If you’re here chances are there’s a move in your future.
And as a diligent consumer, you’re leaving no stone unturned to vet prospective moving companies.
If that’s the case you’re in luck.
Because checking a carrier’s US Department of Transportation (USDOT or DOT) number is one of the best ways to do it.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires trucking companies that meet certain criteria (based on vehicle weight, operating area, and transportation type) to have a DOT number.
And here’s the good news –
You can use the FMCSA’s website to do a free check on any moving company in just a few minutes.
It’s as easy as typing a few numbers into a box and clicking SEARCH.
Stick around, we’ll show you how.
A DOT number is a unique identifier assigned to each motor carrier that transports people (buses) and freight (trucks) across state lines.
DOT numbers are assigned to motor carriers by the FMCSA, and though they’re similar to license plates for cars, they’re tied to tons of important information like:
- Registration dates
- Operating status
- Safety rating
- Accident record
Most moving companies list their DOT numbers on their estimates, websites, and sales material, and they’re required to display them on the commercial vehicles in their fleets as well.
Did You Know…
The FMCSA only regulates interstate carriers, but more than three dozen states require companies engaged in intrastate commerce to have one too.
Why US DOT Numbers Are Important
Perhaps more than most industries, the moving business has its fair share of nefarious companies intent on scamming unwitting consumers.
One way they do this is by passing themselves off as something they’re not.
This is often done by using fake DOT numbers because they know few people will take the time to check.
Moving companies that transport household goods from one state to another are required to have a DOT number.
Not only are they important for carriers, but they’re great tools for customers intent on protecting themselves against hiring a mover that operates illegally, doesn’t have insurance, or has an unsatisfactory safety rating.
It’s Important to Note –
US DOT numbers identify carriers engaged in interstate commerce.
MC (Motor Carrier) numbers identify carriers that transport regulated commodities in intrastate commerce.
Since most movers provide interstate and intrastate moving services, they should have DOT and MC numbers, both of which can be verified on the FMCSA’s website.
How to Check a US DOT Number
Checking a motor carrier’s DOT number using the FMCSA’s SAFER database is fast, easy, and free.
First, go to the FMCSA’s website.
Once there, you’ll see this –
For illustration purposes, we’ve entered the USDOT number for Atlas Van Lines.
You’ll see at the top of the blue box (underlined in red), that if you don’t know a mover’s USDOT number you can use their name or MC number instead.
When you’ve entered the information, click SEARCH.
What to Look For
Once you’ve clicked SEARCH you’ll see the following:
This is the top of a long page that includes all of the company’s relevant information.
Individual sections can be accessed by scrolling up or down or clicking on the links at the top.
The first portion provides basic information that includes:
- Entity Type – in this case, carrier and broker
- USDOT Number – 125550
- Number of Power Units – 2,738
- Out of Service Date – NONE (this means they’re in good standing)
- Number of Drivers – 2,725
Scrolling down you’ll see Operation Classification, Carrier Operation and Cargo Carried sections.
In Atlas’ case, they’re a for-hire carrier engaged in interstate commerce that’s authorized to haul general freight, household goods, and motor vehicles.
How to Check for Crashes and Inspections
To find crash and inspection information you can either scroll down to the section with the heading Inspections/Crashes in US or click the link with the same name in the upper left-hand corner of the search results screen.
Records include reports from states for the previous two years.
They also show how the carrier compares to national averages in each category like Inspection and Out of Service violations for vehicles and drivers.
The bottom chart shows statistics for reportable accidents that resulted in an injury, fatality, or a vehicle being towed.
Note that they include figures for accidents in which the carrier’s trucks were involved, even if they weren’t at fault.
How to Check the Company’s Safety Rating
A company’s safety rating is important because it’s a clear indicator of whether it operates in accordance with DOT and FMCSA regulations.
You can check by clicking the link at the top of the search results page, scrolling to the Safety Rating page, or by clicking the Safety Rating link at the right side of each heading (next to Inspections/Crashes in Canada).
Moving companies can be rated in three ways:
- Satisfactory – this is the highest rating possible, and means that the company is in good standing with both the DOT and FMCSA
- Conditional – with a conditional rating a company may be out of compliance with one or more regulations that aren’t serious enough to warrant disqualifying them as a motor carrier
- Unsatisfactory – this is the lowest rating and means that there are substantial compliance issues
How to Check Insurance
Some information relating to a motor carrier’s insurance can be accessed through the FMCSA’s website.
By clicking the links indicated by the red arrows below, you’ll be taken to a page titled Licensing and Insurance Public.
There you can do a search using DOT, MC numbers, or the company’s name.
Though it’s worth checking out, searches will only tell you whether the company’s insurance is up to date, has been revoked, or if there are any actions pending.
Checking for Complaints
It’s important to note that the DOT and FMCSA’s primary focuses are compliance and public safety.
As a result they’re not the watchdog organizations most people think they are, especially when it comes to complaints made against carriers.
Insider’s Tip: When vetting moving companies, ask for personal references from friends, family and coworkers, and spend ample time online checking out websites with verified customer reviews like Google and Yelp.
Checking for Fraud
Though there’s no “Fraud” section, you can determine whether a company is on the up and up by comparing the information on their paperwork and website with what’s in the FMCSA’s database.
If their DOT or MC numbers aren’t the same, if they have an unsatisfactory safety rating or their insurance has been revoked, you’re better off dismissing them and moving on to other companies.
Also, check things like:
- Do they have an MC or State Carrier ID number to permit them to do local and intrastate moves?
- Is their operating status listed as ACTIVE, OUT OF SERVICE, or NOT AUTHORIZED? – if it’s either of the last two they have problems
Insider’s Tip: Scam movers have a million and one excuses why the information they gave you doesn’t match what you found online, but in almost every instance, it means they’re not a company you want to do business with.
Choose instead a reputable interstate moving company.
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1. What’s an MC Number?
MC numbers identify intrastate carriers that transport regulated commodities like household goods.
2. Who needs to get a USDOT Number?
USDOT Numbers are required by companies that provide interstate transportation services for compensation, operate vehicles over 10,000 pounds GVWR, and transport between 9 and 15 passengers including the driver.
3. How do I search a DOT Number?
You can search a DOT Number on the FMCSA’s website, or if you don’t have one you can use the company’s name or MC Number.
4. Is it hard to do a DOT check?
No, you can do one for free online in less than 5 minutes.
5. What’s the difference between DOT and MC numbers?
According to nd.gov –
“A USDOT number identifies carriers operating in interstate commerce while an MC number identifies a carrier who transports regulated commodities for hire in interstate commerce.”