What Trucks Need USDOT Numbers, and Why?

A graphic shows a semi tractor unit with appropriate DOT labeling on the door

The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) was established with the mission to ensure our nation has safe, modern, and efficient transport systems, from highways to railroads to public transit. This includes an agency called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that regulates the commercial driving industry in an effort to reduce accident and injury. An essential part of this work is monitoring the commercial vehicles on the road, as well as the companies and independent contractors that own and oversee them. When any company or individual wants to use certain commercial vehicles to transport passengers or cargo, including semis, they must first register for a USDOT number.

What Trucks are Required to Display DOT Numbers?

Under Federal law, any truck or vehicle that is involved in interstate commerce (whether trade or transportation) must have a USDOT number when one or more of these standards apply:

  • The vehicle needs a safety permit to transport hazardous materials, whether in the state or between states.
  • The vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more.
  • The vehicle will carry 8 or more passengers for payment (this number includes the driver).
  • The vehicle is used to carry more than 15 passengers (including the driver) without payment.

No matter how many trucks are owned by a company, they will all have the same USDOT number. This is because the number is used to track accident investigations, inspections, audits, and compliance with USDOT regulations. The USDOT number means a company or independent contractor can be evaluated easily and that information about compliance and operations is open to the public.

Every 24 months the carrier is required to file reports with the USDOT for their number to continue to be valid. A truck accident attorney will not only confirm the number is still valid but will also look through the USDOT records to find any issues of noncompliance that may have contributed to an accident with a semi or other commercial vehicle.

Does Indiana Require All Commercial Vehicles to Display DOT Numbers?

Beyond the Federal requirements for USDOT commercial truck registration, Indiana requires all commercial vehicles to have either a USDOT number or an Indiana ID number. You must register for an Indiana ID Number if:

  • The vehicle-for-hire transports 8 or fewer passengers.
  • The vehicle weighs less than 10,001 pounds and carries general freight.

In this way, the Indiana state laws cover the commercial vehicles that would not be covered by the FMCSA regulations. An Indiana personal injury attorney can help you figure out which classification applies to the commercial vehicle in your accident.

USDOT Truck and Commercial Vehicle Marking Requirements

Information so that the truck can be identified must be visible on the commercial vehicle for it to be legally operated. There are three types of information that can be displayed depending on the type of vehicle and how it is registered:

  • The legal name or single trade name of the motor carrier operating the vehicle, as long as this name matches what is filed with the USDOT or the State of Indiana.
  • For interstate vehicles, the federal number that was issued by the FMCSA, that must be preceded by the letters “USDOT.”
  • For intrastate vehicles, the Indiana ID number that was issued by Indiana Department of Revenue, preceded by the letters “USDOT” and followed by the letters “IN.”

These markings are traditionally put on both doors of the commercial vehicle. The USDOT requires that this information be displayed on both sides of the vehicle. The information must be in bold or contrasting colors to the vehicle paint, so it is easy to read. The lettering height must be a minimum of 2” tall so it can be seen from 50 feet away.

How Can I Check a USDOT Number or Indiana ID?

The USDOT and FMCSA have established a few ways you can personally find out about the history associated with any USDOT number. The easiest method is to use the Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) System. This allows you to search by number or by the registered name of the carrier. You can also call the FMCSA Customer Service line. All this information may give you more reassurance about your case, but these details should definitely be discussed with a trucking accident attorney.  Semi accident attorneys can request additional records like timesheets, health evaluations, and detailed maintenance records that can better establish if negligence contributed to your injury in a truck accident.

There is no public method to check the record of a commercial carrier with only an Indiana ID number. Your Indiana truck crash lawyer will follow up on the records of commercial vehicles that operate within the state and weigh less than 10,001 pounds, or transport eight passengers or less.

Not every commercial vehicle accident is caused by negligence, but semi accident injury attorneys know the right questions to ask and how to obtain physical evidence when negligence has occurred. If you were injured in a truck accident and want to regain peace of mind, Cline Farrell Christie Lee & Bell will help you. For over 25 years our firm has worked to represent individuals permanently affected by injuries and wrongful death caused by the negligence of others. From hearing your story to fighting for you in court, our Indiana semi accident attorneys want to help you.