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Freight Forwarder May Not Be What You Think It Is

Freight forwarders ARE NOT carriers.

Although they may have vehicles that ONLY transport within the terminal area. Freight forwarders operating outside the terminal area, must have, either or both, intrastate and/or interstate operating authority. Additional insurance has to be obtained and filed for each.

MOST individuals today applying for a USDOT number DO NOT know the difference between interstate and intrastate. The difference between interstate or intrastate TOTALLY depends on the origin and destination of the COMMODITY.

It has NOTHING to do with the vehicle.

The legal definition at 49 U.S.C. § 13102 (8) is: "Freight Forwarder—the term 'freight forwarder' means a person holding itself out to the general public (other than as a pipeline, rail, motor, or water carrier) to provide transportation of property for compensation and in the ordinary course of its business —

(A) assembles and consolidates, or provides for assembling and consolidating, shipments and performs or provides for break-bulk and distribution operations of the shipments;

(B) assumes responsibility for the transportation from the place of receipt to the place of destination; and

(C) uses for any part of the transportation a [surface carrier] carrier subject to jurisdiction [of the Department of Transportation] of under this subtitle."


  • Freight forwarders arrange transportation of goods by FMCSA-licensed carriers.

  • Freight forwarders issue bills of lading to shippers and are responsible for the loss of or damage to the goods.

  • Freight forwarders may handle general and/or household goods.

  • Must have filed with the FMCSA the levels of insurance depending on commodity AND whether it has vehicles.

  • Freight forwarders operate under an FF- number which is their docket number.


49 CFR 372.301 - Terminal areas of motor carriers and freight forwarders at municipalities served.

The terminal area within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. 13503 of any motor carrier of property or freight forwarder subject to 49 U.S.C. subtitle IV, part B at any municipality authorized to be served by such motor carrier of property or motor carrier of passengers in the transportation of express or freight forwarder, within which transportation by motor carrier in the performance of transfer, collection, or delivery services may be performed by, or for, such motor carrier of property or freight forwarder without compliance with the provisions of 49 U.S.C. subtitle IV, part B consists of and includes all points or places which are:

(a) Within the commercial zone, as defined by the Secretary, of that municipality, and

(b) Not beyond the limits of the operating authority of such motor carrier of property or freight forwarder.

Many brokers also apply for Freight Forwarding authority. As long as the names are the same you may file the same broker bond on the freight forwarding account.

Many carriers apply for Freight Forwarding authority by mistake because they do not understand the definition. Don't let this happen to you. Hire a professional to complete this application correctly from the get-go.

Everyday many carriers checkmark the Freight Forwarder box on the URS application, pay the extra $300 and realize in the end that's not really what they wanted. Oh by the way, the $300 you just paid is not usually refundable by the FMCSA.

Backing out applications and fixing the authority account takes time and is frustrating but can be done.

We can help you fix the authority by clicking here:

Or give our office a call at 303-482-2965 and speak to a specialist personally. We're here to help!

by Rex Evilsizor