Operating Authority

Operating authority can be understood as the legal right of a motor carrier to operate a commercial motor vehicle across the United States for the following purposes:

Three Types Of Operating Authorities

The operating authority (MC/FF/MX) numbers are also known as docket numbers.

Determine Whether You Need Operating Authority Or Not

To be able to determine whether you need an operating authority or not, you will have to answer the following questions:

If the answer is yes, you do not need any operating authorities. However, if you do not fall in any of the categories as mentioned above, you will be classified as an entity involved in interstate commerce. Therefore, you will need operating authority.

Note: If you deal with hazardous materials, you will need operating authority regardless of where you travel across the country.

Remember, if your cargo crosses the state lines, whether it is loaded on your trucks or not - you are engaged in interstate commerce.

Motor Carrier (MC) Number

MC Number is required if you are going to engage in interstate commerce (i.e., crossing state lines and transporting property). The following are required to have interstate Operating Authority (MC number) in addition to a DOT Number:


a) Businesses that transport passengers in interstate commerce for a fee or other compensation. This could be direct or indirect.


b) If the transport involves federally-regulated commodities that are owned by others or require arranging for their transport again for a fee or other compensation in interstate commerce, then you need an MC Number.


MC Number is used to identify a carrier that transports regulated commodities for hire in interstate commerce. Mostly it is related to the items that have been changed from their natural state and are regarded as regulated commodities by the FMCSA that require an MC Number.

Mexican Carrier (MX) Number

“MX” is a prefix for a motor carrier that is owned or controlled by a citizen of Mexico. It is usually in respect to a person who is domiciled in Mexico.


The operating authority (MC/FF/MX Number) is also known as docket numbers.


According to FMCSA, “Mexico-domiciled motor carrier that enters the U.S. must have an FMCSA-assigned MX Number, a valid FMCSA Certificate of Registration for commercial-zone operations, or long-haul Provisional or Standard Operating Authority Registration, and a U.S. DOT Number regardless of the distance traveled into the U.S.”


It is also assigned to brokers and interstate for-hire motor carriers that apply for operating authority. The time it takes to obtain an MX Number also varies depending on when the application is submitted. It also depends on how the application is submitted. One also needs to refer to the guidelines enlisted as per Unified Registration System and what comes under Commercial Zone Authority.

Freight Forwarder (FF) Number

FF Number is issued to Freight Forwarders whereas brokers and carriers are issued MC Numbers. Since Freight Forwarders cannot transport freight from one state to another as there is no provision for Freight Forwarders to obtain single state registration.

Freight forwarders have the responsibility of arranging the transportation of goods by FMCSA-licensed carriers. Therefore, Freight forwarders issue bills of lading to shippers and are responsible for the loss of or damage to the goods! Freight forwarders are thus required to register with FMCSA. When FMCSA Operating Authority grants permission to a freight forwarder to arrange for interstate or foreign commerce then FF Number is issued. Forwarders must register with FHWA by filing a Form OP-1 (FF).

Broker Authority

A broker authority is for an individual, partnership, or corporation that arranges the transportation of belonging to others by using an authorized Motor Carrier (MC) number.


Types of Broker Authority:

Things to keep in mind while getting Broker Authority:

Note- A broker does not assume responsibility for the property and never takes possession of it.

Mexican Certificate of Registration

Mexican Certificate Registration allows every Mexico-domiciled public motor carrier and private motor carrier to transport freight in commerce from Mexico within a 20-mile radius of the US border.

Below are the forms to be completed to obtain the US DOT number and operating authority registration:

Note: This form is not to be filed if a business is domiciled in the United States and the owner or person who controls the business is a Mexican citizen.

Revocation of Operating Authority

Revocation of Operating Authority means when an existing motor carrier, broker, or freight forwarder is no longer operating.

When an individual, partnership, or corporation has suspended its operations and now they no longer want to be an operator, then they can opt-in for Voluntary Revocation.

Understanding Which Operating Authority Suits You

The type of authority you require depends on your category , as shown from the list below:

  • Motor Carrier Authority for household goods
  • Broker Of Property except for household goods
  • Broker Of Household Goods
  • United States-Based Enterprise Carrier Of International Cargo (household goods not included)
  • Freight Forwarder Authority
  • Motor Passenger Carrier Authority
  • Non-North American Domiciled Motor Carriers
DOT Service

The Difference Between Interstate And Intrastate Operating Authority

When you operate a commercial vehicle in the United States, you require interstate operating authority. Operating authority gives you a legal right to do business, transport, or arrange to transport goods and/or passengers. The federal motor carrier safety administration administers the interstate operating authority, generally referred to as your MC Number.

Intrastate operating authority is your legal right to operate all your commercial vehicles to transport goods and passengers within a state and its borders. Remember, each state has different rules and regulations with regard to intrastate transportation. If you are working within the state, you need proper registration for your U.S. DOT Number or just your intrastate operating authority.

Operating Without An Authority? - Know The Risks

If you have been operating without operating authority or beyond the scope of your authority, you can be put out of service by the FMSCA. You may also be subject to several fines.

Applying For Your MC Number

You can apply for your new MC Number, which will generally take 20 business days to complete. Once you have applied for the MC Number, you will be published in the federal registry.

To successfully obtain your MC Number, you must complete certain additional requirements as well, such as filing your BOC-3 process agent designation, surety bond, insurance, and more.

You are generally granted at least 80 business days to comply with these requirements. Failure to do so may result in the dismissal of your application, and you may have to pay an additional amount for another MC Number or operating authority.

The best way is to get in touch with a third-party service provider or agency that can help you get your MC Number quickly and easily.