The U.S. moving industry is gigantic. With a market size of $19 billion, it employs over 114,000 people and supports another 122,000 jobs. It generates or contributes to $92.2 billion in economic activity each year. And it supports a large customer base: the average American will move 11.7 times during their lifetime. Each year, over eight percent of Americans relocate in the U.S.
With all of this activity and so many people affected, some questions arise. Who regulates the 7,324 moving companies in the United States? Who makes sure the companies perform their duties honestly and professionally?
This post will describe how American moving companies are regulated and the agencies that regulate them. If you’re moving or planning to move in the near future, this post provides information to help you select a reputable moving company.
How Are Moving Companies Regulated?
The moving industry is considered to be highly regulated. The industry regulations are mostly intended to protect customers. Moving companies pack, load and arrange customers’ personal property. Then they transport it, often over thousands of miles. Once your personal belongings are on the moving truck they’re out of your hands, and you’re at the mercy of the moving company to get them back undamaged and for the previously agreed-upon price.
This is why moving company regulations are important to customers. They’re also important to the companies because they prevent scammers and unethical movers from damaging the reputation of the entire industry.
Most states have consumer protection laws that cover moving services, and there are also federal regulations that apply to moving companies.
Moves within the same state are subject to state laws, and may also be covered by local ordinances. Moves that cross state lines are covered by federal regulations. The distance of the move isn’t necessarily relevant: a move of 700 miles from El Paso, TX to Houston, TX is an intrastate move, while a move of five miles from Omaha, NE to Council Bluffs, IA is an interstate move.
Moves between different states are subject to federal regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, issues regulations and policies for interstate moves.
What Licenses Are Movers Required to Have?
If a moving company only does intrastate moves, it is subject to the laws of the state. Most states require movers to be registered or licensed. Some states require moving companies to hold a federal license and some require both a federal and a state license.
The federal government (U.S. Department of Transportation) licenses interstate moving companies. Companies that transport household goods across state lines are required to have a USDOT license number.
In addition to moving companies, there are brokers who match customers with moving companies. Brokers determine the moving needs of customers and match each customer with moving companies that can meet their needs. Brokers who handle interstate moves must also be licensed.
What Are the Requirements for Licensing?
Interstate movers must keep up with certain requirements in order to obtain and keep their federal license. These include:
- Motor vehicle insurance, liability insurance, and workers’ compensation should any of their workers be injured during a move
- A current registration that is renewed every two years
- A USDOT number which is a unique ID that is assigned to each moving company to track inspections and reviews
The USDOT and FMCSA jointly regulate interstate moving companies. The FMCSA’s main concern is with safety—minimizing accidents during transportation. The agency strives to keep a balance between safety and efficiency. It maintains safety ratings and insurance requirements on interstate moving companies. You can view this information on the USDOT’s online database.
You only want to work with movers that comply with licensing requirements. If you’re planning to hire a commercial moving company to help with your move, you can verify the licenses of moving companies you’re considering.
Many companies display licensing information on their websites and brochures. Otherwise, you can ask them about it when you contact them. There are some non-compliant companies out there; these should generally be avoided as they could be scammers.
In addition to lack of licensing and registration, some other red flags that might indicate an unscrupulous moving company include asking you to sign a blank estimate form, requiring cash payment upfront, and failing to provide a written bill of lading for the transport of your property.
Before moving your household goods between states, interstate movers are required to give you literature issued by the FMCSA. The booklet Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move and the brochure Ready to Move help you understand the documents that a mover will ask you to sign, and specify your rights if your household goods are lost or damaged.
International Moving Companies
The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) regulates overseas moves and licenses companies that provide international household goods shipments. To verify the registration of an international moving company, check the FMC website.
The FMC’s main mission is to ensure competitive and reliable ocean transportation. It also protects the public from unfair and deceptive practices. Additionally, it monitors carriers’ tariff rates to make sure there’s no undue increase in transportation costs. All of these tariff rates are available online. The FMC also helps resolve disputes involving the overseas shipment of personal or household goods.
For added assurance, some moving companies add ProMover certification to their credentials. This voluntary certification is maintained by the American Trucking Association’s Moving & Storage Conference as a way to identify reputable, professional moving companies.
The ProMover certification promotes ethical practices in the moving industry. To be certified, movers must pass a rigorous review of business practices including examination of their business operations and complaint history. Certified movers also have signed a written agreement to abide by the American Trucking Association’s code of ethics and all FMCSA regulations.
International movers can apply for the American Moving & Storage Association’s International ProMover certification. International certified movers must meet certain standards for equipment and facilities, pass a written exam, undergo a review of any complaints, and subscribe to the International ProMover code of ethics.
For companies that specialize in moving offices, the International Office Moving Institute trains and certifies office moving companies to prepare them to move office equipment and furniture. The Certified Mover status is awarded to office moving companies after they complete training and testing to ensure compliance with the institute’s standards.
When you’re entrusting your valuable household possessions to a moving company, it’s reassuring to know that extensive federal and state regulations are in place to protect you. Be sure to verify the credentials of any moving company you’re considering.
We hope you found this post, Who Regulates Moving Companies? useful. Be sure to check out our post, Expert’s Tips to Find a Moving Company For Your Next Move for more great information.
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