Employer Identification Numbers and U.S. Department of Transportation numbers are to businesses and trucking companies what a Social Security number is to the average citizen. These numbers help local, state and federal institutions keep track of who's doing what on the road so that every guy with an old Mack isn't out there calling himself a trucker and causing pileups on the 295.

Step 1.

Determine whether you need a USDOT number. You'll need a USDOT number if you're transporting people or cargo across state lines, if you're transporting placarded hazardous material within state lines and if you operate a commercial vehicle in any state that participates in the Performance and Registration Information Systems Management (PRISM) program.

Step 2.

Do a browser search for "apply USDOT number," and you'll find several links to assist you in acquiring a registration number and operating authority.The direct route is to go right through the FMSCA and fill out an MCS-150 application form; if you're doing this online, you'll need to provide a valid Visa or MasterCard number to verify your identification and act as your signature. Alternately, you can print out the MCS-150 (see Resources) and mail it to the FMSCA at the provided address.

Step 3.

Fill out the information requested in the MCS-150. Among other requested fields, include your actual name, the business name, principal address, mailing address, business phone number, primary cell phone number, fax number, your old USDOT number and MC or MX number (if reapplying or renewing), your Dun and Bradstreet credit background number, employer ID/tax information, email address, mileage traveled for the whole company last year and whether you're running as a standard carrier, hazardous material, inter-state or intra-state carrier.

Step 4.

Apply for your motor carrier operating authority and a few other things while you're getting the USDOT number. The USDOT and MC number are not the same thing; you'll need both to run a trucking company or single truck, and they generally require separate applications. You may also want to consider filling out the MCS-150B (Combined Motor Carrier Identification Report and Hazardous Materials Permit Application), OP-1 (Motor Property Carrier and Broker Authority), the OP-1(MX) (allows you to cross the Mexican border) and MCS82 and MCS-90 (public liability surety bond and endorsement for Motor Carrier Policies of Insurance for Public Liability).