Regardless of whether change is viewed as good or bad, the transportation industry continues to evolve. As of December 2015, yet another piece of MAP-21 legislation pushes the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) to embrace change. This latest alteration will require all individuals and entities wanting to become a freight broker or start their own trucking company to undergo updated FMCSA and DOT procedures. However, before we go over this new freight broker registration and motor carrier registration process, let’s make sure you’re aware of the old licensing procedures. Since current freight brokers and carriers are still allowed to use their existing authority, at least until later this year, new brokers and carriers should be mindful of the old process and terms.
The Old Way - Authority and MC Number
For decades the route followed by new freight brokers and for-profit interstate carriers has revolved around the need to secure an active authority, either a property broker authority or a motor carrier authority, from the FMCSA. This could be done with paper forms sent via mail or through an online application via the FMCSA’s website. Once received by the FMCSA, the authority application would be assigned a pending MC number and the approval process would begin. The approval process generally included meeting further requirements, such as securing a process agent and obtaining the necessary insurance. After you’d met all of the FMCSA requirements and they approved your authority application, your pending MC number would go active. That active MC number was extremely important because it linked back to your broker or carrier authority file with the FMCSA and it identified you as a broker or carrier.
The New Way - Unified Registration System and US DOT Number
The Unified Registration System (URS) within the FMCSA’s website, changes the old licensing process to a registration process. Now, applicants seeking to operate as freight brokers or motor carriers will find a bigger emphasis on registration and US DOT numbers. The FMCSA hasn't stopped granting authorities and MC numbers. It's just that now you'll find that if an authority or MC number is applicable to your operation, it will be included into your registration application. Along with that change, the FMCSA’s new registration system has done away with paper forms and processing applications received via mail. All freight broker and motor carrier applications will now be completed and submitted online. And, if you’re thinking the URS sounds familiar, you might be thinking of the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR). These two registrations have completely different purposes, so you’ll need to make sure you don’t confuse the two with each other.
This new process will now center around acquiring either an active freight broker registration or an active motor carrier registration. Completing and submitting the necessary registration application online via the URS will now result in the FMCSA assigning a pending US DOT number to your application file. The registration approval process, depending on your requested operating status, will still generally include other requirements like proof of financial responsibility (insurance) and a process agent. Similar to the old licensing process, once you’ve met all of the registration application requirements and the FMCSA has approved your application, your pending US DOT number will go active. This active US DOT number will now be the identifier that links back to your broker or carrier file with the FMCSA.
Some Things Never Change
As with the old licensing system, becoming an active, or legal to operate, freight broker or motor carrier will not be a same day or overnight process. The time frame for an active US DOT number after registration application submission is usually three to six weeks, or longer if you’ve not met the requirements. Without an active US DOT number listing your operating status as a freight broker or motor carrier, you are not allowed to operate as a freight broker or motor carrier.
Those who remember the ICC numbers, know that this isn’t the first time the transportation industry has overhauled its licensing procedures for brokers and carriers. But, when these phase-ins and phase-outs are occurring, it’s a tricky time for those of us already within the industry, as well as those just starting out in the industry. The experienced must become familiar with the latest terminologies and procedures and the inexperienced must learn both the old and the new terms and processes. There was and still is some talk that the FMCSA intends to eventually do away with the use of MC numbers in favor of using US DOT numbers only. But, we are certain that even if that does happen, terms like “authority” and “MC number” will continue to be used in passing within the transportation industry for years to come.