Does My Commercial Motor Vehicle Need a USDOT Number?

Feb 12, 2024 | Business Insurance, Personal Insurance

What exactly is a USDOT Number?

Companies that operate commercial vehicles in interstate commerce, transporting passengers or hauling cargo, must be registered with the FMCSA and have a USDOT Number. Furthermore, commercial intrastate hazardous materials carriers who haul types and quantities requiring a safety permit must apply for a USDOT Number.


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Interstate vs. intrastate transportation

When determining whether an employer requires a USDOT number, one factor to consider is whether their operations (e.g., trade, traffic, or transportation) are performed in intrastate or interstate commerce.

Intrastate commerce occurs when an employer’s operations are limited to the state in which the company is based (where the company has been registered or incorporated).

Interstate commerce occurs when an employer’s operations extend beyond the state in which it is headquartered.


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Is a USDOT Number Required for an Employer?

A USDOT number is required for any employer who uses vehicles in interstate commerce and falls into one of the following categories:


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Have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), gross combination weight rating, gross vehicle weight, or gross combination weight of at least 10,000 pounds.

Are designed or used for compensation transportation of more than eight passengers (including the driver); or

Are not used for compensation and are designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers (including the driver).


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Employers must obtain a USDOT number in addition to the above requirements when using vehicles to transport certain types and quantities of hazardous materials that require a safety permit in intrastate commerce and are involved in interstate commerce under FMCSA regulations. This means that an employer must have a USDOT number if they are required to have a safety permit for transporting certain hazardous materials within their state but also operate outside of their state. If a motor carrier has any of those vehicle descriptions and engages in interstate commerce, a USDOT number is required because the vehicle is classified as a commercial motor vehicle.


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Vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 pounds

When it comes to DOT regulations, vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds are the most perplexing to employers. Vehicles or vehicle/trailer combinations weighing more than 10,000 pounds but less than 26,001 pounds are classified as CMVs by the FMCSA. These CMVs must have a USDOT number if they are involved in interstate commerce and fall into one of the following categories:


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Have a GVWR, gross combination weight rating, gross vehicle weight, or gross combination weight of at least 10,000 pounds.

For compensation, are designed or used to transport more than eight passengers (including the driver);


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Are intended or used to transport more than 15 passengers (including the driver) without compensation; or

Are vehicles that transport certain types and quantities of hazardous materials that require a safety permit in intrastate commerce and are involved in interstate commerce according to FMCSA regulations.

Remember that just because an employer does not operate semi-trucks does not exempt them from FMCSA regulations.

CMVs that weigh between 10,000 and 26,000 pounds, operate intrastate, and do not transport hazardous materials that require a safety permit do not require a USDOT number under federal rules.


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How to Calculate the GVWR

The GVWR is a vehicle or trailer’s safety weight rating. An employer must examine the vehicle, or the vehicle and trailer, to determine the total GVWR for the setup they are using.


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First, an employer should check the vehicle’s GVWR, which is usually located in the truck door jamb or inside the door. The owner’s manual also contains this information. This will provide the employer with the vehicle’s maximum weight. A USDOT number is required if it weighs more than 10,000 pounds and falls into one of the categories listed above.

Second, in the case of combination vehicles, an employer must determine the weight of the trailer to be used. The trailer weight rating can be found on a visible sticker on the trailer or in the owner’s manual (if one is provided). If neither of these individuals is available to provide a weight, the employer must weigh the trailer to determine the weight.


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Third, the employer must calculate the total weight of the vehicle and trailer by determining the gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCVWR). This is calculated by adding the vehicle and trailer weights.

The combination weight rating is especially important because most employers are unaware of when they should be following FMCSA regulations when operating a half-ton or three-quarter-ton pickup truck. Employers who use half-ton or three-quarter-ton pickup trucks and attach them to trailers frequently exceed the 10,000-pound limit. This subjected the vehicle (with trailer) to DOT regulations and necessitated the acquisition of a USDOT number.


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If employers are pulled over and are not aware of the trailers’ weight or the FMCSA requirements, they may be fined under the DOT for failure to properly label a commercial motor vehicle. This will influence their safety fitness score.


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States Requiring a DOT Number

Although all states must comply with FMCSA regulations, some states also require intrastate CMVs to obtain a USDOT number. For intrastate CMV registrants, the FMCSA provides a list of those who require a USDOT number. It is the responsibility of motor carrier operators and drivers to understand and comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which means that it is up to commercial and passenger vehicle operators and their drivers to determine whether regulations apply and to take all necessary steps to ensure compliance. Employers must also check with their state agency for those requirements.


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Furthermore, 35 states and Puerto Rico require intrastate commercial vehicle registrants to obtain a USDOT Number, whereas the following 15 states do not:


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Arkansas \Delaware

Hawaii

Illinois

Louisiana

Massachusetts

Mississippi

State of New Hampshire

State of New Mexico

North Dakota (ND)

Providence, Rhode Island

Dakota State

Tennessee

Vermont

Virginia


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How to Apply to the FMCSA

Registration with the FMCSA entails several steps. To begin, determine whether FMCSA registration is required (any operators or drivers meeting the applicability rules outlined above are required to register). This interactive questionnaire can help you determine if you need a USDOT number.


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Then you must decide whether you require an interstate Operating Authority number (known as an MC number). Companies that must obtain an MC number in addition to a DOT number include:


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For a fee or other compensation, transport passengers in interstate commerce, whether direct or indirect.

Transport or arrange for the transport of federally regulated commodities owned by others in interstate commerce for a fee or other compensation.


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FMCSA operating authority is typically identified by the type of authority granted, such as MC, FF, or MX numbers. Companies may be required to obtain multiple operating authorities in some cases, depending on what is needed to support the organization’s planned business operations. USDOT numbers, on the other hand, are obtained through a single application process that covers all operations. The Operating Authority determines the type of operation a company can run, the types of cargo a company can carry, and the insurance coverage requirements set by the FMCSA.


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