FMCSA Plans to Revamp Registration Process

Anti-Fraud Provisions, Some Immediate, Are Slated
Getty image of a truck on the highway
If approved by the Office of Management and Budget, the Unified Registration System would be replaced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Registration System. (phaisarn2517/Getty Images)

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Federal trucking regulators are in the early stages of developing a new online registration process aimed at reducing fraud and improving transparency and efficiency for the registration of motor carriers, transportation brokers, insurance companies and other users.

The new process, if approved by the Office of Management and Budget, would modernize the Unified Registration System, replacing it with a process that will be renamed the “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Registration System.”

It is planned for implementation early next year, according to Kenneth Riddle, director of FMCSA’s Office of Registration and Safety Information.

Riddle, who spoke at the first day of the agency’s annual Safety Research Forum on April 24, said the system will include fraud-resistant security features, be more intuitive and not as cumbersome, include improved data quality and real-time data validation, use smart logic and edit checks, and consolidate most of the forms used in the current registration system.

Kenneth Riddle


However, the agency is not waiting for the new registration system to implement a number of fraud solutions.

“We’ve heard from every corner of the industry how bad fraud is right now in the CMV industry,” Riddle said. “We’ve heard from those that work in the industry — the carriers, the brokers. We’ve heard from insurance companies, large insurance companies, about some of the fraud that they’re been experiencing.”

As a result, Riddle said FMCSA has or will soon implement fraud-related changes, including:

  • Requiring that a PIN request be mailed to an applicant’s address that is on file.
  • Implementing a requirement through which registration users would need to authenticate themselves to enter agency systems.
  • Changing the agency’s contact center procedures and requiring a copy of the driver’s license from the individual requesting account changes. The individual requesting the change has to match the company’s official on file.
  • Planning to contract with a vendor that can provide “identity proofing services.”

Over the years the agency has been — and continues to be — challenged to detect and prevent unscrupulous motor carriers that reinvent themselves to avoid compliance with regulations and enforcement actions.

Dan Horvath


“We’re supportive of FMCSA enhancing the registration system to avoid, or at least reduce, the amount of fraud from individuals out there to either steal DOT numbers or become chameleon carriers,” said Dan Horvath, senior vice president of regulatory affairs and safety policy for American Trucking Associations. “We don’t want to make it so difficult that legitimate carriers have troubles getting a new registration or getting a DOT number.

“But we also want to make sure that a carrier that has been shut down by DOT for compliance or safety reasons can’t easily get a DOT number and continue operating like nothing changed. We know that’s been a problem for years.”

The new system would allow all persons required to register under the agency’s commercial or safety jurisdiction to do so online, FMCSA said.

FMCSA logo

During a virtual meeting in January, the agency sought comments from affected companies and individuals, and user perspectives on improving the registration experience when engaging with FMCSA’s registration system. During the meeting, FMCSA moderators listened to what potential users would like to see as well as what would not be helpful from a user experience perspective.

Another public meeting is scheduled for May 29, and the agency also is accepting public comment through June 18 on the proposed process.

The new system would allow Mexico-domiciled carriers that wish to operate beyond the U.S. municipalities on the U.S.-Mexico border and their commercial zones; registrants seeking to process name changes, address changes and reinstatements of operating authority for motor carriers, freight forwarders and brokers; and registrants that are requesting to voluntarily suspend their safety and/or operating authority registration with FMCSA.

Also, motor carriers, brokers and freight forwarders must designate an agent in every state in which they operate and traverse proceedings before the transportation secretary or a court of law may be made.

Wiley Deck


Wiley Deck, a former FMCSA deputy administrator, said the agency has for years wrestled with the problem of unsavory carriers falling through the cracks by registering as new companies.

He said ideally, it would help if several databases could “talk to each other,” making it easier to flag bad actors.

“But that would be a fairly complicated ballet to change over to a totally new system,” Deck said.

“The system we’re trying to navigate now is definitely in a transition period,” said Kiefer Light, an attorney with transportation law firm Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, P.C. “With all these changes that are coming up, we haven’t yet seen how they’re going to disrupt the registration process.

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Scopelitis paralegal Susan Laetsch, who works daily with the firm’s clients on registration, said she’s already seeing changes intended to reduce fraud.

“They are changing things rapidly,” Laetsch said. “In addition to the corporate documents that you have to file, they have cracked down to the point that you have to have a copy of the driver’s license of the person signing forms. We definitely see the benefit of doing it. But the impact on the transportation industry is yet to be seen.”