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Understanding Interstate Licenses and Insurance

Interstate Licenses

Movers (also called motor carriers) must be licensed in order to engage in for-hire long distance (interstate) or local (intrastate, or within a state) transportation of household goods.

Here we will explain how you can verify that your mover is in fact licensed to do your cross country move.

Difference between interstate and intrastate licenses.

Movers looking to engage in long distance moves are required to have interstate license. That means that your mover will have to give you their USDOT license number before you hire them.

Intrastate (in the same state) moves are regulated by the individual states where those moves take place, therefore a mover planning to engage in intrastate moves in his state is required to first obtain a local moving license. For example, in New York State movers are required to have a local moving license (NYDOT number), and it used to take at least 2 years after obtaining the USDOT license before the movers were considered for the intrastate license by the NYDOT.

NOTE: agents of major Van Lines (like Mayflower, United, North American etc.) can operate under their Van Line authority (for interstate moves). They are however required to have individual intrastate licenses if they plan to engage in local moves within their states.

Also, if the mover only has MC (Motor Carriers) license number and no USDOT license it means that you are dealing with a moving broker (or a mover that still has its USDOT license pending).

Accessing licensing information online

The surest way to check your mover's licensing and insurance information is through FMCSA operated website SaferSys.org. Click on the link and you will reach the Company Snapshot page. Here you can enter the company's USDOT number (or the MC license number, or part of the name), and you will get to the Company Snapshot Page.

From that page you can understand if there are any problems with the mover's interstate license. Here are the steps you need to follow:
  1. At the top right of the page, the field ''Out of Service'' should read ''No'' and the ''Out of Service Date'' field should read ''None''
  2. Auth for Hire field under Open Classification should have ''X'' next to it.
  3. If you are moving out of state, the Carrier Operation section should have an ''X'' next to Interstate.
  4. The Cargo Carried section should have an ''X'' next to Household Goods.
This page also helps you to understand the size of the company and its safety rating.

Understanding operating authority

Operating Authority (moving license) is broken down by type (common, contract, and broker) and commodity (property except household goods, household goods, and passenger).

  • Common carriers: open to the public for hire.
  • Contract carriers: only serve businesses with whom they have a contract.
  • Brokers: merely arrange for transportation but don't actually take possession of a shipment.
General commodities are classified as Property Except Household Goods, while the personal effects of a homeowner are considered Household Goods.

To check the details of your movers Operating Authority go to the bottom of the Company Snapshot Page and click on the FMCSA Licensing & Insurance site link. Click on the HTML button, which will bring you to the company's name, address and legal name.

The ''Authority Type'' column contains three listings - Common, Contract and Broker. The column to the right will indicate whether any of these authorities are active. The company should at least have the Common listed as active. If it indicates ''Application Pending - YES'' or ''INACTIVE'' under Common, something is wrong.

Also, the ''Household Goods'' column should say ''YES''.

In the very bottom you will also see several links that provide additional information about the mover's authority and insurance. Here is what you can learn about mover's authority by clicking on those links:
  1. Authority History: indicates when the mover had the authority Granted, Revoked and/or Reinstated,
  2. Pending Application: indicates whether there are any pending applications for authority,
  3. Revocation: lists all the revocations the mover had since the authority was granted.

Carrier Insurance

Carriers need to have a minimum amount of personal, property, and cargo insurance to get authority. The amount depends on the weight of the mover's vehicle and the class of goods he is typically transporting.

The minimum amount of bodily injury and property damage (liability) insurance coverage the mover must maintain and have on file with the federal government is listed under ''Insurance Required'', and the insurance the mover actually has is listed under ''Insurance on File''.

Common Carriers must also file evidence of a minimum $10,000 cargo insurance policy.

To learn more about mover's insurance take a look at the bottom of the FMCSA report page. Here you can learn about:
  1. The Blanket Company,
  2. Active/Pending Insurance,
  3. Rejected Insurance, and
  4. Insurance History.

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