One term that gets tossed around, especially if you’re a commercial vehicle driver, is “DOT License”. Which is intriguing, since no such thing exists. This is because a DOT License is a pretty broad term. And refers to any license required to drive commercial vehicles or carry certain goods.  

The reason why it’s so vague is that between the federal government and the state-level transportation agencies. There are countless rules and laws governing the moving industry. And among these rules and laws. There are approximately one gazillion different terms for the licenses, permits, and authorizations necessary to operate a moving company.

In the end, they all get shoved under one heading: DOT License 

What Is a DOT License?

a front view of the entrance to the United States Department of Transportation in D.C.

In general terms, a DOT License allows you to legally operate a commercial motor vehicle. But to be accurate, there is no such thing as a “DOT License”. 

While the federal government, through the Federal Motor Carrier Association (FMCSA). Enforces rules and regulations regarding trucking and transportation throughout the country, each state determines its own motor vehicle licensing standards. Not surprisingly, these standards and the terms they use vary from state to state.

In other words, “DOT license” is an umbrella term for any license dispensed by the Department of Transportation. That’s required to drive — in your case — a moving truck commercially.  

So I Don’t Need a DOT License?

a man in blue overalls stands in front of a loaded moving truck. There are a few boxes and a ladder next to him, and he's writing on a clipboard

As a mover, you need to obtain and maintain motor carrier authority. A license that allows you to transport someone else’s belongings for a fee. The terms used to refer to this authority vary from state to state. But every state requires a mover to apply for and obtain authorization before engaging in providing moving services

“…[A]s the owner of a moving company, you are also subject to the federal rules, laws, and regulations for operating authority set forth by the FMCSA, even if you never cross state lines.”

Note that motor carrier authority is different from a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Which instead permits the carrier to operate certain larger types of trucks. As an example, operating a straight truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of over 26,000 pounds. In the State of Colorado requires a Class B CDL. Driving a 15-foot UHaul in Colorado – and in every other state – requires only a regular everyday driver’s license. So, depending on the state, you might need multiple licenses if the trucks you’re typically driving call for it

Either way, if you are transporting someone else’s belongings as part of a business transaction. You need motor carrier authority, which in Colorado means obtaining a Household Goods Movers permit.

How Do I Obtain a DOT License?

two workers in blue overalls sit in the cab of a moving truck

Again, you aren’t getting a DOT License per se. What you need is that motor carrier authority. And just like the terms for motor carrier authority. Differ across the various states, so does the process of obtaining that authority. And you can also check out how to start a moving company for more information on the basics. 

Do note that as the owner of a moving company. You are also subject to the federal rules, laws, and regulations for operating authority set forth by the FMCSA. Even if you never cross state lines.

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