What is a USDOT Number?

USDOT stands for United States Department of Transportation, and under this department lies the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA. This agency of the DOT is in charge of maintaining the safety of all commercial vehicles such as moving vehicles currently driving on the streets and highways. In order to keep track of all the thousands of commercial vehicles operating in our nation, each driver must register with the FMCSA, apply for and be issued a DOT number. This number provides a unique way of identifying all commercial drivers and vehicles in order to collect safety information.  In addition to this, 31 of the 50 states also require a DOT number in order to get a commercial vehicle registration in that state.

First-time applications are required to pass a safety audit and to maintain safe roadside performance over an 18-month period before they receive a permanent registration.  This gives the added security of knowing that a carrier/driver keeps following the rules and regulations after they have been on the road for a while. Every truck over a certain weight, every truck that travels between one state and another and every commercial vehicle that carries people (sightseeing buses for instance) must have a number. Any vehicle, regardless of size, that carries hazardous materials must also have a number.

USDOT numbers are a very good thing for many reasons. It allows the Department Of Transportation to keep track of what moving trucks, drivers and cargo is on the highway.  It allows the FMCSA to track the records of moving companies and drivers to make sure they are complying with all safety laws. It also allows states to control the trucks, drivers and cargo that are entering their state. You certainly do not want an unregistered truck carrying 5,000 pounds of hazardous gas driving around your state or city without the proper safety regulations in place. If a particular company or driver has had accidents, equipment problems or things like that, it allows the FMCSA to track that and take appropriate action.

Another wonderful thing about a USDOT number is that it must be displayed prominently on every moving truck or carrier that requires one. This allows the average driver to take note of the number of a driver who is not driving safely, or a truck that does not have safe equipment. There are many places on the Internet and on the FMCSA website where anyone can look up the name of the company that a particular USDOT sticker belongs to, and report dangerous or suspicious activities to them. This is an excellent safeguard, because the average driver on the highway is more likely to spot problems with commercial moving vehicles and drivers than, say, the highway patrol, who cannot be everywhere to see any infractions or dangerous driving. 

So all in all, although many truck drivers do complain about all the rules and regulations they must adhere to regarding the USDOT, it is an excellent way for the federal government to keep track of what is being driven, and by whom, on our nation’s highways.