June 22, 2023

How To Get Your Own Trucking Authority

It’s common for drivers to want to get their own trucking authority if they’ve been a trucker or owner-operator for a while. While making this switch can offer you more independence and usually more money, you need to be ready to run a business that is responsible for finding its own drivers and loads and be ready for more work.

Getting your own trucking authority can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. In this post, we’ll break down what you need to know and the exact steps you need to take. More than anything, getting registered and recorded properly in the state and federal system is what matters most so you can get your business up and running.

What does it mean to get your trucking authority?

Before you can legally operate as a trucking company, the government needs to approve what kind of operation you can run and what type of cargo you can carry. The process of doing that is often called getting your “trucking authority” and can also be known as your interstate operating authority (which is when you operate in more than one state) or motor carrier authority.

How much time do I need to apply?

This process could take a few months from start to finish at both state and federal levels, so it’s best to start early. If you’re a new applicant, you will most likely get your license in under a month. If there are problems, however, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) needs more time to review your application, your wait can turn into about 8 weeks. If you’re already a carrier, it’s common that you’ll need a 45-65 day window for this paperwork to be completed and approved.

How much does it cost?

It costs about $300 to get a permanent authority and you’ll pay this as an initial fee when you file your paperwork with the FMCSA. However, if you want to change your business name ($14) or reinstate your authority ($80), those are a bit cheaper. (You would pay the $80 charge only if the FMCSA has evoked your authority in the past and you’re not a new applicant).

However, you can minimize the paperwork and steps by filing for your new operating authority package through the Motor Carrier HQ site. Getting started has a lot of steps so we’ve condensed them down so you pay one fee for your FMCSA filing fee, DOT and MC numbers, and your BOC-3 processing agent (only a processing agent like Motor Carrier HQ can file this for you so you get this step at no extra cost).

Remember, if you pay for these on your own instead of using the Motor Carrier HQ site, you’ll need to pay a separate fee for each type of authority (depending on how many authorities you’re trying to secure). You also want to make sure you do your research and apply for the correct authority types since the FMCSA doesn’t offer refunds on application fees, even if you didn’t know you filed incorrectly. You would probably be surprised how often this happens. The FMCSA’s site is not very intuitive.

Where do I start?

Visit our site and let us help you

There are a few ways to do this. One, you can delve into the steps yourself (described below) and pick things up as you go. Or two, we can do it for you. A lot of drivers want this process done quickly and efficiently, and that’s when it’s valuable to go through a processing agent who already knows the trucking authority world. This saves you time and overall stress.

We’ve set up a package that includes the important numbers you need, a getting-started guide, and two free hours with our coaches to ask questions. And, when you apply through our site, you can get your numbers the same business day.

Do the steps on your own

If you haven’t ever registered with the FMCSA, you’ll need to first get your U.S. Department of Transportation number. You can do that by using the FMCSA’s form or check out the Motor Carrier HQ site to talk to a coach and get this filed. If you’re up-to-date on that step, then you can start filing for your trucking authority through the FMCSA registration system.

If you want to check on your trucking authority application status while you wait for the rest of the information, you can visit something called the SAFER website, which stands for Safety and Fitness Electronic Records. Once there, you can go to “FMCSA searches” and enter either your USDOT number or your MC number. After you click “Search,” you can find this info near the bottom under “Authority History.”

How do I find the right insurance?

The type of operating authority you request will impact the type of insurance you need to shop for. So, you’ll want to start calling on cargo and liability insurance rates while you’re waiting to get pre-approved. However, you can’t get the right insurance quotes until you have your MC number and calling before you have it won’t give you an accurate result. So, secure the number, and then call on insurance while you’re waiting for your final approval letter.

Once you’ve picked your insurance company and your waiting period is almost over, your insurance agent can file with the FMCSA and get your policy going in enough time for you to start work. Remember, you only have less than a month until you get approved and things get rolling to secure your insurance. That’s why it’s a good idea to research the insurance filing requirements as well before things get finalized. The timing for purchasing and binding your insurance is critical. You don’t want to get it too soon and start paying for it before you really need it. And you don’t want to wait too long and delay your authority going active. Talk to our business coaches, they will help you get it just right.

 Here are some other things to keep in mind:

  • You’ll need to know your business name before applying. Some states require this name before you start anything, but it’s easy to research your state’s regulations before you get too deep into the process.
  • Go onto the IRS website and get your Employee Identification Number (EIN) because you’ll need this once you start your taxes. Getting this step behind you now is helpful and your accountant will thank you later.
  • Make sure you know your business structure before you register and apply for your trucking authority. For example, are you a Limited Liability Company? A sole proprietorship? The coaches at Motor Carrier HQ can help with this if you don’t know where to start.
  • Research what authority you need to apply for beforehand. This depends on what kind of cargo you carry and if you travel beyond state lines.
  • If you haven’t already, get familiar with how online load boards work so you can find customers, start building relationships, and grow your business once you’re ready. Also called freight boards, these help you find loads or post loads to move. From there, you can talk to carriers, shippers, owner operators, and brokers about their needs.
  • If you want to get your trucking authority and become your own trucking company, take a good look at your business savviness first and be honest about what knowledge gaps you need to fix. Once you start making decisions about owning and running a business, you’ll find success if you’ve built on some legitimate business experience.

Once you register your business, Motor Carrier HQ can help you get your trucking authority by taking care of the rest through their site.

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