New guidance could help avoid cases of mistaken identity

By: Daren Hansen

Publication: Transportation Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 08/18/2021

Misidentified on a roadside inspection report?

Has your company ever been misidentified on a roadside inspection report? It happens more than you might think. So often, in fact, that there’s new guidance to help inspectors avoid the problem.

And it IS a problem, especially with leased drivers or vehicles. Violations shown on a roadside inspection report will be held against the motor carrier listed on the report, potentially resulting in a negative impact to their CSA scores, fines, lost contracts, more inspections, higher insurance, and/or a DOT audit.

The motor carrier is the entity contracted to move the load from one place to the next, not necessarily the vehicle owner or the leasing company whose name is on the door.

CVSA steps in

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), which represents commercial vehicle enforcement officers, has issued new recommendations to help officers properly identify the responsible motor carrier.

The guidance says officers should never use just one source of information, such as the name on the side of the vehicle. Other sources include:

  • Vehicle registration, insurance, and rental agreement
  • Shipping documents and driver logs
  • Proof of annual inspection
  • A driver interview

If the identity of the responsible motor carrier still isn’t obvious, inspectors are even advised to check the driver’s clothing for a company name, the company’s social media sites, business directories, or other internet resources. They may even call the shipper.

Make your drivers aware that if an inspector asks a series of questions about who they work for, where the company is located, who issues their paycheck, etc., it’s likely a way to properly identify the motor carrier.

It starts with proper markings

Federal regulations require that all commercial motor vehicles be marked with the USDOT number and name of the motor carrier. That’s usually where the inspector will start when trying to identify the carrier.

Make sure your vehicles are properly marked. Both sides of each power unit must be marked with the carrier’s:

  • DOT number: The U.S. DOT number of the responsible carrier.
  • Name: Either the legal name OR a single trade or DBA (doing business as) name chosen from those listed on the carrier’s MCS-150 registration form. If you display any other name, you must add the words “Operated by” in front of the name of the operating carrier.
Multiple DBAs?

If you have multiple DBA names listed on the MCS-150, they may not all fit in the DOT database that inspectors use during a roadside inspection. Therefore, if you mark a vehicle with one of those DBA names, the officer may not be able to verify that it belongs to you. In that case, the CVSA recommends that your drivers carry a document listing all the DBAs your company uses.


If you rent a vehicle for 30 days or less and it’s marked with the rental company’s information, you don’t have to mark it with yours as long as your driver carries the rental agreement identifying your company.

Use DataQs to fight bad data

You can use the online DataQs system to challenge violations or crashes that don’t belong to you, at You have the option to specify that a crash or inspection report is “not mine.” Be sure to provide evidence that supports your case, such as a lease agreement, shipping documents, or a sworn statement from the responsible carrier.

The CVSA guidance may be found online at

Key to remember: New guidance for inspectors aids in determining who the motor carrier is during a roadside inspection. Help avoid confusion by making sure your vehicles are properly marked, and use DataQs to challenge mis-assigned violations.

About the author
Daren Hansen - Transportation Safety Editor

Based on his expertise in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Daren is responsible for writing and editing content for safety-related products, publications, and services for the trucking industry.

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