Staying compliant

It is your responsibility to know the regulations, including vehicle registration, fuel taxes, and traffic and safety laws.

Vehicle registration
Truck registration is to the truck what a commercial driver’s license is to the driver: a way to identify and track the vehicle. You must register your truck in every state through which you travel. If you move loads from California to New York, each state collects vehicle registration and other user fees and taxes.

Until a few years ago, you had to register separately in each state through which you traveled. But the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 created the International Registration Plan (IRP), a streamlined system for truck registration and fuel-tax reporting. Every state is a member of IRP.

Under IRP, you fill out a form and write one check to your base state. You get a cab card that lists the states in which your truck is apportioned. When you register your truck, you need to estimate how many miles you will travel in the coming year. If you are renewing your plate, you can use last year’s mileage as a basis. If you’re getting a new plate, estimate the number of miles you will travel in the next 12 months. That number becomes the basis for estimating the number of miles traveled in each state. A percentage of your registration fee goes to each state through which you travel, based on the number of miles you run in that state. Fees, bond requirements and taxes vary with each state, so check with your base state for details.

If a load takes you through a state where your truck is not registered, you can get temporary registration. Some are for 15 days; others are for 30.

To register a vehicle, you must first pay the federal heavy-vehicle use tax. If you don’t register your truck within 60 days of the day you buy it, you must show your base state proof of payment; a copy of an official receipted Form 2290, showing the vehicle number; or a copy of Form 2290 with proof of payment, such as a canceled check.

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You are not allowed to shop for the cheapest base state. To base your plate in a state, you must meet the following requirements:

Have an established place of business in that state. The business must have a street address not a post-office box and a listed telephone number, and at least one person must conduct business there.

Accrue miles in that state. Maintain your records in that location and be prepared to make them available to authorities at that location.

IRP works differently for independents and leased operators. If you have your own authority, you are responsible for your own base plating. You do the work or contract with a permitting service and pay the fees up front.

If you are a leased owner-operator, you can do your own base plating, or the company you are leased to can do it. In the latter case, the company does the paperwork, pays the fee and deducts the costs from your settlements. This method is easier but not necessarily wiser.

If you get your own plate and leave the carrier to which you are leased, your plate goes with you. If you get your plate through the carrier, you must leave it behind if you leave the carrier.

Fuel taxes
IRP’s fuel-tax cousin is IFTA, or International Fuel Tax Agreement. Just as with truck registration, a few years ago you had to purchase a fuel permit for every state in which you ran. IFTA allows you to purchase a single fuel permit from your base state. You then file a quarterly fuel report with your base state, which apportions fuel taxes to each state in which you run, based on the miles you travel.

If you run 200 miles through Missouri, where the fuel tax is 17 cents per gallon, and your truck gets 6.5 mpg, you use 30.8 gallons of fuel in Missouri. If you don’t purchase fuel in Missouri, that state charges you $5.24 (the tax multiplied by the number of gallons you burned). But if you buy 100 gallons of Missouri fuel and use only 30.8 gallons in the state, Missouri owes you a credit because you paid $17 in fuel taxes at the pump but you owe only $5.24. It is important to document all your fuel purchases carefully to receive overpurchase credits.

If you are leased to a carrier, your carrier probably keeps fuel records for you, but if you have your own authority, you have to do it yourself or hire a permitting service.
If you understand how fuel taxes work, you can plan your fuel purchases wisely and save money by overpurchasing in certain states.

Single-state registration
After you register your truck, you are free to drive in any state you’ve noted with IRP. Your IFTA decal makes you legal. But what about the authority to use your truck and trailer to haul freight in those states? That’s where single-state registration comes in.

You must be registered in every state through which you run. But only 40 states participate in single-state registration. If you’re based in a state that is not a member of SSR, you must choose a participating state to obtain SSR credentials.

Single-state registration, like federal operating authority, is tied to your liability insurance. Before a trucker can obtain his own authority, he must show proof of public liability insurance. States require the same thing. If you’re a leased owner-operator, your carrier is responsible for liability insurance and, therefore, single-state registration.

If you have or plan to get your own authority, however, you must secure single-state registration through your base state for each state in which you plan to run.

Vehicle registration information

Alabama (334) 353-7839
Alaska (907) 465-2200
Arizona (602) 712-7272
Arkansas (501) 682-4814
California (916) 327-2264
Colorado (303) 205-5602
Connecticut (860) 297-4952
Delaware (302) 744-2702
Florida (850) 488-6921
Georgia (404) 657-1592
Hawaii (808) 532-7700
Idaho (208) 334-8692
Illinois (217) 785-1397
Indiana (317) 615-7345
Iowa (515) 237-3224
Kansas (785) 291-3898
Kentucky (502) 564-4154
Louisiana (225) 925-7652
Maine (207) 624-9000, ext. 52136
Maryland (410) 260-7131
Massachusetts (617) 887-6774
Michigan (517) 373-3183
Minnesota (651) 405-6161
Mississippi (601) 923-7152
Missouri (573) 751-3671
Montana (406) 444-6371
Nebraska (402) 471-4435
or (888) 622-1222
Nevada (775) 684-4711
New Hampshire (603) 271-1029
New Jersey (609) 633-9408
New Mexico (505) 827-1005
New York (800) 972-1233
North Carolina (919) 733-8179
North Dakota (701) 328-2928
Ohio (614) 466-3522
Oklahoma (405) 521-3246
Oregon (503) 373-1634
Pennsylvania (717) 705-5460
Rhode Island (401) 222-6317
South Carolina (803) 737-6620
South Dakota (605) 773-5335
Tennessee (615) 253-2335
Texas (512) 463-3849
Utah (801) 297-7670
Vermont (802) 828-2070
Virginia (804) 367-0558
Washington (360) 664-1868
West Virginia (304) 558-0685
Wisconsin (608) 264-7231
Wyoming (307) 777-4842

Visit to read the entire manual or to participate in interactive discussion of business issues.

This is the first of six excerpts we will publish from Partners in Business, a manual for owner-operators and small fleet owners published by Overdrive and Volvo. Call (800) 444-RSVP, ext. 708 to get a free copy of the 2001 edition.

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