Do I need operating authority for my trucking business?

Trucking businesses are subject to many government regulations. It can be tough to keep everything straight and decipher the law-speak of these regulations. One important thing about transportation that you should know about is operating authorities. Who needs an operating authority? How do you get operating authority? And, well, what exactly is it? We’ll answer these questions.

What is operating authority?

To put it simply, operating authority is what kind of operation you’re allowed to run what cargo you can transport. It can be known as “MC”, “FF”, or “MX” number (it just depends on what kind of authority you need.) This isn’t like a USDOT Number where you get one and you’re good to go. You have to get operating authorities based on what type of business you’ve going to have, and that means you might need more than one.

From a more regulation-based standpoint, it means registration as required by 49 U.S.C. 13902, 49 CFR part 365, 49 CFR part 368, and 49 CFR 392.9a.

(Your operating authority also has a part to play in how much insurance you’re going to need. So that’s important! If you want to talk about insurance for your business, we can help – just send us a LiveChat or fill out our online form to speak with one of our trucking agents.)

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Who needs operating authority?

So all that’s fine and good, but who needs to have operating authority? Is this something you’re going to need? Trucking is a heavily regulated industry, so it’s important to make sure that you have all your paperwork and so on in order.

In addition to a USDOT Number, the types of businesses that need interstate operating authority are those that:

  • Operate as for-hire carriers (meaning they get a fee or compensation of some sort)
  • Transport passengers or arrange for their transport in interstate commerce
  • Transport goods regulated by the federal government in interstate commerce

If any of these descriptions fit your business, you’re probably going to need to get an MC, FF, or MX Number for your trucking company.

How do I get operating authority?

Okay, so the next question is how do I get operating authority for my business? That depends on whether you’re a new business or if you’re already established.

New applicants.

New applicants (i.e. new truck businesses) have to use the Unified Registration System (URS). That means that you do not already have a USDOT Number or operating authority. The nice thing is that you’ll be given a USDOT Number and an MC/MX/FF number.

Existing businesses.

If you already have a business, you’ll use the OP-1 series form or apply online. You’ll have to give your USDOT Number and any other operating authority numbers if you’re applying for an extra authority.

Pro tip: Head’s up – there’s a $300 fee for each operating authority requested. And it’s non-refundable. Meaning – follow ALL instructions carefully and make sure you apply for the correct operating authority. Double-check everything and take your time, whether you need to use the URS or the OP-1 series form.

Who does NOT need operating authority?

Now, not every trucking business needs operating authority. There are some that don’t. For example, the following types of businesses do not need operating authority:

  • Carriers that transport their own cargo (private carriers)
  • “For-hire carriers” that only haul exempt commodities that aren’t regulated by the federal government.
  • Carriers that operate within a “commercial zone” as declared by the government that is exempt from interstate authority regulations (i.e. a geographic area that includes multiple states bordering on a major city)

Insurance requirements.

As we mentioned earlier, your authority can dictate what insurance your business has to carry. It’s important to familiarize yourself with any insurance requirements for your particular type of business. You need to make sure you’re following any relevant requirements where your insurance is concerned. Your business needs to be protected from the risks you face out there on the road.

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We can help with that. Our truck insurance professionals can help you get the coverage you need for your business. Get started with your quotes by filling out our online form, giving us a call, or messaging us on LiveChat. We would be happy to help you get quotes for truck insurance and go over your DOT Number requirements, operating authority requirements, and so on.


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