How To Obtain a Motor Carrier Permit

A motor carrier permit is required of a company, individual or a private corporation to allow its motor carrier to move gear across the state or the country, whether for personal use or for profit. This article gives a simplified version on how to obtain this permit (which is if the reader does not already know, involves a lot of forms).  There may be a form for a bill, a registration, a requirement, an exemption, etc.

A motor carrier refers to semi-trucks and buses while an auto carrier is a more specific type of motor carrier. Usually, this refers to auto racks or railroad cars, which are used to carry cars, vans and trucks.

When to secure a permit

  • A permit is needed if and when:

    • Vehicles are being used to move things for profit, no matter how light or heavy the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is (usually the cut-off is 10,000 pounds)
    • Vehicles are over 10,001 pounds, whether for profit or not
  • A permit is not really needed if:

    • The vehicle(s) comes under the Public Utilities Commission Authority (see Section 5109 of the Public Utilities Code)
    • When the vehicle(s) run with a household goods carrier permit (Section 5137 of the same code)
    • The vehicles (pick-up trucks, buses, etc) not weighing more than 11,500 pounds, or weigh 8,001 pounds if unloaded, with a 9-feet-or-less bed (boxlike) when used for nonprofit purposes; not more than 26,000 pounds if used as rentals
    • The vehicle(s) are and act as utility trailers, camp trailers or trailer coaches
    • Vehicles have been given exemption from registration fees

Secure a state permit

This step varies with every state in the United States. In California, a group of forms should be passed to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) including DMV 706 MCP, DMV 65 MCP, an evidence of an existing Worker's Compensation insurance, etc. Mail these forms once obtained and filled in to the DMV or have them sent via email.

Secure a Department of Transportation number (DOT number)

This is applicable if vehicles are being used across several states or if the vehicles are being made to carry hazardous substances (even if traveling within a state). With a DOT number, the company shall follow federal carrier safety standard procedures and regulations as well as DOT regulations. Please see the DOT website for the general rules and regulations for applying a permit.

Secure a safe and working environment

Rather than just a requirement, this is a necessity to maintain the company's permit.  Drivers shall undergo several seminars to drive a safety carrier; the company shall pay fees depending on the number of power units used as well as whether the vehicles are used privately or not.   Carefully comply with these regulations to continue the operation as well as to maintain safety for the drivers, and the passengers/property.

Special Considerations

  • Seasonal Permits for For-Hire motor carriers. This type of permit lasts from six to eleven months (the usual permit lasts 12 months). Every extension of services will cost about $5.
  • The permit fees are based on the number of vehicles during the time of application or during renewal. The company will not pay fees in-between even if the company has obtained a new vehicle during the whole 12-month period. Rather, additional fees will be paid by the end of this period.

Remember to maintain the motor carrier in tiptop condition. It is as important as the permit itself.


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