Before hiring a mover what you need to know
Before Requesting Services from Any Mover
What is my mover’s normal liability for loss or damage when my mover accepts goods from me?
In general, your mover is legally liable for loss or damage that occurs during performance of any transportation of household goods and of all related services identified on your mover’s lawful bill of lading.
Your mover is liable for loss of, or damage to, any household goods to the extent provided in the current Surface Transportation Board’s Released Rates Order. You may obtain a copy of the current Released Rates Order by contacting the Surface Transportation Board at the address provided under the definition of the Surface Transportation Board. The rate may be increased annually by your mover based on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Cost of Living Adjustment. Your mover may have additional liability if your mover sells liability insurance to you.
All moving companies are required to assume liability for the value of the goods transported. However, there are different levels of liability, and you should be aware of the amount of protection provided and the charges for each option.
Basically, most movers offer two different levels of liability under the terms of their tariffs and the Surface Transportation Board’s Released Rates Orders. These orders govern the moving industry.
FULL-VALUE PROTECTION (FVP). This is the most comprehensive option available for the protection of your goods. Unless you waive full-value protection in writing and agree to Released Value Protection as described below, your shipment will be transported under your mover’s FULL (REPLACEMENT) VALUE level of liability. If any article is lost, destroyed, or damaged while in your mover’s custody, your mover will, at its option, either: 1) repair the article to the extent necessary to restore it to the same condition as when it was received by your mover, or pay you for the cost of such repairs; 2) replace the article with an article of like kind; or 3) pay you for the cost of a replacement article at the current market replacement value, regardless of the age of the lost or damaged article. Your mover will charge you for this level of protection, or you may select the alternative level of liability described below.
The cost for FVP is based on the value that you place on your shipment; for example, the valuation charge for a shipment valued at $25,000 would be about $250.00. However, the exact cost for full-value protection may vary by mover and may be further subject to various deductible levels of liability that may reduce your cost. Ask your mover for the details and cost of its specific plan.
Under the FVP level of liability, movers are permitted to limit their liability for loss or damage to articles of extraordinary value, unless you specifically list these articles on the shipping documents. An article of extraordinary value is any item whose value exceeds $100 per pound (for example, jewelry, silverware, china, furs, antiques, oriental rugs, and computer software). Ask your mover for a complete explanation of this limitation before your move. It is your responsibility to study this provision carefully and to make the necessary declaration.
Released Value of 60 Cents Per Pound Per Article. This is the most economical protection option available; however, this no-cost option provides only minimal protection. Under this option, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound, per article. Loss or damage claims are settled based on the weight of the article multiplied by 60 cents per pound. For example, if a 10-pound stereo component, valued at $1000 were lost or destroyed, the mover would be liable for no more than $6.00 (10 pounds x 60 cents per pound). Obviously, you should think carefully before agreeing to such an arrangement. There is no extra charge for this minimal protection, but you must sign a specific statement on the bill of lading agreeing to it. If you do not select this alternative level of liability, your shipment will be transported at the Full (Replacement) Value level of liability and you will be assessed the applicable valuation charge.
These two levels of liability are not insurance agreements that are governed by State insurance laws, but instead are contractual tariff levels of liability authorized under Released Rates Orders of the Surface Transportation Board of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In addition to these options, some movers may also offer to sell, or procure for you, separate liability insurance from a third-party insurance company when you release your shipment for transportation at the minimum released value [60 cents per pound ($1.32 per kilogram) per article]. This is not valuation coverage governed by Federal law, but optional insurance regulated under State law. If you purchase this separate coverage and your mover is responsible for loss or damage, the mover is liable only for an amount not exceeding 60 cents per pound ($1.32 per kilogram) per article, and the balance of the loss is recoverable from the insurance company up to the amount of insurance purchased. The mover’s representative can advise you of the availability of such liability insurance, and the cost.
If you purchase liability insurance from, or through, your mover, the mover is required to issue a policy or other written record of the purchase and to provide you with a copy of the policy or other document at the time of purchase. If the mover fails to comply with this requirement, the mover becomes fully liable for any claim for loss or damage attributed to its negligence.
What actions by me limit or reduce my mover’s normal liability?
Your actions may limit or reduce your mover’s normal liability under the following three circumstances:
- You include perishable, dangerous, or hazardous materials in your household goods without your mover’s knowledge.
