This is a Web, or HTML, version of the brochure that has been developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to assist you in making yours a successful interstate move. While most household moves go smoothly, FMCSA is concerned about consumers who experience difficulties in resolving disputes with household goods carriers (movers)—or worse, are defrauded by dishonest movers. We want you to be informed and aware of your options and we desire to help you choose a reputable mover. (You may download and print a PDF version of the actual pamphlet using the link near the top of this page.)
FMCSA regulates interstate household goods movers and requires them to register with the Agency. These movers must provide each customer with the names of process agents in every state in which they operate, so that legal documents can be served on the mover, if required. For the protection of your household goods, FMCSA also requires registered movers to have proof of cargo insurance.
Know Your Rights and Responsibilities Before Selecting a Mover
Before moving your goods, movers are required to give you a pamphlet entitled Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move. It provides basic information that will help you understand the documents that the mover will ask you to sign. The pamphlet also explains your rights if your household goods are lost or damaged by the mover. A copy of that pamphlet can be downloaded from the section of this Web site entitled Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.
Use Only Registered Movers
Make sure the mover you select has been assigned a USDOT number, is licensed by FMCSA to engage in interstate transportation of household goods, and has proper insurance. You can determine if a mover is registered with FMCSA by accessing the licensing and insurance section of this Web site, or by calling FMCSA at (202) 366-9805 for licensing and (202) 385-2423 for insurance.
Read and Understand All Information Provided by the Mover
The mover should provide you with the following basic documents as part of your move:
The estimate should clearly describe, in writing, all charges for services the mover will perform. Make sure the estimate is signed by the mover. Do not accept oral estimates.
Order For Service
The order for service is a list of all the services the carrier will perform and shows the dates your household goods will be picked up and delivered.
Bill of Lading
The bill of lading is a contract between you and the mover and a receipt of your belongings. You should be given a completed copy of the bill of lading before your goods are loaded.
The inventory is the receipt showing each item you shipped and its condition. Be sure you receive a written copy of the inventory after your household goods are loaded, and that you agree with its description of your household goods' condition.
What if There Is a Problem?
Dispute Settlement Program
Before moving your household goods, interstate movers are required to provide you with information regarding their dispute settlement program. Movers must offer a neutral arbitration program as a means of settling disputes that may arise concerning loss or damage of your household goods.
Loss or Damage of Goods
If your goods are damaged or missing at delivery, request a company claim form from the mover. Complete the claim form to the best of your ability. The mover will tell you where to mail the completed form. You must file a written claim with the mover within 9 months of delivery. Your claim must be in writing but does not have to be submitted on a mover's claim form. It is suggested that you send the claims information to the mover by certified mail.
If you are not satisfied with the settlement offer made by the mover, you have the option of submitting a loss and damage claim with the carrier's dispute settlement program or of seeking other legal remedies.
Applicable Transportation Charges
The charges that a mover assesses for its services must be contained in a published tariff, which must be made available to you upon request. If you feel that a mover has overcharged you, you can contact the Surface Transportation Board at (866) 254-1792 to obtain assistance.
Filing a Complaint
FMCSA does not have authority to resolve claims against a moving company. However, you can file a complaint against the mover by calling FMCSA's 24-hour toll-free hotline at (888) 368-7238, or by going to FMCSA's Complaint Web site. Your complaint may trigger a Federal enforcement investigation against the mover.
DO NOT SIGN BLANK PAPERWORK OR DOCUMENTS YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND!
The best way to avoid problems is to be informed and plan ahead.
Before the Move
- Ask for recommendations from neighbors, friends, and relatives regarding the mover.
- Obtain the booklet Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move from the mover.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau regarding the mover.
- Find out what the mover's responsibilities are for damages that may occur to your belongings.
- Ask if the mover has a dispute settlement program.
- Obtain estimates from at least three movers, and compare costs and all other services to be provided by the mover.
- Check to determine whether the interstate mover is registered with FMCSA, and has a USDOT number.
