UCR registration should be back on track

The Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) enrollment period for 2021 is set to begin on October 1, 2020. This should put vehicle registration with the program back on track after several years of delays to the enrollment start date.

Behind the scenes changes for UCR program 2021

Under the UCR program, interstate carriers must register each year. Registration is slated to open October 1 for the upcoming registration year (which is the same as a calendar year). However, registration can’t begin until registration fees are approved by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Over the past several years, fee approval has been delayed. The UCR board acknowledges that this has caused confusion and frustration on the part of motor carriers and law enforcement. Also noting that the approval process can take up to 12 months, the board has made changes to its process, creating a timeline that should allow fee approval each year by October 1.

Who must register for UCR?

All interstate carriers operating under the following categories are subject to UCR:

  • Property carriers (both for-hire and private)
  • For-hire passenger carriers
  • Freight forwarders
  • Brokers
  • Leasing companies that lease vehicles (but not drivers) to interstate carriers or freight forwarders

Keep in mind, however, UCR also applies to non-U.S. companies; carriers based in Canada or Mexico with trucks operating in the United States are also required to register under UCR.

MCS-150 data a factor in UCR fees

Carrier fees are determined by fleet size. The UCR plan requires participating states to perform audits each year. One of the reference points used to determine whether carriers have paid the correct amount is the number of vehicles listed on the MCS-150 form. So, it’s a good idea to make sure your vehicle count on your MCS-150 filing is accurate and kept up to date.

‘I thought we just paid’

If it seems as though you just went through this process to pay your yearly fee, you may be right. Registration for 2020 didn’t open until February 13. The COVID-19 pandemic further delayed the enrollment and enforcement period, giving carriers until July 1 to register.

While this déjà vu experience may be unpleasant or inconvenient, the process change put in place by the UCR board should alleviate the need to have to pay the fees in the future with such a quick turnaround.

How do I register for UCR?

Registration information and e-filing is available for all carriers at the UCR website, ucr.gov. You can also use a third-party to help manage your UCR compliance; for example, J. J. Keller offers a UCR management service: jjkeller.com/ucr.

Your state doesn’t participate in UCR?

Even though your state may not participate in the UCR program, all qualified interstate carriers are still subject to UCR fees. States currently not participating are:

  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming

Carriers based in these states should refer to the UCR guidance on how to choose a base state with which to register.

Key to remember: With a new UCR-board process in place, fees should be approved by the time the UCR registration period opens on October 1 each year.