Understanding the Legal and Regulatory Requirements for Owner-Operators

Truck for a hero section

Running your own trucking business comes with a wide range of benefits and advantages over working for a transportation company as a regular driver. However, as an occupation rich in opportunities and financial gain, owner-operator’s business sometimes challenges truckers to adjust to often discomforting and edgy requirements and regulations. Given how complex and burdening some legal regulations may be, truckers get into actual turmoil as they face regulatory requirements when managing their businesses. 

The entire owner-operator legal-based confusion can easily be confronted by the intellectual armory. Knowing the ins and outs of the regulations related to a trucking business does help drivers manage their businesses more effectively and with less trouble. That said, we have prepared the most important and common must-know regulations that every owner-operator should take note of. 

Keep Documentation for 24 Hours 

Based on the hours of service(HOS) rules, there’s a certain number of hours that truckers need to complete without taking a break. And simply following the rules is not enough. Drivers have to support their operational hours with documentation. Today, HOS compliance is considered to be among the most important fleet manager responsibilities. 

Develop the habit of keeping documentation for every 24 hours of duty. Among the documents you need to have, there are bills of lading, itineraries, schedules, and trip records. To make information storing processes more efficient and optimized, try using electronic logging devices as they provide the automatic recording of driving time. 

Complete a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) Daily

By completing a DVIR on a daily basis, you mitigate the risk of experiencing hazardous situations on the road, such as brakes and tire dysfunction and crashes. Once you’ve inspected your truck’s items, you can rest assured that your vehicle is ready to embark on a long and tedious journey. Here’s how the classic DVIR is conducted: 

  1. You review the last DVIR
  2. Take note of defects if there are any 
  3. Fix the defects
  4. As your shift is coming to an end, create a new DVIR

As a rule, DVIRs are kept for 3 months.

Make Sure You Get Good Records at IFTA

Road maintenance is carried out with fuel taxes. This is why fuel taxation is of paramount importance for the US government: authorities are extremely scrupulous about the correspondence between mileage driven and taxes paid. To make sure you’re a law-abiding citizen, you need to license your vehicle with the IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement). This will enable you to submit one fuel tax return every quarter. 

MC Number/Insurance/Authority 

Before you start as an owner-operator and drive down interstates, make sure you have interstate operating authority, which is obtained from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration after drivers submit an OP-1 application, as well as a filing fee costing $300. Also, truckers have to provide the proof of a minimum amount of bodily injury and property damage. 

Consider Drugs and Alcohol Testing Program

Register at a DOT (Department of Transportation Drug and Alcohol Testing) Program. To fully operate as an owner-operator, you need to participate in the DOT testing so that you can support your professional competence and ability to drive safely.

Get a USDOT Number 

If your vehicle weighs around 10,001 pounds or more or if you’re planning to transport hazardous materials, you need to have a USDOT number. Also, note that you have to display your USDOT number on both sides of your vehicle. You don’t have to pay anything for your USDOT number. 

Hazardous Materials Safety Permit 

Trucks often carry hazardous materials that are subject to a number of federal and safety regulations. Thus, the FMCSA has issued a safety permit program for motor carriers who transport any kind of hazardous materials, whereby drivers in question need to possess the FMCSA Hazardous Materials Safety Permit. The permit is free of charge. 

Vehicle Licensing and Fuel Use Tax

Fuel use taxes and the licensing of vehicles are managed by the US government. To operate as an interstate owner-operator and be compliant with the rules and regulations, you need to register your vehicles with the International Fuel Tax Agreement and the International Registration Plan. According to the IFTA and IRP, a “qualified” vehicle is any vehicle having two axles and a gross vehicle weight that exceeds 26,000 pounds.

Intrastate Operation 

If owner-operators provide their services intrastate, the rules they need to follow are established by the state they operate within. The regulations may include fuel use tax, vehicle registration, size/weight, vehicle identification, and operating authority. If a driver wants to work as an intrastate owner-operator, they should ensure compliance with authority registration laws in the state where they operate.