(406) 300-4044

FMCSA Operating Authority – MC Number

Step by Step Guide to Getting Your Operating Authority

1. Determine If You Need Operating Authority

If you can answer yes to one of the following, you DO NOT need Operating Authority:

  • I am a private carrier
  • I am a for-hire carrier hauling exempt commodities (goods not regulated by the government)
  • I operate exclusively in a federally designated zone exempt from interstate authority

If you do not fall into one of the above categories and you are engaged in interstate commerce, you’ll need Operating Authority.

If you haul hazardous materials, you need Operating Authority, no matter where you travel.

Note: If your cargo crosses state lines, you are engaged in interstate commerce, even if your own trucks never do.

2. Determine Which Authority You Need (And What Form)

The type of authority you need depends on what you haul and where you haul it. Check the various types of authority to see where your business fits.

OP-1 Motor Carrier and Broker Authority Form
  • Motor Common Carrier of Property (except Household Goods)
  • Motor Contract Carrier of Property (except HG)
  • Motor Common Carrier of Household Goods
  • Motor Contract Carrier of Household Goods
  • Broker of Property (except HG)
  • Broker of Household Goods
  • US-based Enterprise Carrier of International Cargo (except HG)
  • US-based Enterprise Carrier of International Household Goods
OP-1(P) Motor Passenger Carrier Authority Form
  • Charter and Special Transportation (in interstate or foreign commerce, between points in the US)
  • Charter and Special Transportation (between points in the US, provided by US-based enterprises owned or controlled by persons of Mexico)
  • Service Over Regular Routes (includes authority to transport newspapers, baggage of passengers, express packages and mail in the same motor vehicle with passengers or baggage of passengers in a separate motor vehicle)
  • Service Over Regular Routes (provided by US-based enterprises owned or controlled by persons of Mexico)
  • Intrastate Authority to provide service over regular routes
Mexico based carriers: OP1-(MX) or OP-2 Form
Non-North America-Domiciled motor carriers: OP-1(NNA) Form

3. Fill Out the Proper Form

In order to fill out your paperwork, you will need to answer a series of questions about your business. For the OP-1 Form, which covers the majority of motor carriers, you will need to know the following:

  • Are you Common or Contract?
  • Are you For-Hire or Private?
  • Do you transport Household Goods?
  • Do you carry International Cargo or International HG?
  • Do you transport Hazardous Materials?
  • What is the weight of your vehicle(s)?

4. File Your Application

You can fill out and file your application online with the FMCSA, or you can download your forms, complete them and send them with your application fee.

If you are going to fill out the forms yourself, you will need to send them to one of the following addresses:

Forms Accompanied by Check or Money Order (Standard First Class Mail):

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
PO Box 530226
Atlanta, GA 30353-0226

Forms Accompanied by Check or Money Order (Express Mail Only):

Bank of America
Lockbox #530226
1075 Loop Road
Atlanta, GA 30337

Forms Accompanied by Credit Card Information:

1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, MC-RS
Washington, DC 20590

Operating Authority FAQ

How much does it cost?

Each type of authority costs $300.

Some authorities have no associated fee, such as Private Motor Carriers of Passengers for Non-North America-Domiciled Motor Carriers. The vast majority, however, have an associated fee.

Remember that each authority costs $300, not each form.

How can I pay?

Online with a credit card.

Through the mail by check or money order.

After October 23, 2015 the URS will fully go into effect and all carriers must register online.

How long does it take to process my paperwork?

Online filing takes place immediately, but processing the paperwork takes considerable time.

For property carriers (non-passenger) applications take 20-25 business days.

If you choose to mail in your application instead of utilizing the online system, applications will take 45-60 business days to process.

Household goods or passenger carrier applications, whether filed online or through the mail, take 8 additional weeks for processing.

Operating authority isn’t granted until your BOC-3 form and motor carrier insurance have been submitted and approved.

How do I check the status of my application?

To check your application status, you will need to go to the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) system online.

