The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is in charge of managing the movement of cargo by air, highway, marine, pipeline and rail throughout the state. But when it comes to licensing and issuing identifying numbers to commercial trucking or transportation companies, they rely heavily on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's DOT number system.
Anyone who drives a commercial vehicle through or within the state of Michigan should get a basic understanding of the DOT public safety regulations.
Michigan Department of Transportation
Michigan Department of Transportation is assigned the task of providing residents with a transportation system that is safe, sustainable and innovative. To accomplish this, the Michigan DOT must design and implement plans for all parts of the system, including roads and bridges, major highways, waterways, railroad lines, urban transit systems and air travel facilities. Bicycle paths and pedestrian paths are also included.
Part of tackling this task is to set safety standards for commercial vehicles. These standards are intended to prevent commercial vehicles from harming the public or other vehicles, as well as to protect Michigan's roads and highways. The Michigan DOT tracks the safety records of transportation companies by using the federal DOT numbers issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Michigan Commercial Vehicle Laws
When it comes to regulating commercial vehicles, Michigan, like most states, frequently piggybacks on the federal Department of Transportation guidelines. They do this regarding the definition of commercial vehicles.
The vehicles impacted by the commercial vehicle laws and regulations in Michigan include all large transportation vehicles that might come to mind, like big-rigs, tractor-trailers, Mack trucks and dump trucks. But smaller vehicles like vans, school buses, fire trucks and construction vehicles are also included.
Any of these types of vehicles will be classified as commercial vehicles if they qualify. This is based on several factors, including:
- Truck’s weight or weight rating.
- Weight or weight rating of any vehicle being towed.
- Whether the vehicle is designed to transport passengers.
- Whether the vehicle transports hazardous materials.
Michigan Commercial Vehicle Specifications
More specifically, a vehicle is subject to the commercial vehicle laws in Michigan if it is a truck that operates in interstate or intrastate commerce and falls into one of these categories:
Motor vehicles with a gross combination weight or weight rating, or a gross vehicle weight (GVW) or weight rating, of more than 10,000 or 26,000 pounds.
Motor vehicles that can carry more than eight paying passengers.
- Motor vehicles that can carry more than 15 passengers even if they are not paying customers.
- Motor vehicles used to transport hazardous materials.
Note that vehicles belonging to a church organization are deemed commercial vehicles in Michigan. However, personal vans and recreational vehicles owned by individuals for their own use are not considered commercial.
Understanding Gross Vehicle Weight Rating Categories
The weight requirements that define a commercial vehicle in Michigan make gross vehicle weight or weight rating/combination vehicle weight or weight rating a factor. Gross vehicle weight refers to the weight of a single vehicle; combination weight refers to the combined weight of a towed vehicle plus the vehicle towing it.
If the vehicle is comprised of one vehicle towing another, it is considered a commercial vehicle if the total combined weight is 26,001 pounds or more, including the towed vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more. A vehicle that is 10,001 pounds or more is also a commercial vehicle, regardless of whether it is being towed.
Note that these weight limits do not apply to vehicles deemed commercial because of the amount of passengers they are carrying. Nor do they apply to vehicles carrying hazardous materials. The regulations state that a vehicle is a commercial vehicle if it is "of any size and is used in the transportation of hazardous materials.”
Michigan Trucking Company Package
Michigan requires that anyone who owns or operates commercial vehicles register their business with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This is done by filing a set of legal forms and documents termed a trucking company package with the FMCSA.
The trucking company package, when approved, establishes the business. There is no fee for this registration, but it is a prerequisite to getting a DOT number.
Applying for a Michigan DOT registration is most easily done online at the FMSCA website. Complete the FMCSA Registration Form, providing information about the company and its vehicles. Credit card information is also requested and serves as the digital signature of the business. Alternatively, it is possible to download the application form and send by mail.
What Is a U.S. Department of Transportation Number?
After registration, the trucking business must secure a United States Department of Transportation number (DOT number). This number is also issued by the FMCSA.
What is a DOT number? It is an identifier used by the DOT and the FMCSA to track the safety information of the company on an ongoing basis. This can include information gleaned during DOT inspections and crash investigations. But the DOT can also conduct compliance reviews and audits.
Getting a DOT Number in Michigan
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issues DOT numbers, including Michigan DOT numbers. Although it is possible to go through a private company to obtain a DOT number in Michigan, it is not necessary. It is possible to get a DOT number by applying on the FMCSA website.
Fill out the form by answering the question on the registration form, including the type and number of commercial motor vehicles in the business and whether the business is interstate or intrastate (staying in Michigan or being transported to another state.)
Go to the "Getting Started with Registration" section for clear instructions about how to complete the registration. Alternatively, it is possible to complete the application by phone if you call the Michigan Public Service Commission, whose phone number is 888-464-8736.
After the application is accepted, a DOT number is issued within seven business days. There is no fee to receive a USDOT number.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: What Is a DOT Number?
- Michigan Auto Law: What Is Considered a Commercial Vehicle: What You Need to Know
- The Austle: How to Get DOT Numbers in Michigan- Complete Guide Easily Explained
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: Michigan DOT Number
- FMCSA: Registration
- When applying online, it may take up to seven business days to receive your Michigan DOT number.
- Church vans are commercial vehicles according to the Michigan guidelines, but personal and recreational vehicles are not.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.