Today, we’re answering a question we know is hot on your mind! What is a USDOT number?
Okay, maybe it isn’t at the forefront of your thought train, but you’ve got to admit, you’re curious.
If you’re paying attention at all while driving, you’ve noticed USDOT printed on certain vehicles. You’ve probably also wondered what or who USDOT is, right?
Let’s take a minute and dig deep (but not too deep) into the subject of these mysterious numbers seen on the sides of vehicles everywhere.
Ever Heard of USDOT?
Sometimes living in a world of acronyms can feel tedious. Transpose a letter and you’re calling or emailing the wrong person, or government entity.
If you’re paying attention while driving, you’ve noticed USDOT printed on certain vehicles. You’ve probably also wondered what or who USDOT is, right?
USDOT stands for the United States Department of Transportation. No wonder they use an acronym.
Established by the U.S. Government back in 1966, USDOT manages all aspects of modern transportation in this country. Their focus is on keeping us safe when we travel by planes, trains, automobiles—and boats.
Multiple administrations fall under USDOT’s umbrella including:
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
- Office of Inspector General (OIG)
- Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
- Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
- Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC)
- Maritime Administration (MARAD)
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
This isn’t an exhaustive list but gives you an idea of the broad reach of this government organization. And, like most government organizations, they have rules and regulations individuals and businesses follow. Applying for their special number is one of those rules.
Note: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the administration who governs the special numbers.
What Is a USDOT Number Used For?
The FMCSA assigns all Department of Transportation (DOT) numbers. They assign them to commercial vehicles that meet certain criteria.
These vehicles weigh a certain amount and carry a specific number of passengers. By the way, the passengers aren’t hitching a free ride, they’re paying passengers. The mystery deepens!
Let’s simplify things for a minute. Like most government-issued numbers, a DOT number is an identifier. The number identifies a commercial company and the government uses the number to gain access to safety information for that company.
The DOT uses a company’s safety information whenever there’s an accident involving one of the company’s vehicles. They also use the information during safety inspections and audits.
Next time you’re out on the road, look at a commercial vehicle. Many have two DOT numbers on the vehicle. One is the USDOT number, the other is usually the DOT number issued by the state where the company registers its commercial vehicles.
A Department of Transportation (DOT) number is a number the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA assigns to registered commercial vehicles. All carrier vehicles that weigh more than a certain amount, carry specific amounts of paying passengers or operate between state lines require DOT numbers. In most U.S. states, local DOT requirements also apply.
Do You Need a DOT Number?
Now, when someone asks you “what is a USDOT number?” you can answer proudly. But who on earth needs one? Do you?
Unless you drive or plan to drive, a commercial vehicle, you probably don’t need one. If you’re interested in starting a business and transporting people or cargo, you might.
Funny thing about USDOT numbers—there are several nuances about who needs a number and who doesn’t. This can make things challenging for people who want to do the right thing. Here are the main reasons why a company needs a USDOT number.
- Their commercial vehicles travel on interstate routes.
- Their vehicle(s) weighs more than 10,000 lbs.
- They transport 9-15 paying passengers.
- They transport 16 or more non-paying passengers.
- They transport hazardous materials.
Some of this seems a little vague, doesn’t it? We did mention the word nuances. To eliminate some of the confusion, read this informative blog on USDOT numbers.
The Application Process
All first-time applicants must register online through the Unified Registration System. No paper registrations accepted for initial registrations!
- Be prepared! You’ll need the following information when you apply:
- Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Social Security Number (SSN)
- Dun and Bradstreet Number (if you have one)
- Names of Company Officers (titles needed)
We’re only giving you a taste of what you’ll need to apply for your number. If you’re a serious contender, go ahead and visit with the people at the URS online system.
Is It Free?
You pay for your driver’s license. You pay for your vehicle registration. You even pay for a copy of your birth, marriage, and death registrations.
One thing the government doesn’t charge you for is your USDOT number! While that may change in the future, for now, it’s gratis.
Don’t get too excited. If you’re starting or running a business that requires a USDOT number, you’ll have plenty of other opportunities to pay for a range of permits, registrations, licenses, and permits.
Display Your DOT Number Proudly
Be careful how you show off your new DOT number. You can’t just toss it in the glove compartment or under the seat and ride off into the sunset.
The USDOT expects to see your number on both sides of your vehicle. They want to see bold letters and numbers in a color that contrasts with the color of your vehicle. They also have a minimum height requirement: 2 inches tall.
People who need to see your number must be able to view it from 50 feet away.
Whew! Now that’s tedious.
If you don’t want to buy little vinyl sticky letters and numbers and apply them, you can order a magnetic sign with all the required information printed on it. Now, your vehicle is USDOT compliant.
Want to Read More Posts Like This?
Thanks for hanging out and reading about a somewhat dry subject. Hopefully, you found it interesting, if not helpful. At least when your friends ask, what is a USDOT number? you’ll have an answer.
If we ignited your interest in USDOT numbers, check out our archives. We cover a range of topics including business, health, travel, happiness, and our favorite, social media.