The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced today the elimination of the “registrant-only” USDOT number as part of the Performance and Registration Information Systems Management(PRISM) program. The effective date of the change is September 1, 2011.

FMCSA said in the notice it posted in the Federal Register that it had “developed the concept of a ‘registrant-only’ DOT number to identify registered owners of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) that are not motor carriers, but lease their CMVs to entities that are motor carriers.

The agency explained that it had concluded that registrant-only DOT numbers are “being used differently” from what had been intended. Thus the “practice of issuing registrant-only numbers to entities that are not motor carriers is having an adverse affect on the agency's ability to track motor carriers' safety violations.”

As a result, FMCSA said it decided to eliminate the PRISM procedure that was requiring non-motor carrier registrants to obtain DOT numbers and “will maintain all existing numbers as dormant registrant-only USDOT numbers.”

Providing some background to the decision, the agency said that in 1999 it created the ‘registrant-only’ DOT number to track ownership of CMVs in the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS). Such a number does not authorize a non-motor carrier to operate in interstate commerce, and it should not have any safety events assigned to it.

However, in numerous cases, FMCSA continued, law enforcement personnel have been presented a registrant-only number during inspections and crash investigations. “As a result, data that should be assigned to the record of the motor carrier operating the CMV has been erroneously assigned to the registrant-only DOT number.”

FMCSA said it conducted an analysis in 2009 and found that over 35,500 (18%) of the more than 200,000 registrant-only records in MCMIS contained crash and inspection activity that should have been recorded on the lessee's motor carrier record.

“Placement of this information on a registrant-only record adversely affects the accuracy of FMCSA's safety monitoring system,” the agency added. “Motor carriers that improperly use registrant-only numbers can evade FMCSA oversight, including compliance reviews and new entrant program audits. In addition, if safety events are not properly attributed to the motor carriers operating CMVs, FMCSA cannot factor those events into the motor carriers' safety ratings.”