DOT Number: Is your Business operating legally without one?

Authored by Cody Swartz



The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) was signed into existence the fall of 1966. Their mission is to ensure a safe, efficient, and modern transportation system. Their role is without a doubt necessary but can often be tricky for fleet managers that are operating vehicles across state lines. 


What is a DOT number?

A DOT number is an 8 digit number following “US DOT” on the side of a truck. Each company has a different DOT number assigned to them. The code is assigned to registered commercial vehicles by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA.


Why does my company need a DOT number?

If you choose to disregard the rules outlined by the FMCSA, roadside fines ranging from hundreds to several thousands of dollars can be applied. Based upon the infringement, the driver could be personally ticketed or arrested, the vehicle could be towed and impounded. These infractions often lead to more in depth audits that uncover additional violations and supplemental fines. 


Additional reasons for obtaining DOT certification:


  • Improper or nonexistent DOT approval could lead to not only fines, but a potential total shutdown of the business.  
  • DOT numbers make your company and trucks stand out. That number can be used as an identifier as it belongs to you – and you only. 
  • Having a DOT number on the side of your truck establishes credibility. It demonstrates that you are a professional driver abiding by local and federal transportation laws.  


Am I required to have a DOT number?

If you plan on performing any of the following tasks while driving a commercial vehicle, you must apply for a DOT number:


  • If you have a vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,001 pounds or more. 
  • If you are being paid to transport 9 to 15 people.
  • If you are operating a vehicle that can haul 16 or more people. 
  • If you are hauling hazardous materials.
  • If you drive a commercial vehicle on interstate routes.
  • If you are renting a vehicle with a GVWR of over 10,001 pounds for over 28 days without closing the contract.


Why are routine DOT inspections important?

DOT inspections are important because they ensure your vehicle’s reliability. These inspections, although sometimes tedious, are designed to keep everyone on the road safe. Some items that you will need to review for a proper DOT inspection include:


  • Checking all of the lights on the truck (turn signals, brake lights, and marker lights).
  • Analyzing each tire meticulously, checking the tread depth, uneven wear, and bald spots. 
  • Checking the brakes is another necessity. Evaluating the quality of your brakes will vary based upon whether they are hydraulic or air brakes.
    • For hydraulic brakes, pump the brake pedal until it is stiff. Once the pedal is stiff, hold the pedal down to see if you lose any pressure. 
    • For air brakes, you will release the tractor brake and then pump the brake pedal to lose air pressure in the brake line. Once you get down to a low enough pressure, the safety valve will turn on and set the tractor brakes. 


How can I apply for a DOT number?

The actual application process is outlined very well on the FMCSA’s website. If applying for the first time, you can count on writing at least a 300 dollar check. In addition, the actual application could take anywhere between 25 to 90 days for approval.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website provides more information as well as step by step instructions to apply.


Why does renting from City Rent A Truck benefit my company?

  • Using trucks from a third party means that they are responsible for DOT adherence on their trucks. This means you have more time for day to day operations. 
  • The owners of the trucks are oftentimes responsible for preventative maintenance.
  • City Rent A Truck has proven to be a trusted industry leader with a history of DOT compliance. Having a well respected partner with decades of experience alleviates many potential headaches that DOT litigation can create. 
  • City Rent A Truck has all vehicles registered under CDL weight. This means that anyone with a state issued non-commercial driver’s license can take any truck in our product line for personal use. Whether it’s a dump truck, gooseneck trailer, or a 22-foot flatbed with a lift gate, anyone is more than welcome to rent our vehicles.



DOT regulation keeps our roads in good shape, our citizens safe, and business operations dependable. It is important to note that DOT rules can vary extensively from state to state, so it is imperative to remain in the loop for DOT regulation within your home state as well as any other state you plan on traveling to. 


The entire DOT process can be an intimidating one. By reaching out to a truck leasing facility, you minimize your exposure to the legal, clerical, and financial requirements that coincide with the authorization from the Department of Transportation.

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