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What Does an Inactive DOT Number Mean?

Sep 25, 2023
DOT Number
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All carriers operating within the United States need a DOT number to comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association. When you look up your number, you will discover its active status. What does an inactive DOT number mean for a carrier?

If you completed your USDOT number application online, you’re en route to your new number assignment. If you have a number but just learned it is no longer active, you probably want to know why. FMCA Filings answers this and other questions about DOT numbers. 

Why Are DOT Numbers Important?

The FMCSA assigns each carrier a unique identification number called a DOT number. All carriers operating commercial motor vehicles must apply for a number. The FMCSA uses DOT numbers to audit carrier safety compliance. 

If a carrier fails to adhere to safety regulations, it earns safety violations that affect its overall safety score. These violations carry various penalties, leading to eventual revocation of operating authority for repeated offenses. A DOT number can become inactive under some circumstances.

Why Would a DOT Number Become Inactive?

Sometimes, a carrier will voluntarily deactivate its DOT number. Voluntary deactivation usually occurs when the carrier stops transportation services for a few years. As a result, the operator doesn’t submit the required paperwork. Another reason for involuntary inactivity involves the carrier dissolving its business and permanently ceasing operations. 

However, most carriers do not voluntarily deactivate their numbers. Reasons for involuntary deactivation may include the following:

  • Forgone biennial updates: Carriers must apply every two years to keep their numbers active. The required updates offer the opportunity to change information as needed. If the carrier fails to submit the paperwork on time, their number will be deactivated. 
  • New entrant audit failure: When a carrier obtains its permits and registration, it will undergo intense auditing for the first 18 months. DOT officers will conduct new entrant audits. Following these intensive audits, the conducting officer issues a grade. If the carrier fails an audit, they may lose their active status. 
  • Inadequate or inactive insurance coverage: Truckers and carriers need sufficient insurance coverage to protect them and their assets from accidents and other issues. If the FMCSA learns that a carrier has insufficient coverage, it may deactivate the number. 
  • Unpaid IFTA fees: The International Fuel Tax Association ensures carriers pay fuel taxes as required. Failure to pay these fees could result in the FMCSA deactivating a DOT number. 

What Does an Inactive DOT Number Mean?

You know why the FMCSA deactivates numbers. But what does an inactive DOT number mean for the carrier? Inactive DOT numbers typically mean the holders cannot operate commercial vehicles until reactivation. 

If you have concerns about your number’s status, cease operations until you confirm your status. Never operate without an active number. Otherwise, you’ll face penalties, including:

  • Exorbitant fines
  • Operating authority revocation
  • Complete carrier shutdown

These penalties have catastrophic consequences for most carriers and affect their standing within business partnerships. 

Can Your Fleet Operate Without an Active DOT Number?

Your fleet cannot operate without an active DOT number unless you significantly restrict your fleet’s transportation capabilities. You must adhere to the following regulations to legally transport goods without a DOT number:

  • Carry no hazardous cargo.
  • Don’t transport regulated goods across state lines. 
  • Transport no more than 15 passengers without compensation.
  • Transport no more than eight passengers for compensation.
  • Maintain a gross weight of 10,000 or less for each vehicle. 

Checking Your DOT Number’s Status

If you are unsure of your DOT number’s active status, you can check it anytime. The SAFER website lets users quickly search for their numbers in its database. The site will display all associated carrier information, including the active status. 

Use this website for your DOT number or another carrier’s number to confirm their status. If your number is inactive, fill out an MCS-150 to resubmit your carrier information. Once the FMCSA receives your form, it will reactivate your number. 

If the association deactivated your number because of failed safety audits, unpaid fees, or safety violations, contact Federal Motor Carrier Authority Online to learn how to reinstate your DOT number. You may pay fines, submit to further audits, or complete other required assignments to receive an active status again.  

How To Avoid an Inactive DOT Number

Avoid number deactivation with the following methods:

  • Use a digital filing service for permits and document submittals
  • Keep your fleet audit-ready at all times
  • Promptly pay any fees or fines
  • Keep tight records to prevent confusion 

Regular compliance keeps most carriers on the go! 

Update All Permits and Filings With FMCA Filings

What does an inactive DOT number mean? It often means a carrier has failed to submit paperwork in a timely fashion or maintain safety compliance. How long does it take to reactivate a DOT number? FMCA Filings can make the reactivation process much quicker! Contact us today! 

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