March 31, 2023
What Is A Dot Number And Why Do You Need It
The world of trucking comes with a learning curve, but it’s not too steep of a grade once you start the journey. Part of it includes familiarizing yourself with some of the industry phrases that help you comply with the various rules and regulations. One of the most important phrases to know is your “DOT number.”
What is a DOT Number?
“DOT” stands for Department of Transportation. Not to be confused with an MC number, A DOT number is the unique identifier assigned to a carrier in order to track their safety record in case there’s an audit, safety investigation, or crash. As a commercial driver, the DOT number is a good way to safeguard your driving habits and make sure you’re compliant enough to be on the road.
It’s basically like getting a driver’s license for your trucking company. When you start hauling your own property or equipment, you’ll need to register with The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). They will be the one to actually give you your DOT number after you register on their website.
The DOT number is your seal of approval
A DOT number is proof that you’re competent enough to be on the road and that you use your driving skill set appropriately. Think of it like a seal of approval to drive. You’ll be required to update your DOT number every two years so that you stay on top of your compliance scores.
DOT number requirements
Not everyone receives a DOT number. Generally speaking, you’ll need to get a DOT number if you fall into one of the following categories:
- Your vehicle weighs more than 10,000 pounds and used in the normal course of business.
- You transport hazardous materials like herbicides, fertilizer, propane, etc.
- Your cargo includes more than 8 passengers who directly pay you for the transportation. This could look like a small-passenger vehicle or a van. If you drive the van across state lines, you will definitely need a DOT number.
Operating a commercial motor vehicle without a DOT number when one is required can result in some pretty big fines. If you’re not sure if your state requires it, you can take the FMCSA quiz to find out if you need a number.
In general, most businesses with commercial motor vehicles need a DOT number. But, before you start the process to apply, make sure your state doesn’t offer exemptions to this rule. The last thing you want to do is waste time applying for something you don’t actually need. You can check out the FMCSA website for more information about exemptions and what it takes to qualify.
How much do you pay for a DOT number?
The FMCSA does not charge anything to obtain a DOT Number if you do it yourself, however, the process isn’t always straightforward and you don’t want to get one if you don’t need it. Getting a DOT Number is likely going to be one of your very first startup ‘to-dos’ before you can operate on the road.
While you don’t need to pay anything to register to get your number, you do need to enter a credit card online in order to register. You’ll never be charged anything, though. The reason you’re required to enter a credit card is because it acts as a ‘digital signature’ verifying that you are who you say you are.
All in all, the application is a pretty fast process and can be done in under an hour. Registering online is the most common way to file this paperwork, but if you would prefer not to use a credit card with your application, then you can always go old school and fill out a paper form instead. From there, you would mail it to the FMCSA offices for review.
What states require a DOT number?
Here’s an alphabetical list of states that require a DOT number as of 2022:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
It’s important to note that these are state requirements only; other federal regulations may apply. When you contact your state office, be sure to ask if they have a list of both state and federal regulations you’ll need to follow so you can make sure you’re staying compliant with all state and federal regulations.
If you need help applying for your DOT number or are struggling to understand the requirements for one, don’t hesitate to reach out to Motor Carrier HQ for help! We’d love to share our industry expertise with you and work together to ensure your business is compliant and set up for success.