Compliance Mandates for California’s BIT Program: What You Need to Know

April 26, 2022

Loss Control, Commercial Transportation


By Nancy Ross-Anderson

Fatal crashes involving large trucks have increased by 33% in the last decade.[1] While each state has its own Department of Transportation (DOT) rules, California leads the charge with safety regulations like BIT.

California adopted the Basic Inspection of Terminal Program[2] (BIT) in the ’80s, regulating vehicles over 26,000 pounds, Class B trucks and combination vehicles like tractor-trailers. In 2016, the BIT rule changed to apply to all vehicles between 10,000 and 26,000 pounds, which weren’t previously regulated. Additionally, California changed from a time-based inspection to a performance-based one. Terminals selected for inspection are based on the California Performance Safety Score (CPSS).

For many moving and storage (M&S) companies, this rule change went unnoticed and now, Class C vehicles that need a carrier identification (CA) number and DOT number often don’t have one. While unintentional, you could be out of compliance with state regulations. If so, this can greatly impact your auto insurance coverage.

Performance-based inspection with California’s BIT program

If registered for the BIT program, any motortruck of three or more axles over 10,000 pounds is assigned a U.S. DOT number, enabling the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to upload inspections into the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Safety Measurement System[3] (SMS).

The data that follows your fleet on your DOT number is used to calculate the California Performance Safety Score (CPSS), a score that insurance carriers evaluate to assess your risk and to price your coverage accordingly. The score is determined by seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) percentiles:

  1. Unsafe driving
  2. Hours of service
  3. Driver fitness
  4. Controlled substances
  5. Vehicle maintenance
  6. Hazardous materials
  7. Crash indicator

If a California-domiciled M&S fleet does not have a DOT number, they haven’t registered for the BIT program — and therefore, are not properly licensed to operate in California.


How to enroll in the BIT program

To see if you comply with the current laws in California, first determine if you are enrolled in the BIT program.

  • To find out if you’re registered with BIT, search for your FMCSA DOT number here. If your company name doesn’t appear, you don’t have a DOT number, and you’re not registered under BIT.

  • If you don’t have a CA or DOT number, visit the California Highway Patrol site here. You can then apply for a CA number for your Class C vehicles.
  • If you have a Cal-T number but do not have a CA number, you must apply for one through the California Highway Patrol.

If you are not enrolled, don’t panic. It’s easy to correct by getting a DOT number and CA number to automatically be enrolled in the BIT program. If you have a tractor-trailer or Class B vehicle that already operates in California, you should already be enrolled in the program and just need to update your registration to include Class C vehicles.

Compliance considerations under the BIT program

Registered vehicles under the BIT program must also adhere to three additional compliance requirements:

  1. Safety inspections on all equipment over 10,000 gross pounds. To do so, take your vehicle to a certified mechanic and keep their report in your maintenance file. Every commercial motor vehicle must be inspected every 90 days.
  2. Maintain vehicles and log all repairs. If something occurs in a pre- or post-trip inspection, you’ll need a log to show that you addressed the issue. You will have to perform preventative maintenance and keep track of it. To avoid a high CPSS and keep the volume of inspections low, maintain your vehicles to their standard; do not just fix an issue when it comes up.
  3. Vehicles manufactured prior to 2011 can’t be registered, as they do not comply with California air pollution laws.

Complying with the BIT program’s requirements isn’t a difficult task, but it will take some change in company culture to follow them. Contact IAT Insurance to learn more about how the BIT program can impact commercial transportation coverage.


[1] National Safety Council “Road Users.”

[2] State of California Department of California Highway Patrol “The Basic Inspection of Terminals (BIT) Program.”

[3] FMCSA “The Safety Measurement System (SMS).”