Truck lawyer tip: Obtain truck company’s Form OP-1/OP-2 application to operate; Form MCS-150 application for US DOT number
Obtaining a commercial carrier’s application for permission to operate can be done by FOIA request, and can reveal helpful information during litigation
Based upon my recent personal injury seminar with Goldberg, State Bar Headquarters: “How to Increase the Value of Trucking Cases,” I’d like to discuss how a trucking company or other motor carrier actually obtains authorization to operate in interstate transportation. Generally, under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), every carrier must file a form in the OP-1, or OP-2 series, and must obtain a USDOT number by submitting a form MCS-150. There are limited exceptions.
Let’s break down what this means. Before transporting goods, materials or people in any interstate operations in the United States (U.S.), all carriers based in the U.S. or Canada must obtain permission to operate by submitting the appropriate form, or forms, in the OP-1 or OP-2 series. There are limited exceptions to the OP serious requirement where a carrier does not have to file a form.
In addition to this step, truck companies and other commercial carriers must obtain a United States Department of Transportation Number (USDOT number). This number is obtained by filing a Form MCS-150. The appropriate form from the MCS-150 series depends upon the type of business operation, the goods transported (including passengers), and of course, whether or not the freight is a hazardous material.
If the trucking company is hauling hazardous materials, then that company has to file a form 150B to obtain a USDOT number. Other motor carriers not based in the United States or Canada must fill another equivalent form. For example, carriers which are not based in North America must submit a OP-1(NNA) form.
Again, generally, the OP-1 or OP-2, and MCS-150 application for a USDOT number, is required only when the trucking company is operating interstate. But in some states, an MCS-150 registration is required even if the carrier is operating entirely intrastate. These states include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
This is a dense and confusing subject. Many trucking companies or other motor carriers themselves are confused as to which forms within the series they must file. To aid in determining which transport operations need to file which forms, the FMCSA released this matrix. Reviewing this matrix should help a truck lawyer in determining which forms the trucking company was required to file before it began operating.
For a more detailed description of the different kinds of forms and what they are, as well as the FMCSA’s requirements for obtaining operating authority, this guide by the FMCSA is extremely helpful.
The more information truck lawyers have moving forward in litigation, the better. Please do not overlook the importance of obtaining these forms from the FMCSA and the USDOT. They could hold critical information which will help you vindicate the truck accident victims, and hold the bad trucking companies and dangerous truck drivers accountable for the harms they caused.