How to check your movers license numbers

By Najah Ayoub

Fully licensed and insured movers NYC - Piece of Cake Moving & StorageBefore you pay a deposit, do your own simple, easy check of a movers integrity with our guide to confirming the credentials of any operator and avoid major headaches with your move.

Movers are supposed to lift the stress of a relocation but sadly they’re not all created equal. Whether or not they are a professional company as they claim, will make a huge difference to your experience.

Before you book a mover be sure they meet minimum requirements like insurance, safety, financial responsibility and regulatory compliance.

This fairly simple check should only take 10 minutes of your time and help inform your decision before you put a deposit down for your upcoming more.

There are 4 key ways to check your movers are bonded, licensed, insured and professional:

1. Registration to operate

All movers need to be registered with the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT). Movers will generally list their USDOT number on their website, or will provide it to you on request. These licenses to operate are provided in line with regulations and laws governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). You can enter their USDOT number online in the search tool on the FMCSA website. The search will give you company details including its registration status, fleet size and compliance information. Under the Safety Rating Data, confirm they are “Authorized for HHG” (Household Goods) which confirms their license is intact for residential moves.

Some states also require a state license additional to a USDOT number. In New York State, make sure your mover is licensed by the New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner (NYSDOT) with the appropriate permits such as Authority to Transport Household Goods.

If your mover is hauling cargo across state lines, they will also need an Interstate Operating Authority number, called a Motor Carrier Number (MC) additional to their USDOT registration. You can search a mover’s credentials via their MC number on the FMCSA website.

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2. Insurance

Your mover needs to have multiple levels of insurance coverage to protect their customers, the customers items, the general public, their movers, their fleet, buildings they are working in and their ability to issue Certificates of Insurance (COI) which are mandatory in New York City.

When it comes to protection for your items, there are two options required under Federal Law (FMSCA). They are: Full Value Protection (replacement of 100 percent of their lost or damaged items) or Released Value Protection which is the most economical but for which the mover assumes no more than 60 cents per pound per article. Customers who chose Released Value Protection should still be able to purchase additional insurance for their items from a Third Party. Make sure you understand the different levels of cover available and check the weight of your goods on your binding estimate known as your Bill of Lading before signing.

Your movers also require their own insurance to operate and to go about their business. Standard policies which movers are required to carry include General Liability Insurance, Cargo Insurance, Workers Compensation Coverage, Commercial Auto Insurance and Professional Liability Insurance. Umbrella and Excess Liability policies are add-ons which go beyond General and Auto Insurance. Buildings in New York City will require movers to have Umbrella Insurance for a minimum of $5 million dollars before allowing them inside.

3. Industry excellence

Licensed movers are always a member of one of the peak industry bodies, like the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA). Movers undergo thorough checks by AMSA and stay up to date with the latest regulations and moving technology, and engage in education and safety events. As part of it’s ProMover category, it promotes nationally recognized, industry-wide standards for professional movers. Ask your proposed mover whether they are a member of AMSA or another industry body.

For another 3rd party check visit the Better Business Bureau’s website. It’s a private not-for-profit operating since 1912 to promote marketplace trust and lists consumer and company information based on a company name search.

If you are moving internationally, your mover should be part of a peak organisation like the FIDI Global Alliance. You should ask whether they have a Federal Maritime Commission number or a Freight Forwarder permit depending on your move type.

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4. Online transparency

Professional companies will provide their compliance credentials on their company website. Piece of Cake has a strong culture of safety and transparency and lists compliance details on our website here.

It is industry standards for movers to also maintain other consumer footprints with customers on websites such as Yelp, Google, Thumbtack and Trustpilot. These sites should indicate regular and meaningful engagement by a mover with its customer community including moving advice and support.

If the company you plan to book has a website light on details, does not operate consumer platforms or have a meaningful social media presence it should raise alarm bells about the scope of their operations. While their quote may be lower than all the rest, you can end up with an expensive headache afterwards due to issues ranging from liability for damage and lost or stolen belongings.

5. Customer engagement

The final test of a company’s professionalism is the level of detail in their engagement with a customer. From your first phone call with them, their team should be open and transparent about the process ahead, including their Terms and Conditions and common questions like changes to your booking or the refund of a deposit.

Once you are ready to proceed, they should provide you with key documents like a Bill of Lading which contains all the essential information about your move. A strong customer service culture will stand out when you short list your 3-4 movers for consideration before booking. For more tips on how to pick the right mover, try our 12 step guide to take all the guesswork out of the process.

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