How to Get a DOT Number

When you’re starting your own trucking business, it can feel like there are a million small things to consider when all you really want to do is get on the road. Navigating everything from deciding which type of truck you’ll need, finding the right insurance, and determining where to find the best loads while negotiating contracts to stay competitive can quickly prove overwhelming. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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One of the most critical aspects of starting your business is the often-daunting task of registering with the correct local and federal agencies. Only then can you be sure that you’re fully qualified to operate and that you have all the necessary certifications in place to run a safe, legal business.

While that process can vary a bit based on the location of your operation, an important first step towards getting and staying certified for carriers who plan on making interstate hauls is registering with the FMCSA for a USDOT number. Fortunately, although this process can seem complicated for newcomers, DOT registration is far simpler than it appears. It just involves a bit of know-how and finding the right support.

Here’s everything you need to know about FMCSA registration and how to apply for a DOT number.

What is a DOT number?

In the US, companies and individuals who operate commercial vehicles used to either transport passengers or haul cargo for interstate commerce — along with carriers who specialize in the interstate transportation of all hazardous materials that require a safety permit — must register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This government organization exists to regulate and ensure safety for commercial motor vehicles, including working to reduce injuries, crashes, and fatalities associated with large trucks and buses.

This is where the DOT number comes in. While most carriers will have to apply for other certifications in addition to their DOT number and keep those certifications current, a major part of the FMCSA registration process involves applying for and obtaining a USDOT number. Your USDOT number acts as an identifier for collecting and monitoring all of your company’s safety information during everything from inspections to audits, compliance reviews, and even crash investigations.


Do I need a DOT number?

The short answer is: most likely, yes.

Getting carrier registration with the FMCSA is important for almost any carrier who hopes to transport goods, people, or hazardous materials within the U.S. Additionally, most states require all intrastate (within state borders) commercial motor vehicle registrants to obtain a USDOT number.

According to the FMCSA, DOT registration is required for nearly all types of transport vehicles that are involved in interstate transport, so there’s a pretty good chance that, as a carrier, you’re going to need a DOT number.

Vehicles requiring USDOT registration include those that are used for the interstate transportation of hazardous materials that require a safety permit, are designed to transport more than 8 passengers (including drivers) for compensation, or are designed to carry more than 15 passengers including the driver without collecting compensation. Additionally, any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds needs carrier registration.

Furthermore, the FMCSA defines interstate transport as any vehicle involved in trade, traffic, or transportation as either between a place within a state to another state, between two places within a state that require travel through a second state, or transport from outside the U.S. to a state within the U.S., which means that you’re almost certain to need a DOT number before you can get your trucking business off the ground.


What are the requirements for getting a USDOT number?

In order to apply for a USDOT number, you’re going to need to have a lot of basic information about your business at hand. First, you’ll need your name and business address. From there, you’ll need additional information about your company operation, operation classification, cargo classification, and HazMat classification (if you have one). You’ll also need information about the size of your business — including the number and type of vehicles you have — plus information about whether you own, lease, or trip lease. Finally, you’ll need information about each of your drivers, such as your total number of drivers, total CDL drivers, and whether they’re interstate or intrastate.

One final thing to note: If you’re applying for your DOT number online, you’ll need a credit card in your name, since the FMCSA uses credit card information to verify your identity, even for free services like getting your USDOT number.


How much does it cost to get a DOT number?

While there’s no fee for getting a USDOT number, most carriers who need a DOT number also need a motor carrier, or MS, number. Like the USDOT, an MS number is used to identify carriers for hire who transport regulated commodities in interstate commerce, including those who transport passengers across state lines or who transport federally regulated commodities. There is a one-time $300 filing fee in addition to separate fees for each authority your business is seeking. Beyond that, there are small additional fees for requesting things like name changes and recertification (which is often necessary every year).

Keeping up with all of these fees, applications, and agencies is a headache that can easily distract carriers and trucking companies from their important day-to-day operations. Every minute spent dealing with forms and fees is a minute lost from growing your business. With DAT Carrier Authority you can ensure that your business gets and remains certified with all of the correct authorities, including staying up to date with MS and DOT number requirements starting at $549 a year.

Paying just a bit more than the cost of regulatory fees alone means that you can get on with the business of finding loads, negotiating contracts, and invoicing without worrying about staying-up-date with permits, paperwork, registrations, and all the other small concerns that come with keeping your business up-to-date with regulatory agencies.


How do I apply for a DOT number?

There are multiple ways to apply for your USDOT number. The first is to apply with the FMCSA directly. The FMCSA’s portal provides you with an automated service for inputting your information. And while this portal provides a free, self-service option, the process is still time consuming and confusing for some carriers.

Luckily, there are easier ways to obtain all the certifications you’ll need to operate a successful trucking company, whether you’re a large operation, a small business, or an individual. One option for obtaining all the important certifications you need to keep your business legal, from your carrier registration to fulfilling your truck dispatcher license requirements, is to look for a one-stop service to manage all of the often tedious paperwork that comes with starting your own trucking business on both state and federal levels.

DAT Authority is that one-stop service, allowing you to operate under your own MC number and taking care of all of the paperwork you need to get your operating authority. That includes filing your federal and state permits — including your DOT registration — so you can start earning money and building your business as quickly as possible.

Along with filing paperwork correctly the first time and managing all the fees that accompany that paperwork, a subscription to DAT Authority also includes access to expert consultants who can guide you through each step of the process of getting and maintaining your authority — even after DAT has gotten you all the certifications you need and your business is up and running. You can also avoid delays in operations by letting DAT’s legal experts handle any problems that may arise while you’re working with DAT Authority.


How long does it take to get my USDOT number?

If you submit your online application accurately, you will get your USDOT number immediately. However, if your forms are mailed in, it can take up to six weeks for you to get your number.


How do I check the status of my USDOT number?

In order to check your DOT number, simply use the DOT number lookup available through the FMCSA website. You also can use the same site to look up your MC number.


Can I get a DOT number without a truck?

Yes! Strange as it may seem, you don’t actually need to have a truck already in order to get your DOT and MC Numbers. But even if you don’t have a truck, you’ll still need insurance since FMCSA will not activate your DOT or MC authority until after a mandatory 21 day protest period if you don’t have insurance on file. However, getting insurance also doesn’t require having a truck on hand.


Looking to simplify the DOT number application process?

There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of paperwork involved in starting a carrier or broker service, but luckily there’s a simple way to avoid the many headaches it can bring: a subscription to DAT Authority.

DAT Authority is an industry leader when it comes to getting carriers their trucking authority with minimal delays. With decades of experience in the industry, DAT understands the complicated process behind starting and growing a successful business. We designed DAT Authority to make your life easier from the word go. DAT Authority can not only help make filing for a DOT number a snap, it also helps you keep up with changing industry regulations, certifications, and legal requirements so that you can focus on running your business with the confidence that you always have the authority you need.

Obtain your DOT number quickly with DAT’s help!

One of the most critical hurdles new companies must overcome is getting their DOT number. However, going alone can be intimidating if you don’t know your way around the FMCSA registration process.

Sign up for DAT Authority to receive the support you need to obtain your DOT number!

Authority: Basic

$ 549 *
  • Includes all federal fees
  • MC / DOT number
  • BOC 3 process agents






Find the right solution for your business

Reach out by calling 800.551.8847

Reach out by calling 800.551.8847

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