DOT & ELD Guidance Blog

Top 3 Fleet Legalization Compliance Risks & How to Avoid Them

Fleet legalization is more complicated than most carriers think. Take a look at the top 3 FMCSA violations from 2020.

J.J. Keller Senior Editor J.J. Keller Editor

Mark Schedler - Sr. DOT Editor - J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

November 20 , 2020

Fleet legalization is more complicated than most carriers think. And failing to comply with the rules results in compliance risks with serious consequences. Take a look at the top three FMCSA legalization-related violations from 2020:

  1. Inadequate or no financial responsibility - §387.7(a)
  2. State vehicle registration or license plate violation - §392.2(RG)
  3. Failing to mark a CMV with carrier name or USDOT number - §390.21(b)

But you can avoid the top compliance risks that plague some CMV fleets operating in interstate commerce by following these tips:


  • Potential Risks: Incorrectly classifying vehicles as a non-CMV and failing to obtain a USDOT number.
  • Compliance Solutions:
  1. If you operate CMVs in interstate commerce, you must obtain a USDOT number by completing the MCSA-1 form via the Unified Registration System website. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and many states use your DOT number to track your safety record, so update your Motor Carrier Identification Report (MCS-150). Do it once every two years, but more often, if the details in your operation change.
  2. Also, review a list of every fleet vehicle’s weight rating, trailer weight rating, and rated passenger capacity, if applicable, to ensure you have a USDOT number for every regulated vehicle.
  3. Finally, ensure you have marked your vehicles with the DOT number and carrier name (§390.19).


  • Potential Risks: Assuming your vehicles operate under more lenient state regulations when the FMCSA rules apply could result in your vehicles being shut down and fines levied.
  • Compliance Solutions:
  1. Register in the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) program. The annual fees depend on the number of vehicles operated in interstate commerce on your MCS-150.
  2. Designate a BOC-3 agent to receive legal documents in each state where you operate as a for-hire carrier (Part 366).
  3. Scrutinize the nature of your hauls or services offered to ensure which rules and registration processes apply, state or federal.


  • Potential Risks: Failing to obtain the required level of liability insurance could lead to an acute violation during a compliance review and result in your vehicles being shut down.
  • Compliance Solutions:
  1. Make time to meet with your insurance carrier to ensure they understand your operation, especially if there are passengers or hazardous materials hauled.
  2. Ensure that you maintain proof of public liability and property damage insurance levels (§387.9).

Not Sure of Your Vehicle’s Regulatory Registration Requirements?

The questions below will guide you in understanding your vehicle legalization requirements.

Do you operate in interstate or intrastate commerce?

If you answer “Yes” to either of the following questions, you operate in interstate commerce:

  • Did any portion of your movements involve crossing a state or national border?
  • Did the shipper intend for any of your shipments to cross state lines?

If you are involved in interstate commerce, the FMCSA has the authority to enforce its safety regulations.

Are you for-hire or private?

A for-hire carrier is a motor carrier that can haul freight for someone under its authority for compensation. Just one vehicle can make a carrier for-hire, including an owner-operator that hires himself out.

A private carrier hauls only their cargo, tools and equipment.

Are my vehicles considered commercial motor vehicles (CMVs)?

The FMCSA definition of a CMV found in §390.5 is the most widely used.

A vehicle is a CMV if it operates on a highway (any area open to public travel) in interstate commerce with:

  • A weight or rating of 10,001 pounds or more (rated or actual and alone or in combination with a trailer);
  • A manufacturer’s rating of, or is used to haul more than eight passengers for compensation; or more than 15 passengers whether compensated or not, or
  • Any size vehicle carrying placardable hazardous materials.

In short, if you’re operating at least one CMV, then you must comply with rules for driver qualification, hours of service, vehicle inspections and maintenance, equipment specifications, vehicle marking, insurance, and cargo securement unless otherwise exempt.

Learn more about how the Encompass® Platform can help you manage your vehicles’ legalization requirements, registrations, credentials, and renewals. Talk with a compliance specialist.


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