- Find out how and when pickup and delivery of your household goods will occur.
- Ask the mover how they can be contacted before the move, during the move, and after the move.
- Be present to answer questions and give directions to the movers. Stay until they finish.
- Accompany the movers as they inventory your household goods and resolve any questions regarding the condition of materials being moved.
- Carefully read the information on the estimate, order for service, bill of lading, inventory, and all other completed documents before you sign them.
- Keep the bill of lading until your goods are delivered, the charges are paid, and any claims are settled.
- Before the moving van leaves, take one final look throughout the house to make certain nothing has been left behind.
- Give the driver directions to your new home.
- Inform the driver and the moving company of where you can be reached during the move.
- Be present to answer any questions and give directions.
- Pay the driver before your goods are unloaded.
- Supervise unloading and unpacking of your goods.
- Note on the inventory list all boxes or other items that are damaged before you sign any documents.
Modern History Of Moving:
Currently moving companies are overseen by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), part of the Federal Department of Transportation (DOT). At last count the FMCSA had only nine investigators to handle all of the thousands of complaints against moving companies each year. What does that mean for consumers? It means this:
- Most complaints against movers are overlooked and the consumer becomes a statistic while no action is ever taken against the moving company.
- When Congress dissolved the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) in 1995, they also removed the authority from the FMCSA to step in on a consumer's behalf if they are taken advantage of by a moving company. In other words, they don't have the authority to help you even if they want to.
- If an investigation does occur, it takes months if not years for the FMCSA to, yes, get this... Fine the moving company.
- The scam moving companies get away with not paying the fines and if they did, the consumers don't see a dime of their money back. The money from the moving company's fines go to pay for highway improvements!
There are in fact laws governing moving moving companies, but the moving industry is unique in having special privileges and protections that no other industry could even imagine enjoying.
How did we get here? The interstate household goods moving industry was "price-deregulated" with the Household Goods Transportation Act of 1980. This Act allowed interstate moving companies to issue binding or fixed estimates for the first time. Until then, the moving industry was overseen by the ICC like a public utility (like phone and electricity services). There were only a handful of companies, now known as the "major" van lines, that were allowed to transport household goods interstate, and they all charged according to their tariff -- a schedule of rates and services -- which had a built-in profit. ALL estimates were non-binding. Movers sold themselves on service, not price. The profit margin was very thin, but there was profit.
When the Household Good Transportation Act was passed in 1980, not only could moving companies now compete on price by giving consumers binding estimates, but also there was a provision in the Act that new companies could enter the market. Regarding the "freedom" to give binding estimates, the majors didn't want that. For a while some carriers just had a policy of sticking to non-binding estimates only. But because customers wanted the price certainty of binding estimates, those companies finally caved in and started issuing binding moving estimates too.
So how did the moving industry end up with a special governing body to oversee it in the first place? There is a federal statute enacted in 1906 called the Carmack Amendment. It was originally enacted in response to railroad barons who controlled the few railroads in existence and who were giving their friends favors in transportation rates and squeezing small farmers and everyone else. Back then, railroads were the major method of transporting goods across the still-developing country, and so the ICC was set up, in effect, to regulate the monopoly that was the railroads. The Carmack Amendment forbade "price discrimination"; that is, the railroad baron had to charge a set rate (contained in the railroad's tariff), approved by the ICC, to all shippers. When roads and trucking later arose, the ICC started overseeing that, too. The major van lines and their agent system first got organized, and wrote their tariffs, in the 1930s.
OK, fast forward to 1980 and beyond. Because of the Household Goods Transportation Act of 1980, by the late 1990's there were hundreds of interstate moving companies in existence, all with their own "interstate operating authority" granted to them by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). (Compare that with the handful of companies who had interstate operating authority pre-1980.) Now, anyone can be an interstate mover. It used to take 5 years to get interstate operating authority. Now it takes 3 weeks.
