What is an MC number and who needs one?
Updated: Sep 14
If you're already familiar with the trucking industry, driving trucks, and running a trucking company, you should know what an MC number is and if you need one. But, If you are looking to start your own trucking company, or are completely new to the transportation industry, you may be unsure of what an MC number is or who needs one, and need some guidance.
What is an MC number?
A motor carrier authority (MC number), also referred to as an operating authority or trucking authority, is a number assigned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to identify trucking companies that operate in interstate commerce. Interstate commerce is the operation of carriers that operate and haul freight loads across state lines as part of their business practice. Companies that transport passengers or move federally regulated commodities across state lines are also required to have an active MC number.
Who needs an MC number?
To have interstate authority you must have an active number, but it also comes down to the type of freight you will be moving. If you work for a trucking company that only hauls intrastate (within state lines), you may still be required to get an operating authority due to the cargo you are hauling.
You are required to have an active MC number if you are moving inter-modal freight, because the cargo that is being moved in the containers has traveled across state lines, regardless of whether you have or not. This type of authority is required because the cargo could have originated from anywhere before you received it. Truck drivers who move freight that originates in and is delivered within the same state are the only ones who are covered by intrastate authority.
What is a USDOT number and who needs one?
A USDOT number stands for United States Department of Transportation number. This number is a trucking company's ID number that keeps track of all safety records, vehicle type, type of operation, cargo, and compliance information. The FMCSA requires that all truck drivers that are operating in interstate commerce or are moving passengers have one. The information on a company's DOT number is made public for freight brokers and shippers to access easily.
How do you get an MC number?
Overall, it usually takes about 3 weeks to get your trucking authority. It's extremely important to start this process a few weeks before you plan to operate under your new trucking authority. You must file for your MC number with the FMCSA and pay the registration fee. You'll get your MC number immediately after you complete this, however, it is not active right away and therefore you cannot start operating under it just yet.
Next, you'll have 20 days to complete your BOC-3 and file an insurance policy with the FMCSA. We can help you find the best rate from top insurance companies here. A BOC-3 represents that you have process agents that can serve legal paperwork on your behalf in each state. Both of these are required by the FMCSA to be done before your trucking authority can go active and you can start working. Your MC number will become active about 2 to 3 weeks after you've filed your BOC-3 and insurance policy.
There are still more steps you need to take when starting a new trucking company to officially become active and get on the road. Once you've gotten your MC number and DOT number, you need to pay your Heavy Vehicle Use Tax (HVUT) and set up your International Registration Plan (IRP). Once you've done this, you will get your apportioned plates for your truck or trucks. An IRP is where you register all the trucks that are operating in multiple jurisdictions so you can report all miles driven to pay taxes on them.
Your next step is to set up your International Fuel Agreement (IFTA). This is an agreement to simplify reporting taxes between the lower 48 states and Canadian provinces. You need to complete a Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) to state you have an active insurance policy in your operating states. And lastly, you must enroll in an alcohol and drug consortium to prove you have negative drug screens. This step must be done before you can hire carriers or drive yourself.
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