In mid-February the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced a final rule reducing the fees paid by motor carriers under the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) Plan for years beginning in 2020. The same fee reductions apply to private carriers, brokers, freight forwarders and leasing companies.
The UCR fees will be cut by 14.45% below the levels set in 2018 and will remain in place for 2021 and subsequent years unless changed by future rulemaking. In real world terms, that means lower costs, from $3 to $2,712 overall per company, depending on the number of vehicles owned or operated by motor carriers or the other parties. For example, motor carriers with two trucks paid $69 in UCR fees for 2018 and $62 in 2019, but will pay $59 in 2020.
Revenues collected are allocated to the 41 states which participate in the UCR Plan and agreement. But the UCR Plan has a statutory maximum on the revenue collected, so adjustments must occasionally be made. For 2020, the revenue target is $107 million. If excess fees are collected, they are held by the UCR depository, which may then lead to a future fee reduction.
What is the UCR Plan?
Created by the Unified Carrier Registration Act of 2005, UCR replaces the former system for registering and collecting fees from the operators of vehicles engaged in interstate and international travel – the Single State Registration System (SSRS). The SSRS, in turn, provided a means for motor carriers to register their operating authority and insurance in one place rather than state-by-state. The UCR Plan retains that efficiency for motor carriers but expands the breadth of entities which must pay the annual fees. The UCR revenues are used by the participating states for highway safety and enforcement programs.
If a motor carrier is based in one of the nine states not participating in UCR, the carrier must register with a neighboring participating state before traveling across state lines. UCR registration is enforced as part of roadside inspection. Carriers can check their current UCR status at www.ucr.gov.
The UCR registration fees should not to be confused with the state-level vehicle registration fees that motor carriers pay annually through the International Registration Plan (IRP). IRP registration is also checked at roadside inspections, as is fuel tax compliance under the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA). UCR, IRP and IFTA are multi-jurisdictional agreements that have made life a lot easier for motor carriers and professional drivers compared to the days when taxes and registrations had to be complied with at every individual state or province in which they traveled. Compliance with UCR, IRP and IFTA, as well as a good safety record, is required for participation in electronic bypass programs like PrePass. For 2020 at least, UCR is now less expensive.