So you want to start trucking for hire with your pick up truck? Read on.

This is a list of things you will need to obtain before you get started. This is typically aimed at people who will be either working for themselves or perhaps leasing on with another company. Most people will be staying under 26,000 lbs (the CDL limit for most states).

Item Where Cost Notes
Operating Authority (MC Number) $300 one time charge

You need an MC number (aka Operating Authority) if:

  • You are going to be working for yourself (NOT leased onto another company)
  • You are operating interstate (crossing state lines). If you are never leaving your home state, check with your home state for rules and regulations.
  • You will be hauling "for hire." This means you will be hauling other peoples goods. If you are only hauling your own company's goods, you do not need an operating authority.

When signing up, they will ask you what type of carrier you are: I am a "common carrier" this basically means that I do business with anyone. There will be descriptions of each type, but this is what most people will be.

I would strongly suggest that you do not get your MC number until you have insurance lined up, or at least gotten real quotes. You will have a certain amount of time to get all paper work in order once you get your USDOT/MC number otherwise they will deactivate you. Once you are deactivated it's an $80 charge to re-activate. It also involves more paperwork that cannot be done online.

US DOT number FREE

You need a USDOT number if:

  • You are going to be working for yourself (NOT leased onto another company)
  • You are operating interstate (crossing state lines). If you are never leaving your home state, check with your home state for rules and regulations.
  • Regardless of whether you are hauling "for hire" or "not for hire". So, if you need an MC number, then you must get a USDOT number, but not vice versa.

If you are getting an MC number, I would suggest getting the MC and USDOT numbers at the same time. The same warning applies to getting your USDOT number with regard to insurance.

Process Agent/BOC-3 filing OOIDA or elsewhere $45 per year A Process agent is basically someone who the FMCSA has on file who will forward legal papers to you. This is a requirement if you have a USDOT number or an MC number.. Many places will set you up for $55 for a 1 time fee. OOIDA will do this for you for free WITH membership, which costs $45/year. See here for more info.

OOIDA is the Owner Operators and Independent Drivers Association. They are sort of like lobbyists for the "little" guys.
CDL License Your local DMV/MVC Check your licensing state. Depending on your state, if your gross combination weight is more than 26,000 (most states), or if your trailer gross vehicle weight is more than 10,000 (some states?).

Gross combination weight rating is often calculated by adding the GVWR of the power unit (truck) to the GVWR of the trailer.

So a 2003 Dodge Ram 2500 diesel with a 14K gooseneck trailer would have a GCWR of 9000# + 14000# = 23000#. In this case, a CDL is not required in my state.

Some states such as North Carolina for example, will require a CDL if your trailer GVWR is over 10,000 lbs. However, since my licensing state does not require a CDL, it has been my experience that I can travel freely to and through all states, including North Carolina (or other states requiring a CDL if the trailer GVWR is over 10,000 lbs), without a CDL.
Single States Registration Closest SSR participating state $260 per truck per year for all states

NOTE: SSR IS SUSPENDED AS OF NOW. YOU DO NOT NEED TO RENEW YOUR SSR OR SIGN UP IF YOU ARE A NEW CARRIER. I HAVE NO FURTHER INFO ON THIS. All motor carriers authorized to engage in interstate transportation of passengers or property as a common or contract carrier by the Federal Highway Administration (formerly the Interstate Commerce Commission) shall register in the motor carrier's registration state for all states of travel.

Basically, this is another way for the states to get you! You need to sign up and keep the form that they give you (RS-3) on file at your terminal as well as with you in the truck.

At present time about 38 states do SSR. You need to sign up with your state, or the closest state to you that does SSR. For example NJ doesn't do it, so I will register witih NY. They will ask you for your MC #, your USDOT # and proof of insurance. A lot of states will simply check the database to verify your information.

Here is a little more info on the single states registration.

Primary Liability Insurance Your insurance agent ?/year

This is "the" topic! Primarily because it will be one of your largest expenses. Here are the requirements:

$750,000 primary liability for non hazardous commercial vehicles over 10,000 GVWR.

$300,000 for vehicles under 10,001 GVWR.

Hazardous is a whole different ballgame. 5 million liability regardless of weight.

