Buyer beware: Biennial update filing services may not be worth the cost

March 17, 2022

Ryan Witkowski


As part of one of the most regulated industries in the country, drivers have enough to worry about. Being subjected to “scare tactic” style advertising regarding biennial updates and U.S. DOT compliance doesn’t need to be added to the list.

Updating your registry or authority can seem a bit overwhelming. Numerous companies offer services – for a fee – to eliminate the headaches that can come with navigating the filing. At first glance, the services offered by these companies seem helpful. In fact, most of the information offered in their solicitation emails and websites comes straight from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Here’s the kicker: completing your biennial update is free and easy via the FMCSA’s website.

While the services offered by these companies are legitimate, the tactics by which they solicit customers is less than desirable. Most solicitation efforts come via email, emphasizing the need to file to avoid paying large fines or deactivation your U.S. DOT number. Numerous drivers report getting these unwanted emails multiple times per week, some who are no longer in operation.

Clearly this is a fate any driver would want to avoid. Companies prey on this fear, in hopes that the threat of losing their livelihood will be enough to convince drivers to purchase these services. However, with a little time – and access to the internet – drivers can take care of biennial updates on their own.

Finding out when you need to complete a biennial update is as simple as knowing your U.S. DOT number.

The second-to-last number of your U.S. DOT number will indicate which year the update must be completed. If that number is odd, the biennial update will need to be completed in odd years. If the number is even, then you will need to complete the update in even years.

The month to complete your biennial update is determined by the final number in your U.S. DOT number. The schedule is as follows:

  • 1 – January
  • 2 – February
  • 3 – March
  • 4 – April
  • 5 – May
  • 6 – June
  • 7 – July
  • 8 – August
  • 9 – September
  • 0 – October

Completing biennial updates does require a personal identification number. This can be requested on the FMCSA website and will be mailed or emailed to you. If a PIN cannot be obtained, alternatives for filling offline are available.

While taking some of the paperwork side of the job off your hands can seem like a blessing, the cost associated with that needs to be considered. Plenty of free tools are available for drivers to find assistance when filing U.S. DOT paperwork.

Additionally, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association offers its members free support for filing biennial updates and other U.S. DOT paperwork. LL