What is a biennial update certificate

What exactly is a Biennial Update Certificate? And do you need one?

There is an email going around offering to give carriers a Biennial Update Certificate and optional ID cards as proof of compliance with the FMCSA’s rules on filing a biennial return.

Here is a snapshot of the email:

This email is a notice about your last US DOT Biennial Update filing submitted on 08/29/2018. Let it be known that your update was received and processed per FMCSR 390.201. As part of a US DOT compliance program you may now request a Certificate of Filing that may serve as proof of your company’s compliance with the aforementioned Biennial Update mandate.

If you do not have satisfactory proof of compliance with this federal mandate please use the link below to request a Certificate of Filing online or call (202) xxx-xxxx to speak with a compliance agent now.

To request a Certificate of Filing of the Biennial Update for USDOT 2xxxxx7 please click here for an online application or call (202) xxx-xxxx to speak with a compliance agent now. If you prefer to chat with an agent online now please click here (chat available until 5pm CT) 

Filing assistance and general compliance support is available Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm CT: 202-xxx-xxxx.

This sounds important and makes you want to rush out and get this certificate.  It leaves me with a couple of questions, what is a Biennial Update Certificate, and do I really need it?

What is a Biennial Update?

The US FMCSA requires all carriers who have a DOT number to file biennially an update of their information, including fleet size and mileage.  The FMCSA determines when you need to file by your DOT number.

Using the last two digits of your DOT number you will know the year and month you are required to file by.   We have more information on biennial updates here.

So, what is a Biennial Update Certificate?

Good question, what is a biennial update certificate?  In twenty years doing this I never saw or heard of this, so I don’t honestly know.  I do know it’s not issued by the FMCSA.  Let’s say this again, the FMCSA will NOT issue a certificate to prove if you have filed your biennial update.  It does offer a printed a copy of the MSC 150 you just filed electronically at the time of filing, but you can’t recall it after the fact and it’s not a certificate checked by a person with an ID number.

It simply doesn’t exist as an official government certificate.

Do I need this Biennial Update Certificate?

No, honestly you don’t.  There is no legal requirement to get it, and since it comes from a third party it means nothing officially.  The reality is, if company X makes up its own official-looking certificate, slaps an ID number on and calls it important, this doesn’t really make it important. Rather, it’s called a waste of money.

Now anyone can check to see if you have filed, as it is public record.  At the scale, any officer punching in your DOT number will be able to see if you’ve filed as it’s stored electronically.  You don’t need any additional paperwork to prove anything.

There are so many misleading marketing emails being directed at carriers today, it’s hard to keep on top of them.  As we come across some of the more outrageous schemes, we try to post warnings here on our blog.  We are also sincere when we tell our customers, when in doubt always ask.

Knowledge is Power: Further Reading

Here are the links to blog posts we’ve done on other misleading and fraudulent marketing ventures. Be sure to take a quick look so you know what to avoid when you get unsolicited mail in your inbox. You can never have too much knowledge!