California Intrastate Authority

By: Rick Malchow, Industry Business Advisor 


Many states have requirements for carriers that intend to engage in intrastate commerce within their respective state.  Intrastate transportation is defined simply as not interstate.  The movement is from one point within the state to another location in the state.  States vary considerably in their requirements for intrastate carriers both in the types of authority that is required and how strictly the rules are enforced.  California has many details to their rules and the state is strict in its enforcement.  Below are the requirements regarding California for-hire and private carrier authorities.  


Intrastate California household goods and passenger carriers are required to have an active CPUC permit issued by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC), and display on the power unit the identification number (Cal-T number: the CPUC permit number) issued by the California PUC.  There is a one-time fee and the carrier must provide a yearly equipment list and proof of insurance. 


All other intrastate property carriers, including private carriers, are regulated by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and must have a Motor Carrier Permit (MCP) issued by the DMV.  As it pertains to MCP, a commercial motor vehicle is defined in Section 34500 of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) and generally includes: 


  • Trucks that are more than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating;
  • Truck tractors;
  • Vehicle combinations of 40' or more;
  • Vehicles transporting hazardous materials;
  • Any other motor vehicle used to transport property for compensation (for-hire).

There are exclusions from the definition of a CMV for certain: household goods carriers and vehicles, non-commercial pick-up trucks, medium weight rentals, RVs, and related to passenger carrying operations. 


Intrastate carriers (other than household good carriers) must obtain and display a California Identification (CA) number issued by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). In order to obtain a CA number, a motor carrier must first obtain a USDOT number from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The motor carrier's USDOT number must be provided as part of the CA number application process.  California also requires interstate carriers that are both delivering and picking up loads in California to obtain a CA number from the California Highway Patrol. However, if the carrier displays a valid USDOT number, the CA number does not also have to be displayed.


The required levels of liability insurance vary from $300,000 to $500,000 combined single limit depending on the type of vehicle and property being transported. Proof of insurance must be submitted on either a Certificate of Insurance (MC 65 M) or a Certificate of Self Insurance (MC 131 M). 


California carriers that use drivers that operate equipment that require a CDL and are subject to Controlled Substance and Alcohol Testing (CSAT), must self-cerify when applying. 


Carriers that have terminals, garages, shops, maintenance, dispatch operations, or cross-dock in California are required to enroll in the Employer Pull Notice Program (EPN). The program's purpose is to provide carriers a way to promote driver safety by an ongoing review of the driver's records. 


California intrastate carriers that also engage in interstate motor carriage must comply with requirements for initial application for an MCP for the intrastate authority and submit any necessary fees.  Interstate carriers are issued a non-expiring MCP. 


Intrastate vehicles that are included in the UCR registration are not subject to annual renewal of the intrastate authority, however a CA number is still required.  Vehicles that are used solely in intrastate operations and not included in the vehilce count under the UCR annual submission are subject to annual renewal of the MCP. 


In addition to the penalties above, the Department of Motor Vehicles can suspend a Motor Carrier Permit due to:

  • Failure to pass a BIT inspection by the CHP;
  • Failure to comply with CSAT requirements;
  • Failure to make copies of CSAT results and other records available to the CHP;
  • Knowingly leasing, operating, dispatching or otherwise utilizing vehicles from a carrier whose motor carrier permit is suspended due to unsafe operations of a vehicle;
  • Failure to be enrolled in the EPN program;
  • Suspension or revocation of an owner-operators driver license; or 
  • Failure to maintain the required insurances.

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