The URS affects freight brokers, freight forwarders, and motor carriers, but how? Let’s take a look and find out.
What exactly is the Unified Registration System (URS)? It's an entirely online platform, where information about all entities under the jurisdiction of the FMCSA will be stored. This means an end to the use of FF, MX and MC numbers, which have been in use for the past 18 years. The use of a single database is intended to streamline the registration process, which many complain is unusually complicated.
All registration numbers currently in use will be phased out, in favor of the USDOT number. Entities without a USDOT number will be issued one before Sept. 30, 2016.
Who needs to get a URS? As mentioned, everyone under the authority of the FMCSA will have to register with the URS. More specifically, these entities are “all interstate motor carriers (private and for-hire motor carriers of passengers and freight), freight forwarders, brokers, IEPs, HMSP applicants/holders, and cargo tank manufacturing and repair facilities under FMCSA jurisdiction.” The only exception to this are Mexico-domiciled long-haul carriers.
What are the deadlines for compliance with the URS? The FMCSA postponed the launch date several times, which is understandable in light of the fact that there is an enormous amount of information that needs to be compiled into one database. Currently, there are about 20 different registrations that will be combined into one. To ease the transition, URS implementation will be adopted in three phases.
Phase one began on Dec. 12, 2015. It applies only to people registering for the first time, regardless of the authority they are seeking to obtain. This means that if you are registering now, the URS is the only option for compliance.
Phase two will be rolled out on Sept. 30 this year. After that date, all existing entities will have to register with the URS as well. Unlike before, paper application submission will not be accepted.
Phase three applies only to private and exempt carriers. They will have to show proof of insurance, and file a BOC-3 form starting Dec. 31. Freight brokers, forwarders and non-exempt carriers are already complying with the BOC-3 form, so nothing changes here. Carriers who fail to comply will lose their USDOT numbers.
New applicants who wish to register with the URS during phase one of the roll-out will be subject to the current fees. That is to say, a fee of $300 per operating authority. So, a motor carrier who wishes to broker freight as well, will have to pay a total of $600.
Currently, however, the FMCSA does not impose a separate fee for safety registration. As of Sept. 30 this will change as well, as mandated by the URS final rule and the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). A separate fee of $300 will also apply for the purposes of safety registration.
While there are no fees for those already in business, the FMCSA has hinted that it considers the current fees too low, and is likely to increase them in the future.
What about freight broker bonds? With rumors in the industry about increasing fees and possibly insurance costs, some freight brokers are rightfully asking themselves about a possible increase in the price of freight broker bonds.
The bond amount was already amended in 2013 and it was a substantial increase, so the FMCSA has not shown intention of amending it once more. As usual, it needs to be renewed yearly for as long as you hold a freight broker license.
What does the URS mean for the industry? The FMCSA has pointed out several benefits in favor of the adoption of the URS. First of all, it is expected to greatly reduce the amount of paperwork required during registration and license renewal. The new system is also expected to improve efficiency and reduce processing errors.
More importantly, the FMCSA will use the URS to crack down on unfit or unsafe carriers – especially small and mid-sized ones – as they are usually the hardest to find. The URS will make it easier for the FMCSA to track them and enforce legal action. Currently, they evade regulatory action by registering as a different business entity, but this will no longer be possible. The URS will also electronically scan all applications to identify potentially high-risk carriers.
According to the FMCSA’s own estimates, the adoption of the URS will translate into a savings of $9m in the next 10 years, mainly from fees and reduced processing times.
How will URS registration work? All registered entities are required to have a URS account before Sept. 30. To do that, they need have an account with the FMCSA’s online portal, which contains straightforward instructions for registration. If you don’t have a USDOT number yet, you will need one before you can set up an account.
Once you are registered with the URS, you’re required to update your information at least once every two years, in order to stay compliant and avoid the revocation of your license.
Source: Bryant Surety Bonds
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