If you’ve been a truck driver and are ready to take the plunge and become your own independent owner-operator and start a trucking business, we’ve got you covered. We’ve put together this complete checklist of all the items you’ll need to be your own boss. We wrote a long form version of how to start a trucking business so you can read all the details.

Before we begin, we strongly recommend that you do your due diligence to determine if getting an MC Authority is absolutely right for you. As you’re probably already aware, not all owner operators need an authority. Drivers for CloudTrucks can lease onto our authority and make upwards of $17,000 a month without the hassle of obtaining or maintaining an authority as part of our Virtual Carrier package. All you need to do is be approved, download the app, and choose the loads you like. For those who with to maintain their own authority, we offer a Flex program.

Once you’ve made the decision to start your business, these are the steps you need to take to get on the road.

1. State Business Registration

Make your business a distinct legal entity by registering with the Small Business Administration and obtaining a federal tax ID.

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The location of your business and the way you have structured your business will determine how and where you need to register. Obtain your Commercial Drivers License (CDL) – Free to $5,000.

2. Get Your CDL (Licenses) – $0-5,000

Class A CDLs are required for combination tractor-trailers, the primary type of equipment used in the trucking industry.

  • Some companies offer free CDL training and testing in exchange for an employment contract for one to two years.
  • You can obtain your CDL by attending a truck driving school.
  • There are several classes of CDL. Ensure you have the appropriate CDL for the equipment you intend to operate and the freight you plan to transport.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and your local state’s licensing office provide training manuals and additional information at no cost to you.

Certain types of equipment and cargo require special CDL endorsements:

  • Doubles and triples (this endorsement is for transporting two or three trailers in tandem)
  • Tanker (this endorsement is for transporting bulk liquids and gasses in containers that are 119 gallons or larger)
  • Hazmat (this endorsement is for transporting materials classified as hazardous materials by the U.S. Department of Transportation)
  • Passenger (This endorsement is for operating a passenger transport vehicle such as a bus)

3. US DOT and Motor Carrier Authority Number – $300

The USDOT Number is a unique identifier used for collecting and monitoring a company’s safety information. There is no cost associated with obtaining a DOT number.

The MC authority number is a unique identifier assigned by the FMCSA. Trucking companies conducting interstate commerce are required to have one.

The application fee for MC authority is $300.

There may be additional fees with items such as insurance which are required as a part of the operating authority application process.

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To begin your MC authority application, visit the FMCSA’s Unified Registration System.

4. Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) – $59 – 56,977

Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) is a federal fee and registration for companies and individuals conducting interstate commerce. The cost ranges from $59 – $56,977 and is based on fleet size.

5. International Registration Plan (IRP) Tag – $1,500 – 2,000

The International Registration Plan (IRP) is the process for registering for apportioned license plates for commercial vehicles and trailer equipment.

The IRP allows trucks to operate in the U.S. and most Canadian provinces.

The IRP is issued by the state where your company is located. The IRP fee varies from state to state and ranges from $1,500 – $2,000.

6. Heavy Use Tax – $550

Trucks registered for 55,000 lbs or greater gross vehicle weight (GVW) are required to pay the Federal Heavy Highway Vehicle Use Tax (HVUT).

To remain compliant with HVUT trucking companies must file an IRS form 2290.

The maximum cost per vehicle is $550 annually.

7. International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) Decal – $0

The International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) is a fuel license allowing companies to file quarterly fuel use tax returns based on the state the company is headquartered in.

The IFTA includes a decal that must be applied to each truck and must remain current for each calendar year.

To obtain an IFTA decal, apply through your state’s .gov website. There is no cost for obtaining an IFTA decal.

8. BOC-3 Form – $20 – $40

Form BOC-3 is a required part of the MC authority application process.

BOC-3 allows your company to designate a process agent in another state. For example, if your company is headquartered in California but sued in Michigan, the process agent will accept any legal documents issued to you in Michigan.

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BOC-3 is required for each state you operate in.

BOC-3 paperwork must be filed with the FMCSA by a process agent of your choice.

The cost for BOC-3 filing ranges from $20 – $40.

9. Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) – $95

The Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC) is a privately controlled code used for identification of companies primarily engaged in hauling loads that are:

  • Military
  • Government
  • International
  • Intermodal (rail and ship containers)
  • Port cargo
  • Railyard cargo
  • Chemicals/hazardous materials

If you intend on transporting any of the above, visit the National Motor Freight Traffic Association’s (NMFTA) website to register and pay a $95 fee.

10. Insurance – $3,000 to $12,000

Insurance is another requirement for several registrations, including the application for MC authority.

The FMCSA maintains a complete list of insurance requirements.

Your trucking business will need insurance to cover the cost of your equipment and cargo.

Required forms of insurance include:

  • Auto liability
  • Auto physical damage
  • Cargo
  • General liability

If you’re an owner-operator leased onto another company’s authority, the average cost for insurance ranges from $3,000 to $5,000 per truck annually.

If you’re an owner-operator with your own MC authority, the average cost for insurance ranges from $9,000 to $12,000 per truck annually.

Owner-operator startup checklist

FAQs About Starting a Trucking Business

Starting a trucking business takes time and effort but can be an incredibly rewarding and profitable experience for those who take the plunge. If you’re interested in learning more about how Owner-operators can make $17,000 a month driving for CloudTrucks then head over to our Getting Started page.