When applying for FMCSA certification, a key requirement for transportation companies is naming a service of process (SOP) agent.
According to federal law, the designation of a process agent is an essential requirement for obtaining the authority to operate from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)—the agency responsible for regulating the trucking industry in the United States. To receive and keep this authority, these companies must file Form BOC-3 with the FMCSA.
This article explores what a BOC-3 filing is and how transportation companies, such as motor carriers, brokers, and freight forwarders who do business across state lines each day, can designate an SOP or process agent.
What is a BOC-3 process agent (or FMCSA agent)?
If you operate a transportation company, you must designate a service of process agent, also known as an “FMCSA agent”, who resides in all states where you do business.
An SOP agent or process agent is essentially an individual or business organization appointed by your business who is authorized to receive legal documents on the principal’s behalf. A process agent must be physically located in each state in which you are authorized to operate and be available at that address during normal business hours.
Once designated, the process agent is authorized to receive and forward service of process and other court or legal documents on behalf of your company in the state(s) in which the agent is designated. Service of process involves the delivery of documents—typically a summons or complaint—that provides notice that litigation has been initiated against the party named as the defendant and subsequent actions that must be taken.
What is a BOC-3 filing?
A BOC-3 filing (“Designation of Agents for Service of Process”) is a federal filing in the United States that assigns a process agent to accept legal documents on behalf of a transportation or logistics company in each state in which the company is authorized to do business. A BOC-3 filing is often required before a transportation or logistics company is granted authority to operate.
In the case of motor carriers, only the process agent can file the BOC-3 and the filing must be made online. However, if you’re a broker or freight forwarder without commercial vehicles you can file the BOC-3 form yourself as a paper copy.
When you file your BOC-3 form via the FMCSA website, expect to provide the following information:
- Full name and address of carrier (or broker or freight forwarder)
- The person authorized to sign and that person’s title
- The name of the SOP agent and the street address for each state, listed individually or a blanket designation. A blanket designation is the naming of one association or corporation on file with the FMCSA who will act as the applicant’s process agent for every state and the District of Colombia.
How much does a BOC-3 agent cost?
The cost of a BOC-3 agent if you want to appoint a professional registered agent can be as low as $20 or more than $100 depending on the scope of service chosen (many SOP agents offer additional compliance services beyond just BOC-3 filing services).
Fee structures can also vary. Many professional process agents charge an annual fee with additional charges for each document handled while others charge a one-time BOC-3 filing fee. Additional fees may also include address change fees and charges for expedited BOC-3 filing (often requested by companies looking to get their businesses up and running quickly).
How long does it take to file Form BOC-3?
Once the BOC-3 form has been properly completed and filed electronically with the FMCSA, they will issue operating authority and mail the document to you. Normally, operating authority documents are sent out within 3-4 business days. If 10 or more business days have passed since the grant date and you have not yet received the operating authority document, you can contact the FMCSA. You can also check whether your operating authority has been issued by visiting the FMCSA Licensing and Insurance website.
In certain instances—such as a name change, transfer of authority, or reinstatement of your motor carrier operating authority—your BOC-3 may need to be refiled.
The benefits of working with a blanket process agent
Companies may appoint a process agent for individual states or appoint a blanket process agent that covers every state. Appointing a blanket agent can help consolidate your company’s FMCSA obligations. The agent acts as your BOC-3 blanket process agent in each jurisdiction in which you operate. It is easier to keep track of notifications when they come from a single agent and receive prompt notifications if any regulatory changes occur, mitigating any potential penalties such as loss of good standing if you fall out of compliance with FMCSA.
If you choose a blanket process agent, you must select the agent from the FMCSA’s approved list of blanket service process companies.
Can I act as my own process agent?
You may act as your own process agent within your base state only. You must have a physical address where services of process can be received during regular business hours.
How to select the right process agent?
When selecting a registered agent service provider, look for professionals who are trained in service of process within the transportation industry and can ensure prompt and secure handling of official documents. There are many providers to choose from but seek out a true partner who goes beyond statutory requirements and provides tools and alerts to help you stay on top of important compliance obligations—without additional service charges.
It also pays to have agents who are available during all business hours with a discreet address that protects your privacy and keeps process servers away from your business.
Finally, look for additional services such as annual report filings to ensure that your filings are always accurate and on-time in the state where it’s due.