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Everything You Need to Know About Trucking Authority

Motor carriers can choose from various types of motor carrier authority.

Trucking authority, also known as operating authority or motor carrier authority, is essentially a license issued by the federal government that allows you to transport goods for hire in the United States.

It’s granted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and signifies that you meet specific safety and insurance requirements and comply with federal regulations.

Why Get Trucking Authority?

Trucking authority goes beyond a simple license. It signifies your legitimacy and compliance within the trucking industry, allowing you to operate commercially. Here’s a deeper dive into its purpose:

Government Sanction

It’s essentially a permission slip from the federal government, specifically the FMCSA, that grants truckers legal permission to transport goods for payment across state lines. This ensures a baseline level of safety and professionalism within the industry.

Safety & Insurance Standards

By obtaining trucking authority, you demonstrate that you meet specific safety requirements for your vehicles and have the necessary insurance coverage. This protects both yourself and others on the road in case of accidents.

Getting your own authority for your trucking business can be difficult. Here are all the details you need to get your operating authority for your trucking business.

Transparency & Accountability

The authority process establishes a link between your business and the FMCSA. This allows for easier identification, safety inspections, and ensures adherence to industry regulations.

Increased Trust & Credibility

Having trucking authority signifies professionalism and compliance. This fosters trust with potential clients who can be confident you operate within legal boundaries.

Having your own operating authority grants motor carriers the freedom and flexibility to haul loads.

Benefits of Having Trucking Authority

There are several advantages to having trucking authority, especially if you’re looking to grow your trucking business and become more independent. Here’s a breakdown of the key benefits:

Freedom and Flexibility

This is a major perk. With your own authority, you become your own boss. You can choose the loads you haul, set your own rates, and control your work hours according to your preferences. This allows you to prioritize routes you prefer, take breaks when needed, and potentially achieve a better work-life balance.

Increased Earning Potential

Trucking authority opens doors to a wider range of freight hauling opportunities. You’re not limited to loads offered by specific companies, which can often have lower pay rates. By finding your own loads and negotiating rates directly with clients, you have the potential to significantly increase your income.

Building Your Business

Having your authority allows you to operate as a true business entity. You can establish your brand, build a client base, and potentially expand your fleet over time. This can lead to greater long-term financial security and the ability to shape your business according to your goals.

Professional Reputation

Trucking authority demonstrates that you comply with industry regulations and safety standards. This can enhance your credibility and establish trust with potential clients. They’ll be more confident working with a carrier who operates legally and prioritizes safety.

Building a Team (Optional)

As your business grows with trucking authority, you may choose to hire an additional company driver or two. This allows you to take on more loads and potentially increase your profits. However, this adds the responsibility of managing employees and ensuring they comply with regulations.

While these benefits are attractive, obtaining trucking authority also comes with increased responsibility. You’ll need to handle tasks like finding loads, negotiating rates, managing finances, and ensuring compliance with regulations. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding if getting your authority is the right step for you.

Types of Trucking Authority

The FMCSA offers various types of authority to cater to the different needs of trucking businesses. Here’s a breakdown of some common ones:

General Freight (Motor Carrier of Property)

This is the most popular type of authority, often referred to as an Motor Carrier (MC) number. It allows you to haul most cargo types across state lines, offering maximum flexibility in terms of the goods you can transport.

Household Goods (Motor Carrier of Household Goods)

This specific authority is required if you plan to move people’s belongings, furniture, and other household items. It may have limitations on the geographic areas you can service compared to a general freight authority.

Having your own operating authority grants motor carriers the freedom and flexibility to haul loads.

Passenger Carrier

This authority is necessary for transporting people, not cargo. There are further classifications within this type, such as for school buses, charter buses, or specific passenger vehicle types (e.g., limousines).

Hazardous Materials

This is a special endorsement required on top of your base authority (like general freight) if you plan to transport hazardous materials like flammable liquids, chemicals, or explosives. It signifies you have the proper training and equipment to handle these materials safely.

Exempt Commodities

It’s important to note that some goods are exempt from requiring trucking authority. This might include agricultural products like crops or livestock being transported within a specific radius from the farm.

Getting your own authority for your trucking business can be difficult. Here are all the details you need to get your operating authority for your trucking business.

How to Get Your Own Trucking Authority

Getting your own trucking authority involves several steps, but the FMCSA provides resources and a clear process to guide you.

Here’s a checklist for getting trucking authority for your trucking business:

1. Register Your Business:

Establish your business as a legal entity. This could be a sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation. Then, obtain a USDOT number from the FMCSA. This unique identifier links your business to the federal trucking regulatory system.

2. File for Authority

Complete the FMCSA application form, typically the OP-1 form. This specifies the type(s) of trucking authority you’re applying for (e.g., general freight, household goods).

3. Provide Proof of Insurance

Demonstrate you have the minimum required insurance coverage for your chosen authority type. The FMCSA sets these minimums, but you may choose to obtain higher coverage amounts for added protection.

4. Pay Filing Fees

The FMCSA charges a base fee to process your application (around $300 in 2024). There may be additional fees for background checks or state-specific requirements.

5. Meet Safety Requirements

Your vehicles must pass Department of Transportation (DOT) inspections to ensure they comply with safety regulations. This may involve inspections of brakes, tires, lights, and other critical components.

The registration process can vary depending on the FMCSA’s workload and any potential issues that may arise during your application review. Be prepared for a waiting period after submitting your application.

Who Doesn't Need to Get Trucking Authority?

There are a few exceptions to needing trucking authority, but it’s important to understand the limitations and consult with your local Department of Transportation (DOT) for the most up-to-date regulations:

Private Carriers

If you transport your own goods and not for hire, you generally don’t need authority. This means you’re using your truck for your own business needs, not transporting goods for other companies. For example, a bakery transporting their own bread to different stores wouldn’t need authority.

Agricultural Exemptions

There are some exceptions to getting an operating authority.

The FMCSA exempts certain agricultural products from requiring authority. This typically applies to transporting your own farm products within a specific radius from the farm itself. The exact limitations and distance will vary by state, so check with your local DOT for details.

Commercial Zones

Deliveries made within a limited radius around a designated commercial zone might be exempt from needing authority. A commercial zone is usually a geographic area encompassing multiple states bordering on a major metropolitan city (e.g., New York City, Chicago). However, these exemptions are for specific purposes and distances, so consult with your local DOT to confirm if they apply to your situation.

Things to Remember

Even if you fall under one of these exceptions, you may still need to register your business and comply with other regulations, such as Department of Transportation (DOT) safety requirements for your vehicle.

These exemptions are subject to change, so it’s crucial to stay updated with the latest regulations from the FMCSA and your state’s DOT.

How Much Does It Cost to Get Your Trucking Authority?

The FMCSA charges a base filing fee for authority applications (around $300 in 2024). Additional costs may include background checks, insurance (e.g. liability and cargo insurance), and state-specific fees. The total cost can vary depending on your chosen authority type(s).

  • Background Checks: Variable (typically under $100)

  • Insurance: Variable (can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands annually)

  • State Fees: Variable (check with your state)

  • Professional Help: Variable (can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand)

Considering these factors, the total cost of getting your trucking authority can range anywhere from around $1,000 (if you do it yourself and have minimal state fees) to upwards of $10,000 or more (if you hire professional help and have high insurance costs).

To get a clearer view of how much your commercial trucking insurance will be, request for a free trucking insurance quote from us and we’ll help you take your first step in getting trucking authority.