As a "common carrier" (you haul other people's stuff), you also need a minimum of $10,000 of cargo insurance on file.

Price per year will depend entirely on your driving history, skills, background, credit, whether or not you have a CDL, etc.

My best quote has been with Progressive through an agent for about $6000 a year which includes $750,000 primary liability, $25,000 physical damage on my truck and $10,000 on my trailer with $2500 deductibles. An additional $2700 got me $100,000 of cargo insurance.

Your best bet is to speak with a REAL truck insurance broker.

Remember to tell your insurance company or broker that you need Federal insurance filings.

Cargo Insurance Your insurance agent ?/year See above for more info. Cargo coverage for the value of whatever you will be hauling. For a 3 car hauler I am getting $100,000. Minimum required for all "Common" Carriers is $10,000.
DOT Physical Any doctor or outpatient clinic $50

You need a DOT physical every 2 years. Must carry the card on you and keep the long form on file at home. This is one of THE simplest things to do. Here's some more info:

  • They will test your eyesite.
  • They will take a urinalysis (not for drugs).
  • They will make sure you can tell red, green and yellow.
  • They will test your hearing.

Other than that, it is basically a regular old physical.

DOT Inspection   $50-$75 or free? You need to have your truck and trailer inspected every 1 year. You can technically do this yourself if you are qualified. Regardless of whether you do this yourself, or have someone else do it, you need to keep an "inspector qualification form" on file at your home terminal. This basically proves that whomever inspected your truck is qualified. In addition, keep the long form of the actual inspection in the truck, as well as at your terminal. Finally, I put an inspection sticker (short form) on the outside of the truck. The sticker is not a requirement if you have the long form in the truck I don't think but it can't hurt to have both.

Here are the qualifications.
Drug Testing Drug testing CDL drivers only "The requirements for drug testing are if you hold a CDL and drive a truck over 26,000 pounds, then you have to be in a random drug testing program. If those two are not met, then a random drug testing program is not necessary according to DOT regulations."

This is only required for CDL drivers. If you are a CDL driver you need to be drug tested EVEN if you are a 1 man operation. Contact OOIDA for information about joining a drug test consortium.
FMCSA Regulations Rulebook Truck stop $5 Little green book--keep this in your truck. You are required to have access to this.
Vehicle registration Your local DMV/MVC $406 for 26,000 in NJ for truck plus $29 for trailer This will depend on the state. Here in NJ, you have to register the vehicle as "COMMERCIAL" and get commercial plates. In NJ if you are pulling a trailer (especially if you are considered a tractor), your registration weight must be for the total of your truck and trailer, not just the GVWR of the truck. Please note that if you are over 26,000 lbs you have to do IRPA (apportioned plates) and IFTA (see below).
Fire Extinguisher Hardware store, home depot. $15-$25

You must have an "5 B:C" or more mounted and gauged fire extinguisher on your truck or trailer. It can't just be lying in the truck. Wherever it is mounted, it must be marked "FIRE EXTINGUISHER" or "FIRE EXTINGUISHER INSIDE".

See here for complete rules about fire extinguishers.

Safety Triangle Set Ryder Fleet PRoducts $10 You must have a DOT approved safety triangle set. You can pick this up from Ryder Flet Products for cheap!

See here for complete rules.
HOS (Hours of Service) Log Book   $5 Here is the lowdown on log books.

First of all if your GVWR/GCWR is under 10,001 lbs., you are free to drive as much as you want without stopping and without logging.

If you are returning to your home terminal every day and you are not traveling more than 150 nautical miles (1 nautical mile is 1.15 miles) then you do not need to keep a log book, but you do need to keep a "RODS" (Record of Duty Status). If you are over 26,000 lbs, this changes from 150 nautical miles to 100 nautical miles. Here is my "RODS" spreadsheet (Excel format -Right click - Save As).

If you are driving "over the road", i.e. you will not be returning to your home terminal, you must carry an official HOS log book and fill it out every time your status changes.

Regardless of whether or not you are returning to the home terminal, you have to follow the "Hours of Service" regulations.

