The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Transportation whose primary mission is “to prevent crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses”.¹ This mission translates into a large range of programs and thousands of pages of regulations and resources for carriers, drivers, and consumers.
In this section of our FMCSA series, we’ll look at key resources and terms for truck and bus companies looking to comply with federal standards.
The FMCSA website contains a wealth of information. For example, Carriers can find their company profile and safety information on the Registration and Licensing page. Full updated regulations can be viewed and searched through the Regulations page of the FCMSA website. The website also features 94 FAQs specifically relevant to Carriers.
There are thousands of pages of very specific information on the FMCSA website. In 2009 the agency published an easy-to-read guide to the most relevant information: the 162-page A Motor Carrier’s Guide to Improving Highway Safety, a PDF accessible online.
The following terms are essential to understand as a carrier.
Interstate vs. Intrastate Commerce
Interstate commerce describes a vehicle, passengers, or cargo that crosses a state boundary or intends to cross a state boundary. Intrastate commerce occurs within one state.
FMCSR is an acronym for Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation. These are published in the Federal Register and compiled in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), parts 300-399. You can search regulations, rule making documents, and notices on the Regulations page of the FMCSA website.
HMRs are Hazardous Materials Regulations. (HMs are hazardous materials.) Information about HRMs, including the top 20 cargo tank facility violations and minimum levels of financial responsibility, can be found on the Hazardous Materials/Dangerous Goods Regulations page of the FMCSA website.
Motor Carrier Identification Report
Also known as Form MCS- 150, this report is the application for a US DOT number. To apply, you need a PIN, a federal tax ID/EIN, and credit card.
U.S. DOT Number
A U.S. DOT Number is a unique identifier used for monitoring a company’s safety information gathered from audits, compliance reviews, crash investigations, and inspections.² It is required that companies operating CMVs in interstate commerce and companies transporting quantities of HMs requiring a safety permit within a state acquire a DOT Number. You can register online or request a PIN number for registration on the FMCSA website.
A safety audit is an examination of a motor carrier’s operations to assess the carrier’s safety performance and provide help meeting the requirements of FMCSRs and applicable HMRs. They do not result in safety ratings.
Safety Management Controls
Safety management controls are all the ways in which a carrier ensures compliance with relevant safety regulations.
A compliance review is an on-site examination of motor carrier operations to make sure a motor carrier meets the safety fitness standard. A compliance review results in a safety rating.
FMCSA gives an evaluation to interstate commercial motor carriers after a compliance review. Safety ratings are either “satisfactory,” “conditional,” or “unsatisfactory”. Unrated carriers have not received a safety rating.
Interstate Operating Authority
Companies need different types of operating authority for different types of operations and cargo. It dictates the level of insurance and financial responsibilities the company must maintain.³ FMCSA operating authority is also called an “MC,” “FF,” or “MX” number, according to the type of authority registration granted. For-hire carriers, carriers transporting passengers in interstate commerce, and carriers transporting federal-regulated commodities in interstate commerce must have an MC number in addition to a DOT number.
- “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – Page Info.” Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/FMCSA/info/?tab=page_info
- “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.” Federal Register. https://www.federalregister.gov/agencies/federal-motor-carrier-safety-administration
- Wikipedia Article-” Figuring Out the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Regulations: Do They Apply and What to Do if the Answer Is ‘Yes’.” Community Transportation Association. http://web1.ctaa.org/webmodules/webarticles/articlefiles/Texas_FMCSA_issues.pdf
- “Instructions for completing the motor carrier identification report (MCS-150).” FMCSA. http://safer.fmcsa.dot.gov/public/mcs150_instructions.asp
- “Safety Fitness Procedures.” FMCSA. https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/section/385.109