Since I started appearing on Shipping Wars in early 2012, a lot of people have asked me about compliance. In other words, obtaining your Motor Carrier operating authority and getting a DOT number. My advice, based on my own personal experience, is to get both your MC and DOT numbers as early in the process of becoming a transporter as you can. It’s
the law, and if you plan to be successful, it’s an absolute must! The sooner you submit your application the sooner you’ll be on the road making money.
What I’m going to share is my own personal experience of gaining operating authority and how I went about it. To be clear, this isn’t the ONLY way. It is simply the way I went about it and what worked for me. Did I hit a few pot holes in the process? Yep. Was it easy? Nope. But was I glad I pushed through to get compliant? Absolutely.
Read on to find out how to bring your hauling business into federal compliance.
How much did compliance cost?
Know that getting a DOT Number is free (http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration-licensing/online-registration/onlineregdescription.htm), but obtaining a Motor Carrier Number costs money. When I set up my operating authority, it ran about $4,000 for everything I needed, including insurance. It could be more or less for you. You don’t need to pay it out all in one shot but it will cost you some startup capital as with any new business.
Where did I start?
My first step was to complete an application, Form OP-1. You find this and other forms at FMSCA Website (http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration-licensing/online-registration/onlineregdescription.htm). Give yourself plenty of time to fill this out completely and 100% accurately. If not, it’ll get kicked back to you to be corrected and resubmitted.
If in doubt, hire an expert.
Simply put, these forms can be complicated. I realized early on that I needed to delegate to a third-party professional to get my paperwork done right the first time because I knew delays in the administrative stuff would delay getting on the road. Looking back, that was an important decision I’m glad I made. The company – Interstate Authority – took care of the application process for me, helping get all the proper forms filled out ACCURATELY right up front. They are up on all the latest rule changes and standards, so I was confident things would be submitted properly. Naturally, those out there that provide this service charge a fee, but I saw it similar to paying an accountant to handle my taxes.
Think about what you’re going to haul.
If you read the earlier post on WHAT to haul, this is when knowing that information is helpful. You’ll need to indicate on the forms what you plan to carry because there are fees associated with getting your licensure. If you ship cars, household goods, equipment, logs, whatever, you’ll need to decide and mark the forms accordingly. Fortunately, you can change this later, but you’ll need to put something down at this point. Keep in mind it all cost money each time. Take your time with this.
While my experience may give some guidance on the steps you need to take, I’d encourage you to check out the FMCSA FAQ section for new registrants seeking their operating authority.
In the next post we’re going to talk about the next step in the process: the on-site safety audit.