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 moving of light-, medium-, or heavy-duty units, 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 type of business, you probably need a U.S. DOT number.

Understanding U.S. DOT Number Requirements

First, however, a caution: Regulations and laws change frequently, and each state is different. While all states are required to adhere to federal regulations, individual states may have additional regulations or rules in place related to DOT numbers.

Second, a DOT number is one assigned to commercial 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 serves as a unique identifier when collecting and monitoring a company's safety information acquired during audits, compliance reviews, crash investigations, and inspection.

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 it's 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. 

How to Obtain a U.S. DOT Number?

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

It is the responsibility of motor carrier operators and drivers to know, understand, and comply 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

Editor's Note: Updated Sept. 25, 2020 

Lauren Fletcher

Lauren Fletcher

Executive Editor

Lauren Fletcher has covered the truck fleet industry since 2006 and is the executive editor of Work Truck magazine. With a particular focus on educational, tips and trends pieces in the vocational truck industry, check out her Truck Chat video series or Chatty Chassis blog for more!