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What Decals Does a Truck Driver Need? A Comprehensive Guide for Commercial Drivers and Carriers

Written by Nick Webster

Published on Aug. 9, 2023, 11 a.m.


Decals are more than just decorations for commercial vehicles; they are critical elements that help promote safety, communicate information, and ensure compliance with laws and regulations. Want to know about the USDOT number? A commercial truck driver or carrier must know what decals your vehicle requires.

What is the Purpose of Truck Decals?

Truck decals serve various purposes. They help identify vehicles, display critical regulatory and company information, and even contribute to branding and marketing efforts. More importantly, specific decals are mandated by federal and state laws to ensure compliance with safety and transportation guidelines.

What is the USDOT Number Decal?

The USDOT (United States Department of Transportation) number decal is perhaps the most critical decal that a commercial truck needs. Read about Texas DOT Numbers. This unique identifier, issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), helps track a carrier's safety record. It must be displayed on both sides of the commercial vehicle and be clearly visible from 50 feet during daylight hours.

What is the MC Number Decal?

The MC (Motor Carrier) number decal is another critical decal for certain types of commercial trucks. Required for carriers transporting passengers or freight across state lines for compensation, the MC number decal is often displayed alongside the USDOT number decal.

Are There State-Specific Decals Required?

Many states require their specific decals or permits displayed on commercial vehicles operating within their jurisdiction. These can range from permits for oversized loads to decals showing payment of fuel taxes (IFTA decals). Know What is DOT SAP Program? As a commercial driver or carrier, you should check with local state transportation departments to understand the required decals.

What are VIN Decals?

VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) decals are also essential for commercial trucks. While not always required to be displayed as an external decal, the VIN should be easily accessible, usually found on the driver's side door jamb or on the vehicle's frame. It provides essential information about the car, such as make, model, and year, and helps in vehicle identification during inspections or in case of theft.

What about Hazardous Material Decals?

A commercial truck must display the appropriate placards or decals if it transports hazardous materials. These decals inform emergency responders about the type of hazard the cargo presents in case of an accident.

Are Company Information Decals Required?

While not always legally required, it's common for commercial trucks to display decals featuring the company name, logo, and contact information. What is DOT Clearinghouse Enforcement? These decals contribute to branding and provide essential information to others on the road who may need to report issues or incidents involving the truck.

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How Should Decals Be Maintained?

Regular maintenance of decals is crucial to ensure their legibility and adherence to regulations. Faded, damaged, or missing decals can result in penalties during inspections. As a rule of thumb, whenever your commercial vehicle undergoes maintenance or cleaning, your decals should be checked and replaced if necessary.

What are the Consequences of Not Having the Required Decals?

The absence of required decals can lead to various consequences. These can range from penalties and fines to being placed out of service until the necessary decals are correctly displayed.

What are the Best Practices for Applying Decals?

When applying decals, ensure they're clearly visible and contrast with the color of your vehicle. How To Request the DOT PIN Number? They should be placed in an area free of damage and away from doors, moving parts, or areas that frequently get dirty.

Are There Decals for Specialized Equipment?

Yes, certain specialized equipment may require specific decals. For example, vehicles transporting perishable goods may require a decal indicating that they are refrigerated units. Learn here How to Prepare for a Compliance DOT Audit. Trucks equipped with wide-load or oversized equipment may also require unique decals to inform other road users of their status. Always check with local regulations or equipment manufacturers to determine if any specialized decals are necessary.

How Can Drivers Ensure They Have the Correct Decals?

Drivers can ensure they have the correct decals by staying informed about the latest federal, state, and local regulations for their specific operations. Regular vehicle inspections, both pre-trip and post-trip, should include checking decals for presence, legibility, and condition. Consult with fleet managers, safety officers, or regulatory agencies if there's any doubt about decal requirements.

What's the Connection Between Decals and Safety Inspections?

During safety inspections, law enforcement officials or inspectors will check that the appropriate decals are displayed on the vehicle. Visit & learn about the Drug & Alcohol Testing Program. These decals show that the vehicle and its operator comply with federal and state regulations, contributing to the overall safety of the roadways.

How Often Should Decals Be Replaced?

The frequency of decal replacement can depend on various factors, such as the quality of the decal, exposure to weather conditions, and general wear and tear. However, it's best practice to check decals regularly and replace them whenever they fade, peel, or become unreadable.

How Do IFTA Decals Work?

International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) decals are another vital decal type for interstate carriers. Carriers must affix these decals to both sides of their vehicles to show they comply with IFTA, which standardizes interstate carriers' reporting and payment of fuel taxes. IFTA decals are typically issued annually, so they must be replaced yearly.

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Can Decals Be Customized?

While regulatory decals must adhere to specific standards, companies often customize other decals for branding and promotional purposes. Custom decals can include the company logo, colors, and different distinctive designs. However, always ensure that any customizations do not interfere with the visibility or legibility of required decals.

How to Obtain the Necessary Decals?

Obtaining the necessary decals largely depends on the type of decal required. Regulatory decals, such as USDOT, MC numbers, or IFTA decals, are typically acquired through the corresponding regulatory body or agency. Company-specific decals, on the other hand, are usually produced by professional print shops or signage companies. When ordering decals, ensure they meet the necessary size, color, and visibility standards set by the relevant authorities.

Where Should Decals Be Placed on the Truck?

Regulatory requirements usually determine the location of decals on the truck. For instance, USDOT and MC number decals should be placed on both sides of the commercial vehicle in a position that is easily visible from 50 feet during daylight hours. If there are no specific requirements, the decals should be placed where they can be easily seen and won't be damaged or obscured by dirt or moving parts.

What are the Penalties for Non-Compliance?

Non-compliance with decal requirements can result in various penalties, such as fines and out-of-service orders. In severe cases, repeated non-compliance can lead to the suspension or revocation of operating licenses. Know about the DOT Authority Package. To avoid such penalties, staying informed about the latest regulations and ensuring all required decals are correctly displayed and maintained is crucial.

Do Decals Need to Be Reflected?

Reflective or high-visibility decals are often required, especially for certain types of vehicles or operations. For instance, vehicles carrying hazardous materials must display reflective placards to ensure visibility in all conditions. Even when not explicitly required, using reflective decals can enhance visibility and safety, mainly when operating in low-light conditions.

Are There Size and Color Requirements for Decals?

Yes, decals often have size and color requirements, particularly those required by regulation. For example, USDOT number decals must be large enough to be visible from 50 feet during daylight hours, and they should contrast with the background color of the vehicle for visibility. Always check with the relevant regulatory body for each decal's specific size and color requirements.


In conclusion, decals play a crucial role in the commercial trucking industry. They are not just identifiers but also regulatory and safety tools. For commercial truck drivers and carriers, understanding decal requirements is an essential part of their job. Regularly maintaining and updating these decals ensures compliance with regulations and contributes to safer and more efficient operations on our roads. Stay informed, stay compliant, and drive safe!

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