International Registration Plan
The International Registration Plan (IRP) is a cooperative reciprocity registration agreement between the 48 contiguous United States and the Canadian Provinces. Unlike automobiles, each state in which a commercial truck [or trailer] is operated, the states want the truck registered with them which included paying appropriate taxes and receiving a license plate. However, that could require a truck to display 50 or more license plates depending on where the company operates. And this would be for every truck power unit and trailer in their fleet.
Enter the International Registration Plan. IRP’s fundamental principle is to promote and encourage the fullest possible use of the highway system. This is accomplished by encouraging and enabling trucking companies to efficiently and easily handle freight in multiple states, thus providing economic activities.
Rather then the motor carrier contacting each state registering their trucks, individually, where they operate, a base ‘Apportioned’ tag is obtained from the company’s home state. The company then uses the IRP to selectively register the truck in all states/territories where it will be operated. The IRP then apportions the truck’s registration fees to each of the accepted states. You can check the IRP’s website for specifics on the mechanics of this. Now rather then a boat load of paperwork and license plates, the truck has one plate and the driver carries a card with the states of authorization to operate in the cab. In the event of traffic stop by a police officer, the driver hands, among other things, the base plate registration and the IRP ID card. This allows the officer to know the truck is authorized to operate in that state.
As the more states a truck is authorized to operate in the costs go up, some companies will only ‘register’ the truck in a few states – those states the truck is likely to operate in. If a company only operates in the Pacific Time Zone States, it would not be prudent or cost effective or paperwork logical to also authorize 50 trucks with trailers to operate along the Eastern Seaboard.
The draw back for not registering every truck and/or trailer in every state is if the company is offered an opportunity to haul a load to one of the unauthorized states. The company can turn down the work, which may mean it would not be offered such loads in the future. Or the company can accept the load, but the truck could be ticketed and seized if caught driving without proper permits for every state along the route. This is another advantage of the International Registration Plan. The ability to obtain temporarily permits for those states to legally operate.
It must be noted that there are two types of permits that will need to be obtained, if necessary. The registration via the International Registration Plan, and the fuel tax permits via International Fuel Tax Association (IFTA).
A company can file and maintain their own permits, but like everything, there are costs both direct (membership fees) and indirect (manpower, training) to handle permits. This can be especially expensive in smaller companies. There are numerous companies that provide permit services. These companies can generally handle both IRP and IFTA permits as needed. However, temporary permits are much more expensive if used extensively over full year permits. A company would be much wiser to obtain all permits that they may need for the entire year. Another problem with temporary permits is that there can be delays in obtaining them for those last minute loads, risking missing deadlines.
This is only a brief overview of the IRP system and is designed to alert the truck driver to the fact that the International Registration Plan is something they need to be aware of with regards to their truck’s paperwork.