So you’re ready to drive into the wonderful world of trucking! But pump the brakes, as a heavily regulated industry, there are a metric ton of documents and permits needed for trucking company owners.
Fear not; whether you are a seasoned veteran or about to start a trucking company, The Permit Shop is here to take you step-by-step through the process!
In addition to the details mentioned in the article, a straightforward checklist is at the end to help you get everything right.
And, if you need any help in knowing which permits you need — or want to have a pro cross all the t’s and dot every I — you can call the Permit Shop now at (417) 833-3355, and we’ll ensure you can make money driving and sleep easy knowing everything is taken care of. What documents and permits do you need for a trucking business?
Let’s break down everything trucking companies need:
Federal DOT Number
Whether your trucking company travels within one state or to multiple states, the first thing you’ll need to do as an owner-operator is apply for a DOT (Department of Transportation) Number from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Of course, the FMCSA will want to make sure your trucking company’s legitimate, so you’ll be expected to complete an extensive background check and show them proof of financial responsibility (eg, copy of insurance) and proof of legitimate business (eg, SSN, employer identification number, LLC Certificate). Once you’ve proven you’re not just some random guy with a shady back-alley business, your unique DOT number will be issued.
MC Number / Operating Authority
Once you’ve gotten your DOT number, you might need to obtain an MC number as well. (An MC number represents the operating authority for trucking companies.)
Here’s how to know if this is necessary for you or not:
Does your trucking company transport passengers, haul cargo, or ship regulated commodities for compensation (a “for hire” company) across state lines?
Then you’ll need to obtain an operating authority through an MC number.
If you have any questions at all about what operating authorities your trucking company might need, contact us, and we’ll be happy to help.
Unified Carrier Registration
Next, you will want to complete your Unified Carrier Registration (UCR). With a few exceptions, all carriers must register their vehicle(s) with the federal government through UCR. This registration replaces the confusing system that was in place where individual states tried to register carriers. There were different guidelines and expectations depending on the state. That’s a lot to keep track of when you’re crusin’ through the whole country! Enter the unified registration system. The UCR agreement was put together to make one annual registration program for the transportation industry and every commercial motor vehicle, regardless of residing state. Now there’s only one form!
You’ll need to get registered and pay an annual renewal fee unless:
- Your vehicle remains in one single state for business travel
- You transport less than ten passengers
- Your vehicle is a firetruck or emergency vehicle
- Your trucking business vehicles used for business have a gross vehicle weight of less than 10,000 lbs
If you don’t fall under any of these exceptions, you need to get your UCR. But don’t worry! We can help you through the processes of filing your UCR insert angelic choir singing here! You can check out this UCR registration guide to get started.
Depending on the weight of your vehicle, you might have a “federal heavy highway vehicle, ” so the next step will be filing a 2290 Form, also known as the Heavy Highway Vehicle Use Tax Return.
If your vehicle is 55,000 lbs or more you must file the form and pay the appropriate tax.
Got a heavy vehicle? You’re in luck! We can help you file this too.
Not only do we help you file, but we’ll also send you reminders in May and June (pre-filing is May-June, as the filing period starts July 1st).
Fuel Tax Agreement IFTA License and Decal
IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement) is an agreement between the contiguous US (and some parts of Canada) to collect tax on fuel usage and taxable miles. It’s basically a single-fuel license so that, as a business owner, you don’t have multiple tax filings in multiple states.
You’ll need to register an international fuel tax agreement license and obtain a decal with your home state (a base jurisdiction), and then report your miles and fuel purchases to them on a quarterly basis. Your base jurisdiction will then send your tax payments to the other jurisdictions where you traveled.
The more miles driven and the more gallons of gas used, the more you will pay.
Pro tip: The more miles you have in a state, the more fuel you need to get in that same state to keep rates down. For more details about all things IFTA, visit our in-depth page here, or learn about outsourcing your IFTA filing here.
Apportioned Plates or Intrastate Decals
Your next step is figuring out if you need apportioned plates or intrastate decals you’ll need for your trucking company.
Commercial motor vehicles need to be registered. The International Registration Plan (IRP), is simply a registration reciprocity agreement so that motor carriers who operate in multiple states or Canadian provinces only have to register in one place. (Some bureaucracy that actually helps!)
Once they’ve set up your international registration plan, each motor carrier is eligible to get apportioned plates and intrastate decals.
Different transportation companies face different requirements, so this part can be a bit confusing. The Permit Shop is always on standby, ready to advise you on which route is best for your specific trucking company. We’ll give you a detailed estimate of what everything will entail to be an interstate or an intrastate carrier. Once you’ve decided which path to take, we’ll help you get your IRP license plate issued.