  • Under the heading FMCSA Searches click on Licensing and Insurance.
  • Enter your MC number or USDOT number and click search.
  • Click HTML.
  • Scroll down and click on Authority History.

What is the URS?

The Unified Registration System is the FMCSA’s new electronic online registration system. It is designed to streamline registration of all carriers operating in the US.

After October 23, 2015 the following will be required to file with the URS:

  • All interstate carriers (including private and for-hire carriers of exempt cargo)
  • Freight forwarders and brokers
  • Intermodal equipment providers
  • Hazardous materials safety permit applicants/holders
  • Cargo tank manufacturing and repair facilities

How does the URS affect me?

The URS will combine all necessary registration forms into a single online system, thereby making it simpler and faster to register with the FMCSA.

For-hire carriers hauling exempt commodities and private carriers will be required to update their BOC-3 process agent designations with the URS.

Can I operate outside my base state now that I have applied for my MC Number?

You cannot transport regulated commodities in interstate commerce (for-hire) without both operating authority and your single-state registration. Applying is not enough to legally qualify you for operation.

If you are transporting exempt commodities and have a USDOT number, you can operate as an exempt for-hire interstate motor carrier without an MC number.

Is it possible to be granted a temporary MC Number?

Only in the case of national disasters or emergency situations.

I made a mistake on my application. Can I get a refund?

Refunds will not be granted on applications for any reason.

My application was dismissed. How can I get it undismissed?

Dismissal usually occurs when insurance and BOC-3 forms are not filed within 120 days from the date of filing your application.

If your application has been dismissed, this means you have not been granted authority.

The procedure for undismissal is as follows:

  • File insurance and BOC-3 properly
  • Fax a written request for undismissal to 202-366-3477 (Attention: Licensing)
  • With your fax, include your MC number, your company name, and a statement requesting your authority be undismissed

Undismissal requests will be considered within one year from the dismissal date.

I changed my name. Do I need to file for a new MC number?

No. Your MC number will remain the same. You will need to file the name change with the FMCSA, and you will receive a re-entitlement decision that you will attach to your original operating authority.

Terminology You May Encounter


A freight broker brings together shippers and motor carriers. Brokers negotiate terms and handle paperwork, facilitating the transportation of cargo/passengers. Similar to a real estate agent, the broker is a middle man between buyer and seller.

Commercial Zone Exemption

Motor carriers operating in specifically designated commercial zones are exempt from needing operating authority. These zones are areas where cities overlap borders or overlap each other, such as metro areas like Washington, DC, Kansas City (which exists in both Missouri and Kansas), and the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Motor carriers operating exclusively in these zones are exempt from needing operating authority if: “the transportation is not part of a continuous carriage or shipment to or from a place outside the municipality, municipalities, or zone, and the carrier provides the transportation in compliance with the laws of each state.”

Common Carrier

For-hire carrier who “holds themselves out to the public.” Common carriers are buses, trains, taxi cabs, cruise ships, etc. that can accessed by the public. Common carriers are not allowed to discriminate against possible clientele. Common carriers generally operate on regular routes and on a regular schedule.

Contract Carrier

Contract carriers offer their services on an individual contract basis. These companies are not open to the public, and their operations are tailored to the specific needs of their clients.

Control Relationships

A relationship between people/companies that includes actual control, legal control, or the power to exercise control. This includes control by means of directors, officers, stockholders, voting trust, holding or investment company, or other means.

For-Hire Motor Carrier

For-hires are carriers that offer their services for payment. This is distinct from a private carrier, which carries only its own goods and cannot be hired to perform transportation services.

Freight Forwarder

Similar to a broker, a freight forwarder generally offers more services to clients. Forwarders can assemble and consolidate shipments, break large shipments apart into smaller shipments, store cargo, prepare bills of lading, manage Customs clearance, and negotiate freight rates with shipping lines.

Household Goods

Goods and personal property that can be moved from one dwelling to another with the sole purpose of being used in that dwelling. This is your couch, your kitchen table, your standing lamp, etc.

Private Carrier

A motor carrier that transports only its own goods (such as WalMart, Coca Cola, etc.)