Arguably, the most essential pieces of equipment a transport carrier can have are not a truck or cargo. They are insurance and permits. Every state has their own rules and regulations regarding permits and the next article will deal with state requirements with a focus on oversize permits. For now, we are going to focus on requirements from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA has all the necessary information on their website and a decent guide to help you through everything. In order to comply with federal law, carriers must obtain a USDOT number and be registered with the FMCSA, obtain insurance, and acquire authority for each type of cargo. Most states have laws requiring this as well, meaning transporting cargo without registration or insurance can get you in twice as much trouble. The requirements, however, are fairly straightforward.
If a vehicle’s gross weight is over 10,000 pounds or it is carrying hazardous materials, that carrier will need a USDOT number. The same applies for vehicles transporting 8 or more people for compensation or 15 or more people for no compensation. If your vehicle will be transporting cargo (or people) from one state to another, or even outside the country, you will need to comply FMCSA regulations. Registering online is the fastest way to comply.
Another side of complying with the FMCSA is obtaining operating authority, basically a Motor Carrier (MC) number. For-hire carriers, passenger transportation services, and carriers transporting federally regulated commodities all require MC numbers, and I’m sad to say this is a bit more complicated than getting a USDOT number. Familiarize yourself with the rules; if you fail to comply, you will not get your filing fee back and your application will be thrown in the trash. FMCSA’s authority page includes manuals to help you out.
There are two basic categories of cargo you will need authority for: non-household goods and household goods (moving companies, etc.). From there the sub-categories are by types of carrier. Motor carriers who transport non-household and household goods both need to file proof of public liability; cargo insurance is only required for household good carriers, such as moving companies. Transport brokers are companies that arrange transportation for individual clients and hire transport carriers to transport the cargo; because they have a wider set of resources and work with household and non-household goods, so they’re an excellent way to speed up your shipment. The third sub-category is US-based international carriers; these are companies that move cargo to/from foreign countries. Remember that FMCSA permits and proof of insurance is something that carriers can manage on their own and will save money doing so and this especially holds true for state and interstate permits.
There are a few other categories, but all that information can be found on the information on authority and MC numbers, manuals and forms for your own education. There is a nugget of relief to $300 price tag for the Permanent Filing Fee: it is permanent and name changes are easy to do, if need be.