number, use the Unified Registration System on the FMCSA’s website for immediate verification. This step can also be completed by mail or fax, but it can take anywhere between 20-45 days to obtain the number.
- Issues with new USDOT numbers – According to a news release on its website, the FMCSA began granting 8-digit MC numbers instead of 6-digit ones. This poses a problem as certain state regulatory websites did not have the time to prepare for the shift. If your USDOT number is 8 digits long, it may take longer for intrastate registrations to be granted for your vehicle(s).
- Complete the New Entrant Safety Assurance Program – Before a company can even start thinking about getting a USDOT number they must complete the New Entrant Safety Assurance program prior to any and all interstate commerce. This program includes, amongst other things, an initial 18-month monitoring period and a strict safety audit.
Obtaining USDOT numbers is an important part of operating a safe fleet that complies perfectly with all state and federal regulations. Do the proper work that it takes to guarantee that yours will be granted with no extra stress or delays.