NOTE: The new rule goes in to effect on September 1, 2018. Massachusetts police have already begun pulling over commercial trucks and vans, alerting them to the newly revised guideline. If applicable trucks are not compliant by the first of September, you may be fined and/or forced to remove your commercial vehicle from the road.

The official name for the updated rule is MA State Markings Regulation 540 CMR 2:22. The rule is different because it now affects all *heavy duty* commercial vehicles, whereas before, only those vehicles traveling across state lines were required to display certain information. If you think your business truck(s) may be affected, keep reading in order to avoid paying fines or getting your vehicles yanked off the road.

Here’s the scoop:

What are business owners being asked to do?

Under the new MA State Markings Regulation, owners of commercial vehicles (including heavy duty pickup trucks and vans, weighing 10,000 lbs+) are being asked to do two things:

  1. Apply for and display a USDOT number on their vehicles.
  2. Prominently display their company name/company contact information on their vehicles.

How do I know if this new rule affects my company?

Your company probably needs to take action if:

  • It owns or leases any vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 pounds. Again, this includes certain pickup trucks.
  • It transports hazardous materials.
  • It owns or leases any vehicles capable of transporting more than 15 passengers.

Where do I get a USDOT number?

You can visit this FMCSA webpage to start your application now. If you would like to contact the FMCSA with questions, you can call them at 800-832-5660.

What is a USDOT number?

A USDOT number gives authorities another way of identifying your truck(s), for the purpose of collecting and monitoring your safety information. When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducts audits, inspections, or compliance reviews, it uses DOT numbers in its reporting. DOT numbers are also collected during accident investigations.

Why do I need one?

Up until recently, federal DOT numbers were only required for commercial vehicles driving interstate routes (traveling across state lines), or for those carrying dangerous cargo. However, Massachusetts recently changed its rules to expand the requirement. Now, all commercial vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds* need to obtain and display a DOT number—even if you only drive inside Massachusetts borders.

*NOTE: This weight class typically includes heavy-duty pickup trucks, box trucks, walk-in vans and larger utility vehicles—like bucket trucks.

How much does a USDOT number cost?

It doesn’t cost anything to get a USDOT number. But you will need to pay for the truck lettering to display your business name/DOT number on company vehicles, according to specified terms. Depending on how elaborate you want to get, custom graphics run between $195 and $600 per vehicle, according to Alliance Glass and Sign, based in Dorchester. If your trucks are already labeled with your company information, vinyl DOT number decals can be purchased for much less.

How do I “display” the required information?

Vinyl signage experts like the team at Alliance will make sure you’re in compliance with the law. But essentially, here are the key points to keep in mind:

  • Your company name, phone number and/or website, and USDOT number must be permanently printed on two sides of the vehicle.
  • The lettering must be on the truck body, not on window glass.
  • The lettering must be legible from 50 feet away (during daylight hours).
  • The lettering must contrast sharply with the background surface (e.g. DON’T use black lettering on a dark blue truck or gray lettering on a white truck).

How much time do I have to comply?

You have until September 1, 2018 to get your DOT number and be sure all applicable company trucks are displaying it. Keep in mind though, the FMCSA is backlogged at this time. We recommend starting the process as soon as possible. Please don’t hesitate to call us if you have questions about the new MA State Markings Regulation, commercial auto insurance or what you need to do.

What is the penalty for violating the new rule?

If you don’t have the information displayed by the first of September, you could be subject to civil fines and your vehicles could be placed “Out of Service” until you comply with this rule. What’s more, without the proper lettering, you may be increasing your chances of getting pulled over—especially by Massachusetts State Police.