FMCSA & DOT Laws & Regulations

1. DOT Registration

The DOT oversees the standards and regulations for companies that transport goods and passengers. You may find you need a DOT Registration, Motor Carrier number or both. However, more than 50% of DOT registration applications are incorrectly filled out. Failing to represent your business on your application accurately can result in the application’s rejection. By referring to the experts for help, you can be positive your company is in the clear.

2. Motor Carrier — Operating Authority

According to federal law 49CFR Part 390, you need to submit an FMCSA application if you fall under the following categories.

  • Broker of household goods
  • For-hire carriers for compensation
  • Motor carrier of household goods with transportation paid by the householder
  • Property broker
  • Transport federally regulated commodities in interstate commerce, except household goods, or arrange their transportation
  • Transport passengers in interstate commerce or arrange their transportation
  • United States-based enterprise carrier of international cargo and international household goods

The application authorizes your interstate travel, and it must be in place before your company’s drivers can legally travel across state lines for business. The Motor Carrier dictates the kind of operation you can run and the type of cargo you carry. It even determines the level of insurance responsibilities you need to maintain. You also must file proof of public liability. Some services may require several Operating Authorities. Carriers that don’t need Operating Authority include the following:

  • Carriers that operate within a designated federal commercial zone
  • For-hire carriers that haul exempt commodities
  • Private carriers

Renew your Motor Carrier applications every two years.

3. Unified Carrier Registration — UCR

The Unified Carrier Registration took the place of the Single State Registration System. Any motor carrier that needs a DOT Number also requires a UCR. The UCR requires you to pay an annual fee if you operate commercial vehicles in international or interstate commerce. Your company must register with a participating state, which will most likely be your base state. A base state is a state in which you primarily reside. If your state does not take part in the UCR, register via a neighboring state.

Under UCR 49 USC 14505a, any company that sends their drivers over state lines for work-related purposes must pay the yearly state tax. The fee is based on the size of your fleet, including all carriers such as for-hire, private and exempt. Others that need to register under the UCR include freight forwarders, brokers and leasing companies unless you’re already operating as a Motor Carrier.

If you fail to pay your yearly fee, it can hurt your business. When you enter a participating state, you can get pulled over, and the truck won’t be released until you pay the fee. You will also be subject to fines and penalties for not complying.

4. Driver Qualification

Under federal law 49 CFR Part 391 and Part 383 of the FMCSR, drivers involved in interstate or intrastate commerce from specified states must retain verification of their drivers’ legal and physical ability to operate their class vehicles. Your workers need to have proper driver qualifications to support successful and safe operations. Driver qualification falls under new hires, rehires and drivers maintaining their criterion.

Filling out a driver qualification file requires information such as:

  • Certificate of violations
  • Driving history
  • Previous employment history
  • Road test certificate
  • Three-year inquiry to state agencies

Other pertinent documents relating to the specific driver’s public record are also needed. General credentials for driving include:

  • An age of at least 21 years old
  • A completed road test
  • The ability to meet the physical requirements of operating a vehicle
  • The ability to read and speak English
  • The ability to safely operate a motor vehicle
  • A valid commercial motor vehicle license

Drivers need to update their files each year.

5. Blanket of Coverage — BOC3

Under federal law 49 CFR Part368, a company that crosses state lines with for-hire vehicles needs an agent to process the Blanket of Coverage on behalf of an applicant — except for a freight forwarder or broker who can apply on their own. The agent must include all the states in which you’re designated. If there are legal issues outside of your company’s home state, a BOC3 provides an agent in the applicable state that will accept the paperwork for the incident. It requires a one-time registration and does not need renewal.

6. Drug and Alcohol Consortium

You must participate in a drug and alcohol pre-test if you’re a new hire within the industry or if you’re applying for a job and haven’t participated in random DOT testing within the last 30 days. The pre-test needs to be completed before conducting any safety-sensitive performances. Employers can join a DOT Random Drug Testing Consortium program, which will help manage the company’s drug and alcohol testing.

The consortium acts as an agent, but you are responsible for compliance as an employer. According to federal law 49 CFR Part 382, you must adhere to drug and alcohol testing requirements if you fall under the following categories:

  • Operate a CDL vehicle
  • Drive a vehicle that weighs more than 26,001 lbs. GVRW
  • Drive a vehicle that transports more than eight passengers or hazardous material

Renew the policy every 12 months.

8. DOT Physicals

According to 49 CFR Part 391, drivers who operate a particular class of vehicles must submit to a physical examination by a certified medical professional listed on the FMCSA’s National Registry. The list includes checkups from doctors of medicine, osteopathy and chiropractic, along with physician assistants and advanced practice nurses.

You need to have a physical before operating any vehicle and every 24 months while in operation. However, the examiner can issue a certificate for less than two years when they want to monitor a condition. You must also keep your medical examiner’s certificate on board the truck at all times. Keep it on file with your driver qualification records to provide to the commercial enforcement officer during their safety audit, as well.

9. DOT Numbers

If your company operates the following, you need to obtain a DOT Number.

  • Vehicles that transport hazardous elements that require commercial intrastate safety permits
  • Commercial vehicles that transport passengers or cargo in interstate commerce
  • Vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight of more than 10,001 lbs.
  • Vehicles that transport more than eight passengers for compensation or transport more than 15 people for no commission

A DOT Number is an identifier when authorities observe your company’s safety details during audits, crash investigations, compliance reviews and inspections. Your drivers must have the number displayed in high-contrasting colors on the left and right sides of the vehicle. The number must also be visible and legible from at least 50 feet away.

10. Biennial Updating

Those who must follow Biennial Updating include:

  • Hazardous material safety applicants
  • Intermodal equipment providers
  • Motor carriers

You must update your registration details every two years. If you don’t, you will receive a USDOT number deactivation and penalties. You will need to provide information such as the number of vehicles in your fleet, if you have a new company name, your mileage and whether you’re designated as a hazardous material or passenger carrier. FMCSA uses the data to determine the safety score of your company.

Understanding these trucking compliance laws will help keep you, your operations, your drivers and the public safe.