Are you fluent in fleet taxes?

by Sandy Johnson

Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language? Of all the words in the dictionary, there are a few stock phrases you absolutely have to know.

“Where’s the bathroom?”

“Please take me to the airport.”

The fleet tax and licensing world has a language of its own, too. If you’re new, it’s important to know the basics so you can communicate effectively, especially if you’re operating outside your home province. One place to start is to learn the acronyms and what they stand for. 

Here are some acronyms and phrases you should know if you’re starting out in fleet tax compliance.

USDOT number

If you move freight or passengers in the US, your company must have a USDOT registration number. Issued by the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, this is the one number the DOT (Department of Transportation) uses to identify you when collecting and monitoring your safety information.


MC stands for motor carrier. It identifies a carrier that transports regulated goods for hire in interstate commerce and is linked to your operating authority.


To get your USDOT number, you need a federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. Yup, even Canadian carriers need to apply for this number. For reference, the Canadian equivalent is the federal business number issued by the Canada Revenue Agency.


A BOC-3 is actually not an acronym but a form number. It’s a United States federal filing that designates legal agents upon which process may be served. It’s often required before certain federal operating authorities can be granted within the United States. In trucking, you can’t get an MC number without a BOC-3.


In Canada, the rules governing commercial vehicles, drivers and motor carriers are based on National Safety Code (NSC) standards. The NSC is a set of 15 performance standards ranging from commercial driver licence requirements to carrier facility audits. While it’s called a ‘national’ code, trucking regulations in Canada are administered by provincial government agencies and there are real differences among them. All provinces issue something called a National Safety Code (NSC) number or a safety fitness certificate (SFC). 


Most provinces refer to a safety fitness certificate or National Safety Code certificate. However, Ontario carriers apply for something called a CVOR certificate, which stands for commercial vehicle operator’s registration. In Quebec, carriers are assigned a register identification number (RIN). The RIN corresponds to the National Safety Code (NSC) number.  


The International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) is an agreement among the 48 contiguous states and 10 Canadian provinces. Member jurisdictions act cooperatively to administer and collect motor fuel use taxes. You need an IFTA licence if you travel in two or more member jurisdictions and your vehicle either weighs more than 26,000 pounds or has three or more axles regardless of weight. You have to file IFTA returns quarterly. 


Like IFTA, the International Registration Plan (IRP) is a reciprocity agreement for administering and paying out annual vehicle registration fees. The fee amounts are based on the distance travelled in each jurisdiction.


The Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) is a unique code used to identify transportation companies. Certain groups of SCACs are reserved for specific purposes: codes ending with the letter ‘U’ are reserved for the identification of freight containers, codes ending with the letter ‘X’ are reserved for the identification of privately owned railroad cars and codes ending with the letter ‘Z’ are reserved for the identification of truck chassis and trailers used in intermodal service.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. But if you’ve ever travelled abroad, you know how important it is to at least make an attempt at speaking the language.

The same is true with fleet taxes. Even if you hire a fleet tax pro as your interpreter and guide, take time to learn the basics before you venture out into the compliance world.


Sandy Johnson has been managing IFTA, IRP and other fleet taxes for more than 25 years. She operates, which provides vehicle tax and licence compliance services for trucking operations ranging from single vehicles to large fleets. She can be reached at 877-860-8025 or

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