- You choose the alternative level of liability (60 cents per pound per article) but ship household goods valued at more than 60 cents per pound ($1.32 per kilogram) per article.
- You fail to notify your mover in writing of articles valued at more than $100 per pound ($220 per kilogram). (If you do notify your mover, you will be entitled to full recovery up to the declared value of the article or articles, not to exceed the declared value of the entire shipment.)
What are dangerous or hazardous materials that may limit or reduce my mover’s normal liability?
Federal law forbids you to ship hazardous materials in your household goods boxes or luggage without informing your mover. A violation can result in five years’ imprisonment and penalties of $250,000 or more (49 U.S.C. 5124). You could also lose or damage your household goods by fire, explosion, or contamination.
If you offer hazardous materials to your mover, you are considered a hazardous materials shipper and must comply with the hazardous materials requirements in 49 CFR Parts 171, 172, and 173, including but not limited to package labeling and marking, shipping papers, and emergency response information. Your mover must comply with 49 CFR Parts 171, 172, 173, and 177 as a hazardous materials carrier.
Hazardous materials include explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids and solids, oxidizers, poisons, corrosives, and radioactive materials. Examples include the following: nail polish remover, paints, paint thinners, lighter fluid, gasoline, fireworks, oxygen bottles, propane cylinders, automotive repair and maintenance chemicals, and radio-pharmaceuticals.
There are special exceptions for small quantities (up to 70 ounces total) of medicinal and toilet articles carried in your household goods and certain smoking materials carried on your person. For further information, contact your mover.
May my mover have agents?
Yes, your mover may have agents. If your mover has agents, your mover must have written agreements with its prime agents. Your mover and its retained prime agent must sign their agreements. Copies of your mover’s prime agent agreements must be in your mover’s files for a period of at least 24 months following the date of termination of each agreement.
What items must be in my mover’s advertisements?
Your mover must publish and use only truthful, straightforward, and honest advertisements. Your mover must include certain information in all advertisements for all services (including any accessorial services incidental to or part of interstate transportation). Your mover must require each of its agents to include the same information in its advertisements. The information must include the following two pieces of information about your mover:
- Name or trade name of the mover under whose U.S. DOT number the advertised service will originate.
- U.S. DOT number, assigned by FMCSA, authorizing your mover to operate. Your mover must display the information as: U.S. DOT No. (assigned number).
You should compare the name or trade name of the mover and its U.S. DOT number to the name and U.S. DOT number on the sides of the truck(s) that arrive at your residence. The names and numbers should be identical. If the names and numbers are not identical, you should ask your mover immediately why they are not. You should not allow the mover to load your household goods on its truck(s) until you obtain a satisfactory response from the mover’s local agent. The discrepancies may warn of problems you will have later in your business dealings with this mover.
How must my mover handle complaints and inquiries?
All movers are expected to respond promptly to complaints or inquiries from you, the customer. Should you have a complaint or question about your move, you should first attempt to obtain a satisfactory response from the mover’s local agent, the sales representative who handled the arrangements for your move, or the driver assigned to your shipment.
If for any reason you are unable to obtain a satisfactory response from one of these persons, you should then contact the mover’s principal office. When you make such a call, be sure to have available your copies of all documents relating to your move. Particularly important is the number assigned to your shipment by your mover.
Interstate movers are also required to offer neutral arbitration as a means of resolving consumer disputes involving loss of or damage to your household goods shipment and disputes regarding charges that your mover billed in addition to those collected at delivery. Your mover is required to provide you with information regarding its arbitration program. You have the right to pursue court action under 49 U.S.C. 14706 to seek judicial redress directly rather than participate in your mover’s arbitration program.
All interstate moving companies are required to maintain a complaint and inquiry procedure to assist their customers. At the time you make the arrangements for your move, you should ask the mover’s representative for a description of the mover’s procedure, the telephone number to be used to contact the mover, and whether the mover will pay for such telephone calls.
Your mover’s procedure must include the following four items:
- A communications system allowing you to communicate with your mover’s principal place of business by telephone.
- A telephone number.
- A clear and concise statement about who must pay for complaint and inquiry telephone calls.
- A written or electronic record system for recording all inquiries and complaints received from you by any means of communication.