You must be able to show a 7 (?) day history. I plan on using the computer program DDL for $50, which also includes a drivers daily inspection logbook.
Daily Vehicle Inspection Log Book   $5 You have to do a pre and post trip inspection of your vehicle every day. Keep copy in the truck and another copy at terminal (?). A lot of HOS log books will also have a daily vehicle inspection log in the same thing. This is basically going over your truck to make sure everything works-- lights, brakes, couplers, horn, etc.
Bill of Lading Forms   $5 I believe that you have to have a "Bill of Lading" form filled out, with you, in the truck, for anything that you are hauling (that is not yours?). Can find example online and customize it for your own company and have it photocopied. Click here for some sample bill of lading forms.
Spare bulbs and fuses Local auto store $10 Carry spare fuses for truck and trailer lights. Spare bulbs for same.

See here for complete rules.
Mud Flaps Depends on vehicle model $10-$30 Mud flaps on the rear wheels. Rules change from state to state. Some states require reflective tape on the mudflaps. Some require them to be no more than 4" above the ground, etc.
IRPA     IRPA is International Registration Plan. Basically it is uniformed registration across all states.

You are required to have apportioned plates if you operate in two or more jurisdictions and your vehicle(s) meet one or more of the following requirements:

* the power unit licensing weight is 26,001 lbs., or higher;
* the power unit has more than two axles regardless of licensed weight;
* the power unit is used in combination and the said combination is 26,001 lbs.or higher; or
* the power unit performs commercial intrastate movements in another jurisdiction other than Missouri, regardless of licensed weight.

Please note that a "jurisdiction" is a state. This is from the MO DOT page. MO suggests that you need IRPA if you are interstate regardless of licensed weight however to my knowledge this is not correct. You do not need IRPA unless you are over 26,000 lbs. gcwr/gvwr.
IFTA     IFTA is the International Fuel Tax agreement.

You are required to have an IFTA license if you operate in two or more jurisdictions and the power unit:

* Has two axles and a gross vehicle weight or registered gross vehicle weight of 26,001 lbs. or higher;
* Has three or more axles regardless of weight; or
* Is used in combination and the said combination is 26,001 lbs. or higher.

This is from the MO DOT page.
Truck Lettering Local sign store, or (a little pricey). $50-70 You need to have labeled on both sides of your vehicle, readable from 50 feet while not moving:

Your company name
Home terminal location
US DOT 1234567
MC 1234567

For example mine looks like this:
USDOT 1197216
MC 477464
GCWR 26000

31337 is my truck number. GCWR 26000 specifies my gross combination weight rating.

You might need additional things depending on where you are driving. For example I think in Colorado you have to have the last 8 (?) digits of your VIN?

Also if you are leased, this is different too, but the company you are leasing to should help you out with what is required. You can put this on a removable magnet. iPrint makes the magnets for a reasonable price.
Driver Qualification File / Packet $10 You need to create a file for yourself and have it readily available on file at your home terminal. While this seems a little absurd because "I know my own work and driving history" you need to have it in written form for when you get auditted but the DOT. I got the " Deluxe Driver Qualification File Packets" from for 10 bucks. OOIDA also has these for $7.

Just added! Thanks to one of the guys on hotshothauling for this link, you can get all these forms for FREE from the FMCSA.
Other stuff You might not think about  

Please remember this entire document, while seemingly overwhelming is just the beginning!

Other things you might need:

  • A written maintenance plan for truck and trailer
  • 5th wheel or gooseneck hitch
  • Inverter for powering 110v appliances
  • Printer - If you use an electronic (computer based) HOS/logging program you need to be able to print our your logs. Please note that laser printers may not work or be damaged on a modified sine wave inverter (most cheap inverters are modified sine wave).
  • Business cards
  • CB Radio
  • Laptop Computer
  • Fax machine or fax to e-mail account (I use
  • Tie downs for your cargo or tarps
  • Insurance down payment (can be a good portion of your yearly cost)
  • Cell phone
  • Other taxes/licenses - Other states you travel to/through may require different licenses. For example in NY I need to sign up for the NY HUT (Highway Use Tax). See form TMT-1, TMT-1.1 and TMT-1-I(nstructions), here.

Please send corrections to forhire at