Obtain and maintain your USDOT number

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Expanding operations into the United States means fully complying with U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety (FMCSA) regulations. And one of your first steps toward compliance is obtaining a USDOT number.

This number works similar to your National Safety Code (NSC)/safety fitness certificate number, and is used when recording a carrier’s safety events.

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To obtain a USDOT number, you need to use the FMCSA’s Unified Registration System (URS). This online-only system is used to obtain a new USDOT number, and if necessary, a for-hire authority.

Information associated with an existing USDOT number also needs to be updated at least every other year, including any changes in vehicle counts, driver counts, commodities hauled, and annual mileage.

You’ll complete the update using a different system than you used to obtain the USDOT number, though. The process involves the MCS-150 form, the Motor Carrier Identification Report. FMCSA prefers online updates, which are immediately logged. Updates on paper are allowed, but it takes a bit longer for the changes to show up online when they’re completed this way.

You’re required to update your USDOT number in a designated month and year, reflected by the USDOT number itself. The last number indicates the month in which you update, and the second-to-last number — whether it’s even or odd — indicates the even- or odd-numbered year in which you complete the update. For example, if your USDOT number ends in “22,” you’d complete your biennial update in February of every even-numbered year (2022, 2024, etc.).

You can always update more frequently. Keeping your data current helps when you are compared to other carriers of a similar size under the U.S. Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program.  Accurate vehicle counts on the MCS-150 are also critical when filing the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) for operation into the United States. The figure helps to determine what fees you’ll pay under UCR. If it’s not accurate, you could be paying too much.

You’ll need to display your USDOT number on commercial vehicles you’re operating into the United States. The vehicle marking is there to clearly show the name and USDOT number of the carrier responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle.

There is no exception or grace period for the marking requirement. A legal entity operating a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce, including Canada-based carriers, must ensure required information is displayed on the commercial vehicle. The marking must include your legal company name (or single trade name) followed by your USDOT number as listed on your MCS-150.

Like many credentials, you can’t share a USDOT number with another motor carrier for any reason. This rule applies even if you have another related company in Canada.  If the related company is a completely separate entity, then that company cannot use your USDOT number for operations into the United States.

Maintaining your USDOT number is just one small part of the compliance puzzle, but it’s perhaps one of the most important. Keep the number current and use it properly to avoid penalties and deactivation.

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Heather Ness is the editor of transport operations at J.J.Keller and Associates. Contact her at transporteditors@jjkeller.com.

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