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Licensing Requirements for Auto Transport Companies

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When you're searching for a moving company, you'll notice right away just how many there are. This abundance of moving companies and auto transport companies makes it even more important to do the proper background checks on the moving companies and auto shippers that you are consider using for your move. Moving companies and auto transport companies are required to have certain licenses and certifications in order to operate their business safely and within legal boundaries, and any company that doesn't fill these requirements should not be considered a reputable and trustworthy company.

Auto transport companies are strictly regulated by several federal and state associations whose job it is to monitor and track these moving companies to make sure that they comply with all local and federal moving and transportation regulations. These requirements exist to make sure that all companies operate their business within the boundaries of the law and that they are held responsible for the goods of the customer in the event that anything occurs during the move.

This guide will explain what some of the licensing requirements are for auto transport companies, as well as what you should look for when you go to hire an auto transport company to ensure that the auto shippers you are dealing with are a well-established and reputable auto transport company that will take care of your vehicles during the move.

State licensing requirements

First and foremost, an auto transport company must have the state-specific licensing that is required by the state that the company operates out of. For example, if the company is based in New Jersey, it must have either an NJPC or an NJPM number, which means the company is registered in the state of New Jersey and can legally operate within the state.

Each state has different licensing requirements for its moving companies and auto shippers, and some states are stricter with their requirements than others. Some states, like Kentucky, require their companies to possess multiple state licenses and registration numbers, while other states like Delaware only require the companies to possess a simple permit proving vehicle registration.

These state-specific moving requirements are usually the first level of licensing requirements that auto transport companies and moving companies are required to have in order to be able to legally operate their moving business within that state, however many auto transport companies also operate outside of the state they are based in as well, especially if they are long-distance auto shippers or cross-country shippers that will normally traverse multiple states during a typical move.

In these cases, the company will be required to have other licenses and certifications as well, that enable it to operate in other states outside of the one which it is based in. These federal licenses and certifications are usually the most important ones to look for when hiring a moving company, and they are also a vital component in running a background check on the company to see if they are professionally licensed and insured and running a reputable operation.

US DOT numbers and other federal licensing requirements

Beyond the state requirements, there are several other licensing regulations that moving companies, and auto transports companies in particular, must abide by. The first of these is being registered with the FMCSA, or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA is a requirement for all auto transport companies and long-distance movers and its purpose is to monitor the operations of moving companies by outlining the precise type of operation, cargo and area in which a carrier can operate. The FMCSA also dictates what type of insurance each moving company is required to maintain based on federal regulations.

Another federal licensing requirement for many moving companies is being registered with a US DOT number from the United States Department of Transportation. Although having a US DOT number is only required by law in 28 states as of now, many moving companies have one and it remains one of the most effective ways for customers to check up on a moving company's background and history. US DOT numbers are generally located on the side of the moving company's fleet of vehicles and it's a way for the government to identify a particular carrier when collecting information from audits, compliance reviews, inspections and other data.

Checking up on your auto shipper's licenses and certifications

The smart thing to do when looking for an auto transport company to haul your vehicle for you is to do a little investigative digging to find out if the company has all of their licensing requirements fulfilled and to make sure that the company is dependable and well-established. An auto transport company that fulfills all of its licensing and certification requirements is a reputable company in most cases, so here's what you need to do to make sure that everything checks out with your company:

  • The first thing you can do is to cross-check the company's US DOT number, which can usually be found on the doors of the mover's fleet of vehicles. Visit the website and search for the company's number to see if it shows up in the database.


  • Then, if the US DOT number checks out, you can then reference those numbers with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) at their website and see if they match. If they do, that means the company possesses a legitimate US DOT number and is properly licensed and insured to operate.


  • Next, you can check the company with the Better Business Bureau on their website to see if there are any negative remarks made about the company or if the company has received a bad evaluation. Normally, this website will not mention anything about licensing requirements or certifications, but it's still a good resource to use if you are unsure about the merits of a certain company and suspect that they may be operating illegally or under false pretenses.


  • Finally, check with your state's department of transportation to make sure that the company has all required licenses and commercial licenses necessary to operate within the state.

Robert Moreschi  Posted by Robert Moreschi on April 5, 2013

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