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You need a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) number if you own a commercial fleet to transport goods or passengers. This number is essential to run a safe and legal business. You’ll have to pay heavy fines if authorities catch you operating on the roads without this number.

The requirements to get a DOT number will depend on your business type and the materials you plan to transport. The upside for many businesses is that this process is relatively quick and straightforward. If you transport hazardous materials, you must take extra steps to meet federal hazardous materials requirements.

If you need help understanding the process, this article outlines what a DOT number is and how to get a DOT number online.

What Is a DOT Number?

A DOT number is the same as a USDOT number. The U.S. prefix indicates that it is an American number. Individuals or companies operating commercial vehicles transporting goods for sale, passengers or hazardous materials must register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for a DOT number. Once they issue the number, the company displays it on every truck in their fleet. You can typically find it on the driver’s door.

The FMCSA created the DOT number to lower the number of road accidents associated with improperly trained drivers. Your DOT acts as an identifier for collecting your company’s safety information during safety audits, compliance reviews and crash investigations. By tracking the DOT numbers on trucks involved in accidents and other incidents, they can cancel certification if they deem a company unsafe.

Who Needs a USDOT Number?

Generally, any person or business in the U.S. wishing to transport passengers, goods or hazardous materials must have a DOT number. If you meet the following requirements, you’ll need to register for this number:

  • Your vehicle has a gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight of over 10,001 pounds.
  • You transport hazardous materials that require a safety permit.
  • Your vehicle carries eight or more passengers, including the driver, for compensation.
  • Your vehicle carries 15 or more passengers, including the driver, not for payment.

The FMSCA also stipulates that you need a DOT for interstate commerce, which is trade, traffic or transportation between a place in a state and outside a state, including anywhere outside of the U.S., between two locations within a state that require you to travel through another state or place outside the U.S. or between two places inside a state as a result of trade, transportation or traffic that originates outside of the U.S.

Who Needs a USDOT Number?

Taking these factors into account, it’s highly likely that you will need a DOT number for your fleet. Apart from federal regulations, some states also require registering for a DOT number.

Those relocating goods not for trade or compensation don’t need a DOT number. The vehicle driver must also refrain from receiving payment for moving the goods.

Requirements for a DOT Number

If it’s your first time applying for a DOT number, you’ll need to have some basic information about your business available on hand. Before you apply, make sure to gather the following:

  • Your business name and location
  • Your personal information, which the FMCSA will use to contact you
  • Information on your business operations
  • Operation classification based on the type of business you engage in
  • Cargo classification
  • Hazardous materials (hazmat) classification, if you have one
  • Business size
  • Vehicle information, including the number and size of your vehicles and whether you own, lease or trip lease the vehicles
  • Each driver’s details, including the total number, commercial drivers licenses and whether they are interstate or intrastate
  • A valid address that the FMCSA will double-check with the United States Postal Service (USPS)

You’ll need a valid credit card in your name to process your application. The FMCSA will use it to verify your identity even if there is no charge.

How Much Does a DOT Number Cost?

A DOT number is free, but operating your fleet with a DOT alone is impossible — you’ll also need a motor carrier (MC) number. Companies transporting federally-regulated goods or passengers between states for a fee or compensation need an MC number.

There is a once-off filing fee of $300 for an MC number, but you may pay more for each of the operations you’re filing for. The fees will cost you more if you’re applying for multiple classifications.

How to Get a DOT Number and an MC Number

There are a few ways to apply for your DOT and MC number. You can complete a USDOT number application online on the FMCSA website. You’ll fill in one of three forms:

  • MCS-150 is a basic form for most carriers
  • MCS-150B is for a USDOT number and hazmat application
  • MCS-150C is a USDOT and intermodal Equipment Provider application

If you have any questions during your application, you can use the chat function on the website or contact the FMCSA directly. Once you’ve completed your application, you’ll receive your DOT number immediately. They will issue your MC number in 24 hours — however, there is a protest period of 20 to 25 days for all new MC numbers before you can use it.

You can also apply for your DOT and MC number via USPS. In this case, you’ll need to download the relevant forms from the FMCSA website. Applications that go through the U.S. mail can take up to six weeks to process, so it’s best to complete them online.

You can also go through a third-party filing company that can handle the paperwork for you. The advantage here is that they have the expertise to handle the process and any challenges that arise. The downside is that outsourcing to a third party is more expensive than completing the application yourself.

Once you’ve completed your application, visit the SAFER website to check the status.

Can I Get a DOT Number Without a Truck?

Yes, you can get a DOT and an MC number without having a truck on hand. The FMCSA will only activate your MC number if you provide sufficient proof on file that you have insurance. You can still get insurance before you have a truck to start your operations.

Earn Your Certification With Hazmat School

If you operate a commercial business transporting goods or passengers, you’ll need a DOT and MC number. Meeting the requirements and going through the registration process is fairly simple. You can apply via the FMCSA website and have your DOT number in minutes. If your business transports hazardous materials, you must comply with additional requirements.

At Hazmat School, we provide hazmat training courses to help you fully comply with DOT requirements. You’ll learn how to pack, ship and transport hazardous materials so you can satisfy federal requirements. Contact us today to earn your hazmat certification!

Earn Your Certification With Hazmat School

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