If you’re an interstate trucking company (or international and have commercial vehicles operating in Canadian provinces), you’ll need apportioned plates if your company operates vehicle(s) that meet one or more of the following requirements:
- The power unit licensing weight is 26,001 lbs., or heavier;
- The power unit has more than two axles regardless of licensed weight;
- The power unit is used in combination, and the said combination is 26,001 lbs. or heavier
- The power unit performs commercial intrastate movements in another jurisdiction other than Missouri, regardless of licensed weight.
- The states of KY, NM, NY, OR, and CT will require an additional permit based on your registered weight.
If your vehicle is 26,000 lbs or below, you have the option to get a beyond-local plate instead. We recommend that if you are anywhere close to the 26,000-pound mark that you go ahead and get apportioned plates to avoid any issues at the scales or potentially being pulled over because of plate confusion.
- If your trucking company only operates in one state (intrastate), you may opt to get intrastate decals instead of apportioned plates.
- You are required to have the decal on the side of your truck to legally operate in your state.
- Your vehicle will not be permitted to cross state lines.
Annual Inspection Copy for Truck and Trailer
Every year you’ll want to ensure your vehicle is still fit for the road by getting an inspection. Once you pass that inspection, you’ll get a lovely little piece of paper that you need to make sure is your road-trip buddy throughout the whole year. It is legally required to have a copy of your annual inspection in your vehicle at all times.
When your vehicle is ready to show off its roadworthiness, we can help you find a location nearest you to get the inspection completed.
Ah yes, insurance. No one really wants to pay for it, but all of us have to have it, and some of us end up actually using it. (No offense to any insurance fans out there.) I’m sure we can all appreciate the value of proper insurance coverage in case of an accident.
Anyway, just get active insurance coverage and then keep the proof in your vehicle so that you can verify active insurance coverage.
Title Receipt or copy of Title (plus a lease if applicable)
You obviously can’t just steal some big rig to go do your trucking thing. The government wants to make sure the vehicle you are using is yours. So make sure to keep a copy of your title or title receipt (plus a lease if applicable) in your vehicle at all times.
If you have a vehicle over 26,000lbs, your drivers must maintain valid Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) through your home state (FYI to all you overachievers out there, it is illegal to hold a commercial driver’s license from more than one state and CDLs are governed by federal law, anyway). Operating such a large vehicle requires more skill, experience, physical ability, and knowledge than what you would need to drive a non-commercial vehicle. Because of this, anyone operating a large vehicle will need to take a commercial driver’s license written permit exam and driving test to prove they possess the attributes to safely handle the metal beast.
Also, something to keep in mind, CDL drivers are held to a higher standard while driving. Penalties for breaking traffic laws may be harsher than for those who hold a non-commercial driver’s license. So be careful out there.
Check Your List Twice
Once you have all of the above completed, you’re ready to hit the road!
It’s important as you travel to make sure you keep copies of most of these completed forms, licenses, and documents in your vehicle with you.
Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll want to make sure you have:
Intrastate Carriers Checklist
If you are planning to operate in only one jurisdiction, also known as Intrastate, here are the documents that are required to be in/on your truck.
- Intrastate authority from the state (and an Intrastate decal from the state on your truck)
- Form 2290 (over 55000 lbs.)
- Title or title receipt (plus a lease if applicable)
- Annual inspection (for trucks and trailers)
Interstate Carriers Checklist
Interstate carriers, trucks traveling in more than one jurisdiction, will need to have a copy of the following in/on their truck to be eligible for interstate commerce.
- Interstate Operating Authority (Unless you are a private carrier)
- Cab Card (Apportioned plates) or a copy of your plate registration (beyond local plates)
- IFTA License (above 26,000 lbs.)
- IFTA decal for the most recent year
- Form 2290 (55,000 lbs. and up)
- Title or title receipt (plus a lease if applicable.)
- Annual safety inspection (for the truck and trailer)
- Specialty state permits (if necessary where you are traveling)
Where to Get Help if Needed
There are numerous steps to take before taking your trucking business on the road. It can seem a bit overwhelming to keep track of everything that needs to be done just to start. It can be daunting to make sure you’re staying legal every year. Thankfully, The Permit Shop is here and ready to help. Feel free to reach out to give us a call or contact us here for further assistance. Happy trucking!
What is FMCSA Operating authority?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is “responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight” for the trucking industry.
What is a process agent?
A process agent is a person listed as a representative of the motor carrier who can be served court papers.
What is Standard Carrier Alpha Code?
Standard Carrier Alpha Code is the 2-4 letter coding system used to identify companies in the trucking industry.