One of the most frequent questions we receive at Work Truck is whether a truck requires a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) number. Whether you operate a small fleet of commercial vehicles, including heavy-duty trucks, or are merely the owner of one truck wanting to ensure you adhere to the law, the correct answer can be elusive.

Likely, if you operate a truck that weighs 10,001 pounds or more for any business, you probably need a U.S. DOT number. But what exactly are the U.S. DOT number requirements? 

Understanding U.S. DOT Number Requirements

First, however, a caution: Regulations and laws change frequently, and each state differs. While all states must adhere to federal regulations, individual states may have additional regulations or rules related to U.S. DOT numbers.

Second, a U.S. DOT number is assigned to commercial vehicles (trucks or vans) by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This number is provided based on a few factors, and not all trucks require one. The DOT number is a unique identifier when collecting and monitoring a company's safety information acquired during audits, compliance reviews, crash investigations, and inspections.

Does Your Work Truck Need a U.S. DOT Number?

If you want to know if your truck or vans require a U.S. DOT number, answer the questions below:

  1. Does your vehicle weigh 10,001 pounds gross combination vehicle weight (GCWR) or more? Note, if your truck weighs more than 26,000 pounds, drivers will also need a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
  2. Is the truck designed or used to transport eight or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation?
  3. Is the truck designed or used to transport 15 passengers (including the driver) but not for compensation?
  4. Are you transporting hazardous materials?

If you answered yes to ANY of the questions above AND the truck is involved in interstate commerce, your truck requires a U.S. DOT number. Additionally, of the 50 U.S. states, 37 require a DOT number for intrastate commerce if hauling goods or people for compensation. Check with your local state DOT office for up-to-date information.

Also - don't forget about trailering. Remember, this is all about combined weight ratings so if you are using a 6,000-pound truck and towing at its max capacity of say, 5,000 pounds - the 11,000-pound GCWR now requires a U.S. DOT number. 

These requirements are regardless of whether you own only one truck or 100. While fines and other consequences vary depending on the state, all states are required to abide by this federal regulation.

Additionally, you will only need ONE U.S. DOT number for all of your vehicles. The number is assigned to the company itself and cannot be sold or transferred with vehicle or business sale. 

Are You Exempt from a U.S. DOT Number?

If you're wondering who is exempt from a DOT number, there are a few types of individuals and entities that don't have to, but the list is limited.

According to the FMCSA, these exemptions include:

  • Private carriers that only transport their goods and don't hire commercial drivers.
  • Local delivery businesses that don't travel across state lines (even if they use vehicles over 10,000 lbs.).
  • Government agencies that operate vehicles for official purposes.
  • Non-profit organizations that operate for educational or charitable purposes.
  • Farmers who transport their agricultural products and supplies within a 150 air-mile radius of their farm.
  • Household goods carriers who move personal possessions during a residential relocation. 

How to Obtain a U.S. DOT Number?

Ready to get your DOT number? Contact the FMCSA or your local state DOT office to obtain a U.S. DOT number. Additional requirements may be required beyond just getting a number (such as driver medical exams). Check with your local office for specifics for your state. 

Motor carrier operators and drivers are responsible for knowing, understanding, and complying with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).

Did this help clear up a little confusion or are you still unsure if you require a U.S. DOT number on your truck?

E-mail me and let’s chat!

Lauren Fletcher

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Editor's Note: Originally Published in 2019. Updated August 3, 2023

About the author
Lauren Fletcher

Lauren Fletcher

Executive Editor - Fleet, Trucking & Transportation

Lauren Fletcher is Executive Editor for the Fleet, Trucking & Transportation Group. She has covered the truck fleet industry since 2006. Her bright personality helps lead the team's content strategy and focuses on growth, education, and motivation.

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