Can I GET a DOT Number and MC Number Without a Truck?

white semi truck driving on a road

Last Updated March 1, 2024

For individuals breaking into the trucking industry in hopes of becoming successful owner-operators, it is essential to familiarize yourself with DOT numbers and MC numbers.

These are important credentials to obtain, necessary for the majority of trucking business owners. However, if you’re still in the early stages of drafting your business plan, you might be wondering if you can get a DOT number and MC number without already owning a truck. Don’t worry – it’s common for an owner-operator to find him or herself ready to apply for these numbers but not yet own a commercial vehicle.

Before answering the ever-important question of whether you can get a DOT number and MC number without a truck, let’s first recap what these credentials are and why they’re so important.

What Is a DOT Number?

A DOT number, also called a USDOT number, is given by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). A DOT number is a unique identifier used to manage safety information related to commercial vehicles, such as safety inspections and crash investigations. These numbers are assigned to nearly all registered companies that operate commercial vehicles.

Do I Need a DOT Number?

A company that is looking to operate commercial vehicles transporting people or cargo in interstate commerce must have a DOT number. So if you’re planning on operating your truck across state lines, you’ll need to apply for one.

But even beyond this federal regulation, many states also require a DOT number for intrastate commerce (transportation of goods within state lines), so make sure you’re following your state’s guidelines.

Can I Get a DOT Number Without a Truck?

The short answer? Yes. Even if you do not own or lease a truck yet, you can apply for a DOT number. This preliminary step can streamline subsequent regulatory and compliance paperwork, so you will be in a better position once your trucks are ready to roll.

Plus, establishing your DOT number early may enhance your operational preparedness, facilitate smoother partnerships with shippers, and ensure that you’re fully primed to hit the road running when your vehicles are finally in place.

Engaging in such early business planning is not mere foresight – it’s an investment into seamless future operations.

What Is an MC Number?

An MC number, or motor carrier number, refers to the authority granted by the FMCSA to operate as a motor carrier. When you hear about trucking companies that “operate under their own authority,” this largely refers to companies that have been granted MC numbers by the FMCSA.

Do I Need an MC Number?

Companies that operate as for-hire carriers, transport passengers in interstate commerce, or transport federally regulated commodities in interstate commerce are required to have MC numbers.

Examples of when an MC number may not be required include:

  • Companies that operate solely within a single state
  • Private carriers that transport their own goods and cargo
  • “For-hire” carriers that exclusively haul cargo that is not federally regulated

Regardless, you should always verify if you will need an MC number, as there can be other specific exemptions.

Can I Get an MC Number Without a Truck?

Yes. Just as with a DOT number, you can also get an MC number without a truck. However, keep in mind that while you can obtain your MC number, you cannot obtain your MC authority (also called your “operating authority” or “trucking authority”) without having a truck. This is because you must have carrier insurance to obtain your authority, and most insurance companies require you have a truck to tie the insurance to. Until you obtain insurance, your MC number will remain inactive.

Your Next Steps After Getting a DOT and MC Number

Obtaining necessary credentials like a DOT number and MC number is just one step of many when starting your trucking business. Below are a few more steps to remember when you’re kicking off your trucking venture.

Ensure Complete Compliance

Your owner-operator compliance checklist doesn’t end with securing these credentials. Because the trucking industry is highly regulated, there are several legal requirements that you must meet to operate your trucking company. Below is a list of a few of the requirements, but be sure to do through research to make sure you meet the full compliance regulations:

Acquire Insurance

To obtain your trucking authority, which is required for most businesses that operate commercial vehicles, you must get the proper insurance. Before your MC number is activated, you’ll need to get trucking insurance that meets the auto liability/BIPD and cargo insurance minimums, which are seen below:

  • Auto liability/BIPD: $750,000 (or $300,000 for non-hazardous freight moved in vehicles that weigh less than 10,0001 pounds)
  • Cargo insurance: $5,000 per vehicle, $10,000 per occurrence

Keep in mind that you typically need to have a truck in order to acquire commercial vehicle insurance.

Have a Plan to Raise Funds for Your Business

Becoming an owner-operator can lead to a lucrative career, but it doesn’t come without its initial challenges, such as obtaining financing for your trucking business.

Many new owner-operators might consider a traditional bank loan, but unfortunately, many new business owners don’t have the creditworthiness to qualify for a standard loan. Therefore, look into alternative financing solutions, such as freight factoring, to improve your cash flow and create smoother operations.

How altLINE Can Help Your Trucking Business

Beginning your journey in the trucking industry requires not only understanding compliance and strategic planning but also knowing how to establish a steady financial footing.

altLINE offers freight factoring, an alternative financing solution that helps you access cash when you need it most. Instead of waiting 30, 60, or even 90 days for brokers and shippers to pay their invoices, you can work with altLINE to get same-day funding.

Interested in accessing more working capital? You can fill out our free quote form or call one of our representatives at 205-590-9471 to get further details on how altLINE can help grow your trucking business.