When starting a new career as an owner/operator truck driver, the number of rules and regulations encountered may feel overwhelming. Failing to follow an important requirement can cause a driver to incur large fines or could cause a loss of license. To safeguard against this, ensure you are well versed on any information provided by your leasing agent (if applicable) or your state’s Department of Transportation (DOT), and make sure you are not missing any important pieces of data or instruction. The following are a few basic rules you should follow:

Federal Owner-Operator Permitting Requirements for Independent Carriers

  • USDOT Number – If your vehicle weighs 10,001 pounds or more, or you will be transporting hazardous materials of any weight, you will need a USDOT number. Your USDOT number must be displayed on both sides of the vehicle along with your legal company name. While the USDOT number is issued for free, it must be updated every two years.

  • Hazardous Materials Permit – If you plan to carry hazardous materials, you will need an FMCSA Hazardous Materials Safety Permit. There is no fee for this, but if you are caught transporting without it, the fees can be steep and could spell the end of your career.

  • MC number – you must obtain an interstate Operating Authority (MC number) in addition to a DOT number. The MC number is requested from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and proves that you carry the minimum amount of bodily injury and property damage insurance required by law.

  • Exempt for hire motor carriage – If you transport goods listed as exempt from federal economic regulation under 49 USC 13506 and 49 CFR 372.115 (generally unprocessed agricultural products), you do not have to obtain federal operating authority from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA). However, most states have registration requirements for operation by interstate and intrastate exempt carriers. Commodities considered exempt from federal economic regulation may not be considered exempt in intrastate transportation. Exempt applies only to federal operating authority; all carriers of exempt commodities are fully subject to USDOT safety regulations, size and weight limits, vehicle licensing and fuel tax.

Federal Owner-Operator Permitting Requirements with a Lease Agreement

When you sign a lease agreement, many of the above requirements can be obtained through the leasing company. However, you will need a solid lease permit to protect you from any potential problems.A good lease permit should:

  • Define who is involved and be signed by the owner and carrier.

  • Identify all equipment involved, including VINs.

  • State that carrier has possession and control of leased vehicle and that it assumes responsibility.

  • Specifies carrier’s obligation to maintain insurance.

  • Specify rate and method of compensation to lessor.

  • Describe loading and unloading terms.

  • State that lessor must operate vehicle lawfully and that lessor has responsibility for fines and penalties.

  • Define maintenance responsibility.

  • Explain expenses that will be charged back to lessor.

  • Prohibit any requirement of lessor to rent or purchase equipment or services as condition of agreement.

  • Indicate that the lessor is an independent contractor and not an employee.

  • Contain further terms under which operations will be performed.

Please note that a number of varying state requirements exist. It is essential to research or speak to someone at your state’s DOT to understand all of the expectations and regulations.

While it is important that you do not accidentally break a law or ignore a regulation, don’t let the legalese overwhelm you. Speak with an expert in the field if you have any additional questions. Sometimes hearing from a “real person” instead of trying to decipher the information yourself can make a big difference. Relax; soon you’ll be sharing your knowledge with others who hope to hit the road as an owner/operator.