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What Kind of License and Insurance Does a Mover Need?

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When it comes time to choose a moving company to handle your upcoming relocation, you will want to find a trusted and experienced company that will offer you the best services at the best price. It's important to verify that mover's license and insurance, but what kind of licensing and insurance policy is required?

Your budget isn't the only thing you should consider when hiring a mover. You should find a company that is properly licensed to operate in your state and follows all necessary federal moving regulations. License and insurance requirements can vary from state to state and differ between the three types of moves -- local, long distance and international. Moving companies specializing in any or all types of moves should have the appropriate licensure and insurance.

If you are moving locally

You will first want to check your state's individual licensing and insurance requirements. A local move is relocating within a state, as long as it's under the 100 mile threshold. Local movers usually charge by the time spent performing the move.

28 states require a federal identification number, known as a United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) number, even for local movers. While these states may require the USDOT number instead of a state license, others require only a state license.

Call your state's commerce commission or department of transportation office to find out exactly what type of licensing or insurance is required by the state. Verify your mover's numbers against those on file with your state's transportation authority.

If you are moving long distance

A long distance move is characterized by crossing state lines or any relocation over 100 miles within a state. For a long distance move, pricing is determined by weight of the shipment.

Long distance movers must have a USDOT number:

  • The USDOT number is a way for the agency to identify a particular carrier when collecting information from audits, compliance reviews, inspections and other data sets. It is also used as a tool for enforcing and monitoring safety regulations.

  • You can verify the mover's USDOT number through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website. Check the USDOT number clearly marked on your mover's fleet vehicles. It should be printed on the doors of the cab and the rear tractor and match those found in the FMCSA system.

Long distance movers must also be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

  • The FMCSA is more complex than the USDOT and outlines the precise type of operation, cargo and area in which a carrier can operate.

  • The agency also mandates the level of insurance a company must maintain.

You can also ask to see physical insurance certificates for the most accurate comparisons.

TIP:  To ensure your goods won't be held hostage or stolen by an illegal mover, always double-check that your movers can transport your belongings to and from your desired locations. The company should have "Household Goods" listed as items they are allowed to transport.

Some older long-distance carriers will also have an Interstate Commerce Commission Motor Carrier (ICC MC) number. Though the commission was abolished in 1995, many companies that have an older ICC MC number still display it next to their USDOT number. These numbers are no longer valid, but they are the sign of an established mover.

If you are moving internationally

Out of all the different types of moves, international moves are the most complicated to attempt. An international move is not always moving to another county, it also includes any relocation that involves crossing national borders, such as going through Canada to get to Alaska.

Since countries don't impose moving regulations, you need to be particularly careful when moving internationally.

  • Your international mover should have a Freight Forwarder permit or a Federal Maritime Commission number.

  • You may also want to choose a mover that is part of a moving federation like the FIDI Global Alliance, an independent network of international movers founded in 1950.

  • The American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) also provides Registered International Mover Certification, a program that continually monitors international carriers. As very few companies hold this certification, if you see an international mover that does, they are more than likely to be reputable. 

Patrick Hanan  Posted by Patrick Hanan on November 26, 2018

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