Auto Transport & Car Transport Blog

What is Car Carrier Operating Authority (and Why Do I Care)?

A Motor Carrier (MC) number differs from a US DOT number in that a US Department of Transportation (DOT) number identifies carriers that operate in interstate commerce and an MC number identifies a car carrier who transports regulated commerce in interstate commerce. Companies that meet the criteria below are required to have an interstate MC number or operating authority as well as a DOT number:

  • Work as for-hire car carriers, whether for a fee or some other type of compensation
  • Carry passengers for interstate commerce
  • Arrange for the transport of, or directly transport, federally-regulated commodities in interstate commerce

FMCSA operating authority is identified as one of three types—MC, FF, or MX—depending on the type of authority needed. Some companies may need to get more than one operating authority to carry out their planned business operations. The Operating Authority determines both the type of operation a company can run and the type of cargo it can carry.

Why Should My Auto Shipper Have an MC Number?

The type of authority a company obtains affects the level of insurance required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). In addition to an MC number, car carriers must also have specific insurance on file before the FMCSA will issue the authority.

What If a Car Carrier Won’t Show Me Their Proof of Operating Authority?

When a company cannot or does not promptly provide you with proof of its operating authority, this is a big red flag. It generally means:

  • They don’t have one and so are not authorized to ship your car
  • Their license may have been revoked and they are trying to operate with a different identity
  • They don’t like that you are checking their credentials

Your auto carrier operating license comes in the form of an MC number and/or USDOT number granted by FMCSA. With these numbers and the company name, you can check if they are authorized to ship cars and view safety and insurance information at

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