Determining Which Trucking Authority You Need

July 21, 2023
Authority Express
Authority Express

Working as an interstate carrier or broker requires motor carrier (MC) operating authority. However, since there are many types of MC numbers you can apply for, new entrants to this industry may need clarification to determine the correct trucking authority. Therefore, this article breaks down what trucking authority is and how to determine the right type of trucking authority for your company. 

What is MC Trucking Authority?

Operating authority, also called motor carrier (MC) authority, gives trucking companies the legal authorization to get paid to transport goods across state lines using the trucking company and its vehicles. This authority is granted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

There are multiple forms of trucking authority, including FMCSA broker authority, which grants permission for a business to facilitate loads between shippers and carriers. Once carriers or brokers obtain the right type of operating authority, the FMCSA will issue a unique motor carrier (MC) number, which is used to prove the legality of the operations. 

All carriers and independent owner-operators will require their own trucking company operating authority, especially those that engage in international or interstate commerce, which involves crossing state or international borders. It’s important to distinguish between the MC and USDOT numbers, both of which are issued by the FMCSA and are required to legally operate the trucking business. While the MC number provides the authority to operate legally across state lines, the DOT number monitors a company’s safety information, including safety audits, compliance reviews, inspections, and crash investigations. 

What Are the Types of Operating Authority?

There are multiple types of trucking operating authorities issued by the FMCSA. As a trucking company owner, you must determine the correct authority you need before applying for operating authority. The FMCSA does not issue refunds for applications that request the wrong type of operating authority. Selecting an incorrect option can be costly.

Types of operating authority issued by the FMCSA include:

Motor Carrier of Property (except Household Goods)

This authority is for an authorized for-hire motor carrier that transports regulated commodities, except household goods, for the general public for profit. Motor carriers of property (except household goods) must file proof of public liability insurance, including bodily injury and property damage, with the FMCSA to secure interstate operating authority. However, obtaining insurance is done after you file for your motor carrier number during a required 21-day protest period. During this period, you must provide proof that you have the minimum required level of insurance to the FMCSA to complete the process and secure your motor carrier authority. 

Motor Carrier of Household Goods (moving companies)

This operating authority is for an authorized for-hire motor carrier that transports only household items for the general public in exchange for payment. Household goods are defined as personal items that will be used in a home and include items shipped from a factory or store if purchased with the intent of using them in the home and transported at the request of the person’s household. A household goods motor carrier also includes companies that, in the ordinary course of business of providing transportation of household goods, may also provide the following services: binding and nonbinding estimates, inventorying, protective packing and unpacking of the goods at personal residences, and loading or unloading at private residences. The FMCSA requires that the company file proof of public liability and cargo insurance to obtain interstate operating authority (also done during the 21-day protest period). 

Broker of Property (except Household Goods)

This operating authority is required for any individual, partnership, or corporation that receives payment for arranging the transportation of property other than household goods belonging to others by using an authorized motor carrier. Brokers do not assume responsibility for the property and never take possession of it.

Broker of Household Goods

This operating authority applies to any individual, partnership, or corporation that receives payment for arranging the transportation of household goods belonging to others using an authorized motor carrier. But, again, the broker does not assume responsibility for or take possession of the goods. 

United States-based Enterprise Carrier of International Cargo (except Household Goods)

This authority is needed by companies that transport international cargo, excluding household goods, and is headquartered in America but owned or controlled by a Mexican citizen or resident alien. In addition, international cargo must originate in or terminate in a foreign country.

United States-based Enterprise Carrier of International Household Goods

This authority is needed for companies that transport household goods internationally and are headquartered in the United States but owned or controlled by a Mexican citizen or resident alien. 

Freight Forwarder Authority

Freight forwarder authority grants the holder to arrange transportation of goods by authorized carriers for interstate or foreign commerce. Freight forwarders issue bills to shippers and are responsible for the loss of or damage to any goods. 

These motor authorities represent the most common motor authorities sought by trucking companies. Less common trucking authorities may also include:

New applicants must identify the type of operating authority they need. For example, in many instances, a trucking company may require multiple operating authorities to support its planned business operations. 
New applicants must register using the FMCSA’s Unified Registration System. This online tool can help a trucking company request its DOT and MC number using online application forms. 

CDL carriers that engage in interstate or international commerce must also register for the International Registration Plan. This agreement spans the 48 contiguous states and Canada, allowing a company to register vehicles in one location and pay apportioned license fees to enable them to operate in other jurisdictions. These fees are based on how many miles are driven in each jurisdiction. 

You must also have your company’s documentation and information before requesting operating trucking authority. This includes: 

Once registered, it’s important to remember that you must complete the new entrant safety assurance program, which includes a new entrant safety audit, within the first eighteen months of operation. And while this process may be long and arduous, it can be the start of a long and rewarding career in the trucking industry!

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