10 Things You Need to Know About Unified Carrier Registration

May 31, 2023
Authority Express
Authority Express

In the trucking industry, the acronym UCR stands for Unified Carrier Registration. This term describes the formal procedure in the United States that requires all commercial motor vehicles and freight forwarders that conduct interstate travel to register with the US Department of Transportation. 

Since UCR is federally mandated, you must understand a few things about this regulation

What is Unified Carrier Registration?

Unified Carrier Registration is a federally mandated regulation established by the Unified Carrier Registration Act of 2005, also called the UCR Act. This Act replaced the former system for registering and collecting fees for vehicles operating in interstate commerce. It is also a collaboration between the federal government and 41 participating states. It consolidated the separate state-based motor carrier databases into one maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA is also responsible for collecting fees levied on motor carriers. Non-UCR participating states include Oregon, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Vermont, New Jersey, Maryland, and Hawaii.

Who needs to comply with Unified Carrier Registration?

Any motor carrier with commercial vehicles that haul cargo across state or international borders must register to comply with UCR. Additionally, companies or freight forwarders that make arrangements for goods to be shipped must also register. If you deliver cargo by a train or other transportation method leaving the state, your activity may still be considered interstate hauling. Even some commercial vehicles that never leave the state may have to pay UCR fees. For instance, if the cargo you are hauling had ever crossed a state line before you carried it or if it crossed a state line after you delivered it, it would be considered interstate hauling for the purposes of registering for the UCR. The DOT has no authority to charge fees for non-interstate commerce, so the UCR has broadly defined interstate hauling to make it apply almost universally. 

If you are still deciding whether you should register, the UCR has a free online quiz that you can take to ensure compliance.

Do I need to comply with UCR if I am based in a non-UCR participating state?

In most instances, commercial vehicles must still register even if they are based in one of the non-UCR participating states. For example, even if one of your trucks crosses a border for a brief time and delivers the cargo in the home state, it still qualifies as interstate travel. A failure to have appropriate registration means if you are caught, your company could be subject to stiff fines or penalties for noncompliance. If you are still deciding whether to register, check in with a third-party compliance specialist who can give you a clear answer based on your operations and the regulation. 

What is considered a commercial motor vehicle?

A commercial motor vehicle has the following traits:

When must you complete UCR?

After completing your initial unified carrier registration, you must renew it every year. The annual UCR filing must be renewed by December 31st each year. Registration for the upcoming year begins October 1st, which provides motor carriers nearly three months to complete their UCR filing. Enforcement starts January 1, meaning you don’t want to wait until the last minute to register. 

What happens if I don’t register?

If your company is required to comply with UCR, you should ensure you get registered as soon as possible. If your truck or drivers are found operating a truck over state lines without registration, enforcement officials may detain your vehicle. You may also face additional fines, usually ranging from $100 to $5,000 for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders face steeper finds. 

How much are UCR fees?

Your UCR fees will depend upon the total number of vehicles in your fleet. The UCR breaks these fees down into six different tiers, with the first tier being 0-2 trucks and the sixth tier consisting of 1,001 or more trucks. Brokers, freight forwarders, and leasing companies make up the first tier and pay lower fees than other entities. The MCS-150 form you submitted to the FMCSA will display the number of vehicles you operate. Fees may range from as little as $41 for companies with only one or two vehicles to $39,289 for companies with over one thousand vehicles. 

How do I register and pay the appropriate fees?

These actions can be completed using the UCR national registration system. You can also use this platform to update your address, name, or other business records, if applicable. Because the UCR registration system is based on a motor carrier’s DOT number, unique to each entity, you cannot purchase multiple UCRs simultaneously. Each entity will have to file its UCR registration independently. 

Why are fees collected for UCR?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration uses the fees collected from companies to fund critical safety initiatives. For example, USDOT officer training is completed using funds from UCR fees. These programs and initiatives play a significant role in supporting and enhancing highway safety. 

What records must I keep to verify UCR compliance?

Carriers must maintain UCR records for at least two years from the due date or filing date - whichever is later - plus any time period included due to state decisions or inquiries. FMCSA offers options for storing records, allowing UCR records to be retained on paper or through any digital method or database storage system as required by the base state. Two UCR documents may be required, UCR-1 and UCR-2. UCR-1 is used if the carrier subtracts vehicles used exclusively for interstate hauling and includes a list of the vehicles subtracted. UCR-2 is used when the vehicle count is determined by the number of vehicles owned in the year ending June 30, and this total places the fleet in a lower bracket than reflected on the most recent MCS-150.

This information addresses some of the most frequently asked questions regarding Unified Carrier Registration. It may take time to understand or achieve compliance. Familiarizing yourself with the law, the registration process and the actions you must take to achieve and maintain compliance is crucial. Compliance violations can be costly, especially for small trucking companies, and should be avoided.

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