A Laymen’s Guide to Federal Regs for Household Goods Moves

The transport of household goods is a universal component of corporate relocation, but the benefit is not without risk. A botched move (i.e., broken furniture, missing valuables) can result in a nightmarish relocation experience—one that’s more common than you might think.


However, there are steps that employers and employees can take to guard against household goods moves gone bad. It starts with knowing the federal regulations governing the moving industry. Our quick guide will get you up to speed fast.


The Truth about the Moving Industry 

Transportation is hard to regulate, which may be why the residential moving industry sees more than its share of bad actors. While there are reputable movers out there—and we work with them every day!—moving fraud remains a real threat.

Household goods carriers and brokers are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Last year, the agency received more than 7,600 complaints against moving companies. Most of these concerned:

  • Lowballed Estimates – Here, movers provide a low non-binding estimate, but once goods are on the truck, claim the actual weight/volume is much higher, demanding more money.
  • Disappearing Funds - Some fraudulent moving companies request deposits or prepayments and then take off with the funds.
  • Taking Goods Hostage – Occasionally, disreputable movers will demand additional payment before releasing customers’ possessions.
  • Hidden Fees – Some movers add previously undisclosed fees or “surcharges” to the final bills.
  • Damaged or Stolen Goods - Some movers have been known to damage and even steal their customers’ belongings—and not make it right.
  • Identity Theft – In extreme cases, sham movers have used customers’ personal information to commit identity theft.

Often these are unlicensed movers, which makes them hard to track and leaves consumers without recourse. That’s where FMCSA regs come in.


Federal Regulations Governing Household Goods Moves   

FMCSA regs apply to interstate movers and brokers. (Some states have their own regulations governing moves within state borders.) These regulations require movers to:

  • Register with the FMCSA and obtain a USDOT number—a unique identifier used to track the company. Consumers should never use a non-registered mover.
  • Carry liability and cargo insurance. Customers can choose from two levels of protection: Full Value Protection (the more comprehensive, expensive option) or Released Value (economical, limited protection).
  • Provide customers with the following information:
  1. Written estimates, based on physical or virtual inspection of the goods to be transported. Both binding and non-binding estimates are allowed, subject to specific conditions.
  2. A complete inventory of goods (usually prepared when the shipment is loaded).
  3. A bill of lading—a detailed contract between mover and consumer, issued prior to pick-up. Among other things, it specifies the agreed-upon pickup date and delivery timeframe.  
  4. An invoice, detailing the charges for provided services. (Sometimes, the bill of lading is used here.)
  5. Weight tickets showing the actual weight of the shipment, for non-binding estimates based on goods’ weight.
  6. Details about their arbitration program and claims process.


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How Employers Can Ensure Smooth Moves  

If you’re an employer that offers relocation benefits, it’s obviously in your best interest to make sure that your employees choose quality household goods movers.

If you offer a lump sum relocation allowance without relocation services or preferred vendors, you’ll undoubtedly want to make your employees aware of this information, so they’re better equipped to choose movers wisely.

Better yet, if you use a relocation provider, your employees have an extra layer—or two—of protection against negative moving experiences.

For one thing, if your employees have access to professional relocation specialists, those specialists can guide employees to choose reputable movers. For another, most leading relocation companies maintain carefully-screened networks of vetted movers and other suppliers.    

These suppliers are motivated to provide A-level service to these sponsored moves in return for repeat business. (As an added bonus, they may also agree to discounted fees, which benefit everyone.)

Needless to say, at UrbanBound, we’re passionate about ensuring that our clients’ household goods moves are smooth and stress-free. For more about our rigorous vetting process, read our companion blog, How Working with Vetted Suppliers Can Save Your Employees Time, Money & Frustration.

Human Resources Today