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Licensing Requirements for Auto Transport Companies

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Moving companies and auto transport companies are required to have certain licenses and certifications in order to operate their businesses safely and within legal boundaries, and any company that doesn't fill these requirements should not be considered reputable or trustworthy.

Licensing Requirements for Auto Transport Companies

Auto transport companies are strictly regulated by several federal and state associations who monitor and track them to make sure they comply with all local and federal moving and transportation regulations. These requirements exist to make sure that all companies operate their businesses 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.

If you want to hire a well-established shipping company to take care of your vehicle during your move, here are some basic requirements of auto transport license to look for.

State licensing requirements

First and foremost, an auto transport company must have the state-specific licensing required by the state that the company operates out of. For example, if the moving company is based in New Jersey, it must have a zip code, 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 auto transporters and moving companies, and some states are more particular with their requirements than others. For example, states like Kentucky require their companies to possess multiple state licenses and registration numbers, while 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 legally operate their moving businesses within that state. However, many auto transport companies also operate outside of the state, especially if they are long-distance auto transport companies that 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.

USDOT numbers and other federal licensing requirements

Beyond the state licensing requirements, there are several other licensing regulations that auto transport companies must abide by.

  • The first of these is being registered with the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration),a requirement for all auto transport companies and long-distance movers. The FMCSA monitors and regulates 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 USDOT number from the United States Department of Transportation. The USDOT number is a way for the government to identify a particular auto carrier when collecting information from audits, compliance reviews, inspections, and other data. Although having a USDOT number is currently only required by law in 37 states, many moving companies have one and it remains one of the most effective ways for customers to check a moving company's background and history. USDOT numbers are generally located on the side of the moving company's fleet of vehicles.

Checking up on your car 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 the most 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 USDOT 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.
  • If the USDOT 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 USDOT number and is properly licensed and insured to operate.
  • Next, you can check the Better Business Bureaus website to see if there are any negative remarks on record 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 car shipper has all required licenses necessary to operate within that state.

Robert Moreschi  Posted by Robert Moreschi on April 5, 2013

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