If you’ve got the vision and desire to start a trucking company, now is the time to make that vision reality. Starting any new business can be expensive and time-consuming. You don’t want to get overwhelmed by the paperwork and documentation before you even pick up a load.
That’s where CNS can help! As a leader in the trucking industry, we’ve helped many trucking startups and know what makes new companies successful. We’ve outlined the basic steps you’ll need to take to start a trucking company.
Our specialists can help you avoid getting bogged down in forms, because we take time to learn about your operation and help you become DOT compliant from the start. We won’t over-sell unneeded items or services that don’t ultimately help you get your business on the road.
Let us help you get started.
Step 1: Make a Detailed Financial Plan
A solid business plan will list expenses and revenue expected in your business. Be sure to include your own salary. Costs involved in a trucking startup include tractors, trailers, licensing, and registration costs. Also include the cost of insurance, and data tracking software and services.
The U.S. Small Business Administration website has downloadable templates to create your own business plan.
Step 2: Decide What Kind of Company You Want To Form
You may want a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a limited liability company. Each of these has pros and cons, which vary by state.
To own and run a private company in the United States, you’ll need to form a limited liability company (LLC). This is a business structure that combines pass-through taxation (like a partnership or sole proprietorship), with the limited liability of a corporation.
CNS can prepare and file your LLC application with your home state. Or if you want to start a partnership or sole proprietorship, click here.
Step 3: Obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)
This unique nine-digit number gets assigned to businesses in the United States by the Internal Revenue Service. Use this number to file your business tax returns.
CNS can obtain your EIN on your behalf. Click here to begin obtaining a Federal EIN.
Step 4: Become Compliant with Trucking Safety Regulations
- Obtain a USDOT Number
First be sure you even need a USDOT number. Obtaining a USDOT Number can be confusing and costly. Here’s where CNS can help by getting your number quickly and accurately. Click here to learn more.
- Obtain a Motor Carrier Operating Authority
Companies are required to have interstate operating authority (MC Number) in addition to the DOT Number if they do any of the following tasks:
- Operate as for-hire carriers (for fee or other compensation)
- Transport passengers in interstate commerce (or arrange for their transport)
- Transport federally regulated commodities in interstate commerce (or arrange for their transport)
CNS can file for your MC Number at the same time we apply for your DOT Number.
- File a BOC-3
A BOC-3 is a required United States filing that activates your Motor Carrier Authority. This filing assigns legal agents in the event court papers ever need to be served to your company by an outside state. It is required before federal operating authorities can be granted in the U.S.
CNS, unlike many of our competitors, does not charge an annual fee for a BOC-3 filing.
- Know the Heavy Use Tax (HUT) States
You may need to apply for further credentials if your company drives in the following states:
- New York
- New Mexico
- Plan to File Heavy Highway Use Tax (2290)
A trucking startup needs to be aware of special tax codes and procedures in accordance with State, District of Columbia, Canadian, and Mexican law. When a vehicle has a taxable gross weight of 55,000 pounds or more, the company has to electronically file a HVUT Form 2290.
Once this is filed, you will need to get a stamped copy of your Schedule 1. Companies are required to file all taxable highway motor vehicles registered in your name during the tax period when the truck first operated.
CNS can file your Schedule 1 with the IRS and provide you a stamped E-File copy. Click here to learn more.
- Secure a Unified Carrier Registration (UCR)
The Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) program requires ALL carriers (private, exempt, or for hire) to register their business with a participating state and pay an annual fee that is based on the size of their fleet.
Brokers, freight forwarders, and leasing companies also are required to register and pay a fee, unless they are also operating as a motor carrier.
CNS can complete your UCR filing after you obtain your DOT number. Click here to learn more.
- Get an International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) Sticker
This agreement is between the lower 48 states and Canadian provinces and it simplifies reporting of fuel use by motor carriers operating in multiple jurisdictions. Alaska, Hawaii, and Canadian territories do not participate.
An operating carrier with IFTA receives an IFTA license and two decals for each qualifying vehicle. The carrier files a quarterly fuel tax report. This report determines the net tax or refund due and redistributes taxes from collecting states to states where it is due.
- Obtain an International Registration Plan (IRP) Sticker
This registration gives reciprocity between the United States and Canada without the need for additional registrations. Under this Plan, only one license plate and one cab card is issued for each fleet vehicle.
Step 5: Become Compliant with the FMCSA
Great job! Taking these steps gives you DOT and Operating authority. Now you need to become compliant with the FMCSA. These items need to be maintained through the year.
CNS has reliable, cost-effective packages that keep you compliant and up-to-date.
Step 6: Obtain the Correct Insurance
Different types of insurance are available and often required to cover certain aspects of your trucking company.
- Primary Liability – After applying for an MC Number, you will need to post liability insurance with FMSCA. You must carry at least $750,00 in primary liability coverage to cover damages or injuries from at-fault accidents.
- Cargo Insurance – This insurance covers damage to the freight and/or theft.
- Physical Damage – Provides coverage for truck damage when you are not liable.
- Non-Trucking Use (Bobtail) – Covers liability in accidents that happen when you’re not hauling a load for someone else.
CNS partners with premiere truck/passenger insurance agencies to obtain the best coverage at affordable rates. Click here to learn more.
Step 7: Use a Driver Qualification File (DQF) Service
Trucking companies need to keep impeccable records in the event of an audit. Physical or electronic driver files allow you to pull an MVR report, look at previous employer inquiries, PSP reports and more.
CNS has solutions to keep your Driver Qualification Files up to date with regulations and ready to help you pass an audit. All of our driver files are monitored by actual DQF specialists to ensure documents don’t expire. We communicate personally about soon-to-expire materials to avoid computer overlooks. Click here to learn more.
Step 8: Join the Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Consortium
Anyone holding a Commercial Driver’s License needs to have a pre-employment drug test and be enrolled in a DOT drug and alcohol consortium.
CNS offers a low-cost, DOT-compliant service that covers DOT random testing through the year. Our service gives you a secure portal to track test results. We also have personal representatives to call when you have questions. Click here to learn more.
Step 9: Install a Compliant Electronic Logging Device
Per a 2017 Electronic Logging Device mandate, non-exempt carriers are required to install an FMCSA-registered and compliant electronic logging device.
Today’s ELDs can actually help you grow your business. ELDs offer many fleet management features like diagnostic tools and advanced reporting. With their reports, you can maximize your fleet efficiency and simplify your operations.
Step 10: Make Your Trucking Startup a Reality
We at CNS are excited for your new venture to become reality. We’re here to help you navigate the path towards starting a trucking company.
Our services and compliance specialists are on hand to get you up and running as quickly as possible.
New Venture Part 1. If you are interested in obtaining your own authority, watch this clip outlining what you need to get started. Rob, an account manager for CNS, will give some pointers on what needs to be completed and in what order.
Part 2 will be with Ron Haws Northern Insurance Specialists agency director talking insurance for new ventures.