Freight brokers must register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Essentially, you file an application (form OP-1) and pay a filing fee, obtain a $75,000 surety bond or establish a trust fund, and designate agents for service of legal process. The registration will remain valid as long as these requirements continue to be met.
The surety bond or trust fund is evidence of financial responsibility. This means you must demonstrate you have access to that amount of liquid assets to meet your obligations and pay any potential claims. You can either use your own resources or contract with a bonding company. Evidence of a surety bond must be filed using form BMC 84; evidence of a trust fund with a financial institution must be filed using form BMC 85.
Designation of process agents means that for each state in which you have offices or in which you write contracts, you must file a designation of person on whom court process may be served.
When your application is approved, you’ll receive a permit with an MC number from the FHWA that's your authority to operate as a broker within the United States. Beyond the regulations that govern your particular operation, when you act on behalf of a person bound by law or FHWA regulations as to the transmittal of bills or payments, you must also abide by the laws or regulations that apply to that person.
In addition to federal requirements, you’ll need whatever business licenses and/or operational permits that are required by your local and state governments. Check with your local planning and zoning department or city/county business license department to find out what you need.