Your mover must give you a clear and concise written description of its procedure. You may want to be certain that the system is in place.
Do I have the right to inspect my mover’s tariffs (schedules of rates or charges) applicable to my move?
Federal law requires your mover to advise you of your right to inspect your mover’s tariffs (its schedules of rates or charges) governing your shipment. Movers’ tariffs are made a part of the contract of carriage (bill of lading) between you and the mover. You may inspect the tariff at the mover’s facility, or, upon request, the mover will furnish you a free copy of any tariff provision containing the mover’s rates, rules, or charges governing your shipment.
Tariffs may include provisions limiting the mover’s liability. This would generally be described in a section on declaring value on the bill of lading. A second tariff provision may set the periods for filing claims. This would generally be described in Section 6 on the reverse side of a bill of lading. A third tariff provision may reserve your mover’s right to assess additional charges for additional services performed. For non-binding estimates, another tariff provision may base charges upon the exact weight of the goods transported. Your mover’s tariff may contain other provisions that apply to your move. Ask your mover what they might be, and request a copy.
Must my mover have an arbitration program?
Your mover must have an arbitration program for your use in resolving disputes concerning loss or damage to your household goods and disputes regarding charges that were billed to you in addition to those collected at delivery of your shipment. You have the right not to participate in the arbitration program. You may pursue court action under 49 U.S.C. 14706 to seek judicial remedies directly. Your mover must establish and maintain an arbitration program with the following 11 minimum elements:
- The arbitration program offered to you must prevent your mover from having any special advantage because you live or work in a place distant from the mover’s principal or other place of business.
- Before your household goods are tendered for transport, your mover must provide notice to you of the availability of neutral arbitration, including the following three items:(a) A summary of the arbitration procedure.(b) Any applicable costs.(c) A disclosure of the legal effects of electing to use arbitration.
- Upon your request, your mover must provide information and forms it considers necessary for initiating an action to resolve a dispute under arbitration.
- Each person authorized to arbitrate must be independent of the parties to the dispute and capable of resolving such disputes fairly and expeditiously. Your mover must ensure the arbitrator is authorized and able to obtain from you or your mover any material or relevant information to carry out a fair and expeditious decisionmaking process.
- You must not be required to pay more than one-half of the arbitration’s cost. The arbitrator may determine the percentage of payment of the costs for each party in the arbitration decision, but must not make you pay more than half.
- Your mover must not require you to agree to use arbitration before a dispute arises.
- You and your mover will be bound by arbitration for claims of $10,000 or less if you request arbitration.
- You and your mover will be bound by arbitration for claims of more than $10,000 only if you request arbitration and your mover agrees to it.
- If you and your mover both agree, the arbitrator may provide for an oral presentation of a dispute by a party or representative of a party.
- The arbitrator must render a decision within 60 days of receipt of written notification of the dispute, and a decision by an arbitrator may include any remedies appropriate under the circumstances.
- The 60-day period may be extended for a reasonable period if you fail, or your mover fails, to provide information in a timely manner. Your mover must produce and distribute a concise, easy-to-read, accurate summary of its arbitration program.
Must my mover inform me about my rights and responsibilities under Federal law?
Yes, your mover must inform you about your rights and responsibilities under Federal law. Your mover must produce and distribute this document. It should be in the general order and contain the text of Appendix A to 49 CFR Part 375.
What other information must my mover provide me?
At the time your mover provides a written estimate, it must provide you with a copy of the U.S. Department of Transportation publication FMCSA-ESA-03-005 entitled “ready to move” (or its successor publication). Before your mover executes an order for service for a shipment of household goods, your mover must furnish you with the following four documents:
- The contents of Appendix A, “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move”—this booklet.
- A concise, easy-to-read, accurate summary of your mover’s arbitration program.
- A notice of availability of the applicable sections of your mover’s tariff for the estimate of charges, including an explanation that you may examine the tariff sections, or have copies sent to you upon request.
- A concise, easy-to-read, accurate summary of your mover’s customer complaint and inquiry handling procedures. Included in this summary must be the following two items:
(a) The main telephone number you may use to communicate with your mover.
(b) A clear and concise statement concerning who must pay for telephone calls.
Your mover may, at its discretion, provide additional information to you.
