The mark of distinction: Commercial motor vehicle marking requirements
Transportation Permit & Tax Regulatory Alert
All your vehicles that operate in interstate commerce and are defined as commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in the federal regulations must display prescribed identification information.
According to 49 CFR §390.5T, a commercial motor vehicle means any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle:
Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating, or gross vehicle weight or gross combination weight, of 10,001 pounds (4,536 kilograms) or more, whichever is greater; or
Is designed or used to transport more than eight passengers (including the driver) for compensation; or
Is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, and is not used to transport passengers for compensation; or
Is used in transporting hazardous material in a quantity requiring placarding.
If your vehicle travels interstate and falls within any one of the four categories listed above, it must have the USDOT number and legal company name displayed on the vehicle as required by the FMCSA marking requirements in 49 CFR §390.21T. Both for-hire and private carriers must comply. Note that transporters of placardable amounts of hazardous materials must comply regardless of weight.
The vehicle marking must show:
The legal name or single trade name of the company operating the vehicle; and
The motor carrier identification number, issued by the FMCSA, preceded by the letters “USDOT.”
The markings must appear on both sides of the vehicle, be in letters that contrast sharply with the colors in the background on which the letters are placed, be readily legible in the daylight from a distance of 50 feet while the vehicle is stationary, and be kept and maintained in a manner that retains this legibility.
Intrastate motor vehicle marking requirements
Vehicles operating solely within a single state are subject to the identification rules of the state of operation. These rules vary widely from state to state.
In many states, for-hire carriers, regardless of weight, must have operating authority and display prescribed identification on the vehicle. Other states require for-hire and private carriers meeting a defined weight threshold to display state-prescribed identification.
Some states may adopt the FMCSA marking rules for their intrastate motor carriers. This means an intrastate-only motor carrier in these states would obtain (and in most cases) display a USDOT number for further identity purposes.
Vehicles in a leasing agreement
If your company has a leasing agreement with another company, or owner-operators, then your company is the authorized carrier lessee and the other party with whom you are leasing is the lessor.
When you, as the lessee, have a leasing agreement with another carrier, that carrier must run under your USDOT number. This is because all leased vehicles/drivers must operate under the acquiring carrier’s operating authority since that party is responsible for operation of the equipment. Section 390.21T(b) requires that the vehicle being leased must be marked with the operating carrier’s legal name (as shown on the MCS-150/MCSA-1) and USDOT number before operating on public highways. If two or more names are on the vehicle, the name and the USDOT number of the operating motor carrier must be preceded by the words ‘‘operated by.’’
Section 390.21T(d) allows the marking to consist of a removable device as long as the removable device meets the requirements of paragraph (c) of this same section. A magnetic sign is the most common form of removable device and is easily obtained at any sign shop.
Rented property-carrying vehicles
Most rented CMVs are already marked with the name and USDOT number of the rental company/owner. Section 390.21T(e) allows the lessor (the person or company who owns the vehicle being leased) to keep its name on the vehicle if the lease or rental agreement is 30 days or less. However, the lessor could insist the lessee display its own name and USDOT number on the vehicle being leased even if the term of the lease is 30 days or less.
If this is a long-term lease (more than 30 days), the lessee acquiring the equipment must display its name and USDOT number by a removable device or sign on both sides of the rented CMV. Whatever you choose, a copy of the rental agreement must be carried inside the vehicle for the duration of the lease. This must be done before the vehicle is operated on public roads.
Remember, your USDOT number identifies your company and your company only. Using another carrier’s identity, even if by accident, can cause violations leading to fines that could severely hamper your business.
Your USDOT number is your “Mark of Distinction.”
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