Throw into this mix the fact that moving companies were now, theoretically, competing on price and quality of service. The competition was so fierce, and the moving companies so numerous, that low-balling moving estimates soon became a popular practice. Of course, low-balling doesn't pay if the moving company doesn't practice hostage-freight taking (price-gouging during the move) as well, because the mover has to make money somehow. The need to low-ball to get moves, a direct consequence of the Household Transportation Act of 1980, is responsible for many of the abuses in the moving industry today. The ability of moving companies to get away with it, however, is caused by the Carmack Amendment.
So what's the problem caused by the Carmack Amendment? Carmack purports to govern every single aspect of the shipping transaction. In the late 1990s, several courts handed down decisions interpreting Carmack as being so thorough and far-reaching that it "preempts" all other remedies that would otherwise be available to a plaintiff-shipper under state law. That is, suing for fraud under state consumer fraud/deceptive practices statutes was preempted. That means that an interstate mover can tell you: "I guarantee you that your move will cost only $2000," while intending to hold your goods hostage for $4000 at destination while knowing all the while that there's nothing you can do about it.
Believe it or not, should he do that, according to these courts, you can only sue the mover under Carmack (not for state fraud, etc.), and Carmack, in turn, will allow you to ONLY get your $2000 overcharge back from the moving company. Believe it or not, a mover's "punishment" for stealing from you is to give back what he stole, and that's only if he gets caught and someone forces him to give it back which is no small undertaking in itself. Overall, it's a pretty sweet situation for moving companies, wouldn't you say?
So that is what "deregulation" in interstate moving is about. It's about PRICE deregulation and "ENTRY INTO THE MARKET" deregulation, coupled with the unfortunate decisions of certain courts in the late 1990s that moving companies can only get a slap on the wrist for even the worst abuses. The ICC's disbandment in 1995 was just the last nail on the coffin -- by then, the ICC couldn't really oversee the industry anyway, since so many movers had entered the market and "tariffs" were now anachronisms.
In today's environment of price competition, the current scamming will continue (and get worse) unless there are mechanisms for the consumer to force the mover to stick to his price bid. Those mechanisms are police intervention, punitive damages, and actual enforcement of regulations by the FMCSA.
A Household Moving agent will make a pre-move survey of your household goods to be transported.
A pre-move survey is needed to determine the approximate cost of a move and the amount of van space your goods will occupy.
Your Household Moving agent will compute the approximate cost and give you a written Estimate/Order for Service.
An accurate estimate cannot be calculated without a visual survey of the goods to be moved. There is no charge for the estimate.
Keep in mind that estimates (household goods surveys) are only guidelines.
On interstate shipments, you must pay the total charges as determined by the actual weight of your shipment,
the distance it travels, and the services that you authorize or which become necessary to handle your shipment.
Charges for local shipments are generally calculated on an hourly basis. There may be a minimum number of hours required.
These shipments are handled by the local moving company, not the interstate carrier.
A binding estimate or binding cost of service specifies in advance the
precise cost of the move based on the services requested or deemed necessary at the time of the
estimate. If additional services are requested or required at either origin or destination (
such as a "shuttle" to or from a location to which a full-size van cannot operate directly),
the total cost will increase. Binding estimates are valid for the time period specified, up to
If you add items to be moved or require additional services,
such as packing, between the time of the estimate and the time of your move,
there will be additional charges. An addendum specifying these additional charges will be prepared
for your signature.
If you are interested in obtaining a binding estimate, please discuss it with your Household Moving agent.
If there is a choice, most moving companies suggest you select a time other than summer,
the end of the month or the end-of-year holidays.
The heaviest demands are placed on vans, equipment and personnel during these periods.
However, Household Moving believes you should move when it is most convenient for you.
Factors involved in the decision may include:
- whether the move must be made immediately
- moving children during the school term
- separation of the family while the move is under way
If the move can be scheduled for a time when vans and trained personnel are more readily available,
we'll be better able to meet your preferred delivery schedule.
This depends on many factors, such as the time of year, weather conditions, size of your shipment,
time required to load and unload, and the direction and distance your shipment is traveling.
