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MC Number Lookup and Why It Should Be a Consideration When Hiring a Carrier

By far, a freight broker’s greatest exposure to risk comes in the carrier selection process, and the primary liability issue they face stems from negligent carrier selection.  One of the industry standard building blocks for carrier selection when moving interstate freight is an MC number lookup to confirm active FMCSA operating authority. But, what is an MC number and why do they exist?

Any company that transports or arranges for transport of passengers or federally-regulated commodities in interstate commerce is required to have an active operating authority through a Motor Carrier (MC) number. For clarification, generally, items that have been changed from their natural state are considered regulated commodities.  MC numbers are issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). They allow carriers to cross state lines and freight brokers and forwarders to arrange interstate transport while also providing assurances that levels of insurance and financial responsibilities have been met.

An MC number is issued in addition to a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT or DOT) number, but unlike USDOT numbers, an owner-operator, freight broker or carrier may need multiple FMCSA operating authority number designations. Most are prefixed with an “MC” (for motor carrier), but prefixes also exist for “MX” (motor carriers controlled by a person or company in Mexico) and “FF” (freight forwarder). The MC, MX, and FF designations identify the type of operation a company may run and the cargo that a company can transport across state lines and on highways.

Private carriers who are moving their own cargo, “for-hire” carriers hauling commodities that aren’t federally regulated, and carriers operating in a federally designated commercial zone are not required to have operating authority. Other regulations may apply, so make sure you’ve done your research.  

As mentioned earlier, the building blocks for carrier selection when moving interstate freight include an active DOT number and active FMCSA operating authority. Doing an MC number lookup on the FMCSA’s Licensing and Insurance website validates active authority status and provides visibility as to whether the carrier has sufficient Bodily Injury Property Damage (BIPD) insurance on file, and which insurance provider writes the coverage. The carrier should not be currently Out-of-Service and should not have a DOT Safety Rating of Unsatisfactory. Verification of these basic requirements can be manually executed at FMCSA’s Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) System website or automated with technology like SaferWatch.com.

The SAFER website also provides a Company Snapshot which is a “concise electronic record of a company’s identification, size, commodity information, and safety record, including the DOT safety rating (if any), a roadside out-of-service inspection summary, and crash information.” Anyone contracting with a new carrier or business can search the SAFER database to make sure a truck driver and the company they work for is in compliance with federal regulations – an important part of freight management.

Checking the SAFER website for a carrier’s active operating authority status is only one of the many things that must be reviewed when vetting a new carrier, and that’s when tools like SaferWatch are helpful.

SaferWatch accesses a number of databases (including those created by the FMCSA and DOT), aggregates the data available from those websites, and delivers it into one simple, easy-to-read overview. It also provides CSA-e percentile scores which are comparable to the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores which were once provided to the public through the FMCSA. SaferWatch automates carrier selection rules for a seamless carrier onboarding process which means brokers and shippers save time and money vetting carriers.

Users can also use SaferWatch to automatically monitor and keep track of safety and compliance for all of their preferred carriers. That means there’s no need to worry about keeping certificates of insurance updated, or if there’s safety concerns or compliance issues that come up with carriers.

If you think SaferWatch may be able to help you grow your business, or if you’re interested in learning more about it, contact us for more information.