How must my mover collect charges?
Your mover must issue you an honest, truthful freight or expense bill for each shipment transported. Your mover’s freight or expense bill must contain the following 17 items:
- Name of the consignor.
- Name of the consignees.
- Date of the shipment.
- Origin point.
- Destination points.
- Number of packages.
- Description of the freight.
- Weight of the freight (if your shipment is moved under a non-binding estimate)
- Exact rate(s) assessed.
- Disclosure of the actual rates, charges, and allowances for the transportation service, when your mover electronically presents or transmits freight or expense bills to you. These rates must be in accordance with the mover’s applicable tariff.
- An indication of whether adjustments may apply to the bill.
- Total charges due and acceptable methods of payment.
- The nature and amount of any special service charges.
- The points where special services were rendered.
- Route of movement and name of each mover participating in the transportation.
- Transfer points where shipments moved.
- Address where you must pay or address of bill issuer’s principal place of business.
Your mover must present its freight or expense bill to you within 15 days of the date of delivery of a shipment at its destination. The computation of time excludes Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal holidays. If your mover lacks sufficient information to compute its charges, your mover must present its freight bill for payment within 15 days of the date when sufficient information does become available.
May my mover collect charges upon delivery?
Yes. Your mover must specify the form of payment acceptable at delivery when the mover prepares an estimate and order for service. The mover and its agents must honor the form of payment at delivery, except when you mutually agree to a change in writing. The mover must also specify the same form of payment when it prepares your bill of lading, unless you agree to a change.
You must be prepared to pay ten percent more than the estimated amount, if your goods are moving under a non-binding estimate. Every collect-on-delivery shipper must have available 110 percent of the estimate at the time of delivery. In addition, your mover may also collect at the time of delivery the cost of any additional services that you requested after the contract with your mover was executed that were not included in the estimate, and the charges for impracticable operations needed to accomplish delivery, as defined by the carrier’s tariff. Additional charges collected at the time of delivery for impracticable operations may not exceed 15 percent of all other charges due at delivery. You must pay all remaining charges for impracticable operations within 30 days after you receive the mover’s freight bill.
May my mover extend credit to me?
Extending credit to you is not the same as accepting your charge or credit card(s) as payment. Your mover may extend credit to you in the amount of the tariff charges. If your mover extends credit to you, your mover becomes like a bank offering you a line of credit, whose size and interest rate are determined by your ability to pay its tariff charges within the credit period. Your mover must ensure you will pay its tariff charges within the credit period. Your mover may relinquish possession of freight before you pay its tariff charges, at its discretion.
The credit period must begin on the day following presentation of your mover’s freight bill to you. Under Federal regulation, the standard credit period is 7 days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal holidays. Your mover must also extend the credit period to a total of 30 calendar days if the freight bill is not paid within the 7-day period. A service charge equal to one percent of the amount of the freight bill, subject to a $20 minimum, will be assessed for this extension and for each additional 30-day period the charges go unpaid.
Your failure to pay within the credit period will require your mover to determine whether you will comply with the Federal household goods transportation credit regulations in good faith in the future before extending credit again.
May my mover accept charge or credit cards for my payments?
Your mover may allow you to use a charge or credit card for payment of the freight charges. Your mover may accept charge or credit cards whenever you ship with it under an agreement and tariff requiring payment by cash or cash equivalents. Cash equivalents are a certified check, money order, or cashier’s check (a check that a financial institution—bank, credit union, savings and loan—draws upon itself and that is signed by an officer of the financial institution).
If your mover allows you to pay for a freight or expense bill by charge or credit card, your mover deems such a payment to be equivalent to payment by cash, certified check, or cashier’s check. It must note in writing on the order for service and the bill of lading whether you may pay for the transportation and related services using a charge or credit card. You should ask your mover at the time the estimate is written whether it will accept charge or credit cards at the time of delivery.
The mover must specify what charge or credit cards it will accept, such as American Express ™, Discover ™, MasterCard ™, or Visa ™. If your mover agrees to accept payment by charge or credit card, you must arrange with your mover for the delivery only at a time when your mover can obtain authorization for your credit card transaction. If you cause a charge or credit card issuer to reverse a transaction, your mover may consider your action tantamount to forcing your mover to provide an involuntary extension of its credit.