Because the furnishings of the average household will not fill a van, it is often necessary for two or more shipments to be loaded on the same van.
Each shipment is carefully sectioned off from the others.
With the help of Household Moving's computer-assisted dispatching system, pickup and delivery dates are scheduled according to the origins and destinations of
individual shipments on the van, as well as shipment weight.
It would be more accurate to say that a moving company is "registered." For example,
Household Moving has been issued a certificate of authority by the federal government to move household goods among any of the 50 states.
As a motor carrier, Household Moving has maintained a certificate of authority with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) since September 27, 1988.
A local moving company ("agency") affiliated with a national van line such as Household Moving may also be registered with the DOT to move interstate shipments within
certain geographical areas.
Unless you have been given a binding estimate, the exact cost of your move cannot be determined until after your shipment has been
loaded on the van and weighed. If additional services are requested or become necessary after loading and weighing, additional charges will be incurred.
Basic transportation charges depend on the actual weight of your goods and the distance they will travel.
The total cost will include these transportation costs, any charges for Full-Value Coverage or Depreciated Coverage
(see "Am I Protected Against Loss Or Damage While My Goods Are In Transit?"), plus charges for any "accessorial" services (such as packing and unpacking)
performed by the Household Moving agent at your request. These charges are based on "tariff" rate schedules.
This is the list of rules, regulations, available services and resulting charges used by all motor
carriers which provide interstate transportation of household goods. The tariffs are published by each household goods motor carrier and include its
various services. The tariffs are available for your inspection upon request.
Tariff provisions require that all charges be paid before your shipment is unloaded at destination
(unless prior arrangements have been made for later billing).
Payment for your Household Moving shipment can be made by one of the following methods: cash, traveler's check, money order or cashier's check.
In addition, the American Express® Card, DiscoverSM Card, Visa® or MasterCard® can be used to pay for interstate moves only, with
advance approval required prior to loading (unless other billing arrangements have been made). Personal checks are not accepted.
All payment forms apply to both binding and non-binding estimates.
If you have received a non-binding estimate and your actual moving costs exceed the estimate, you will be required to pay no more than 110% of the
estimated cost at delivery. Should your actual costs exceed the estimate by more than 10%, you will be given 30 days after delivery to pay the amount over 110%.
Payment of estimated charges plus 10% does not apply if goods are delivered into storage.
If storage at destination (storage-in-transit) is necessary, all transportation charges must be paid at time of delivery of the shipment to the warehouse.
You will then be assessed storage charges based on the applicable rates set forth in our tariff.
Most people prefer to have their household possessions, especially fragile items, professionally packed by a moving company.
However, if you decide to pack these items yourself, remember that the basic principles of good packing include wrapping the items individually,
providing plenty of cushioning and making sure of a firm pack.
Be sure to select a sturdy container with a lid. Place a two- or three-inch layer of crushed paper on the bottom of the carton as a cushion.
Wrap each item individually with a soft material to provide a safe, protective, "padded nest." Pack the heaviest items on the bottom and the lighter ones next,
filling in empty spaces with crushed paper. Place plates on edge and glassware on rims for maximum protection. Mark the carton "Fragile," and list the contents on
the outside. Be sure to seal the carton with tape.
Cartons, paper and tape may be purchased from your local Household Moving agent for a small fee. Also ask your agent for a copy of the free booklet
"The Do-It-Yourself Packing Guide" or visiting our Packing Tips page.
Household Moving cannot accept responsibility for safely moving your plants, because they may suffer from a
lack of water and light as well as probable temperature changes while in the van.
You may prefer to transport your house plants in the family car or ship them by plane.
Some states prohibit the entry of all plants, while other states will admit plants under certain conditions;
still others have no plant regulations. Be sure to check the regulations of the state to which you're moving.
Pets cannot be carried on the moving van. Dogs, cats, canaries and parakeets can usually be transported in the family car.
If this isn't convenient, your Household Moving agent will be glad to suggest alternate ways to ship your pets safely.