Before Requesting Services from Any Mover (Subpart B) - Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move
Part I of II
Click on the question below to view the answer.
What is my mover's normal liability for loss or damage when my mover accepts goods from me?
What actions by me limit or reduce my mover's normal liability?
What are dangerous or hazardous materials that may limit or reduce my mover's normal liability?
May my mover have agents?
What items must be in my mover's advertisements?
How must my mover handle complaints and inquiries?
Do I have the right to inspect my mover's tariffs (schedules of rates or charges) applicable to my move?
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In general, your mover is legally liable for loss or damage that occurs during performance of any transportation of household goods and of all related services identified on your mover's lawful bill of lading.
Your mover is liable for loss of, or damage to, any household goods to the extent provided in the current Surface Transportation Board's Released Rates Order. You may obtain a copy of the current Released Rates Order by contacting the Surface Transportation Board at the address provided under the definition of the Surface Transportation Board. The rate may be increased annually by your mover based on the U.S. Department of Commerce's Cost of Living Adjustment. Your mover may have additional liability if your mover sells liability insurance to you.
All moving companies are required to assume liability for the value of the goods transported. However, there are different levels of liability, and you should be aware of the amount of protection provided and the charges for each option.
Basically, most movers offer two different levels of liability under the terms of their tariffs and the Surface Transportation Board's Released Rates Orders. These orders govern the moving industry.
FULL-VALUE PROTECTION (FVP). This is the most comprehensive option available for the protection of your goods. Unless you waive full-value protection in writing and agree to Released Value Protection as described below, your shipment will be transported under your mover's FULL (REPLACEMENT) VALUE level of liability. If any article is lost, destroyed, or damaged while in your mover's custody, your mover will, at its option, either: 1) repair the article to the extent necessary to restore it to the same condition as when it was received by your mover, or pay you for the cost of such repairs; 2) replace the article with an article of like kind; or 3) pay you for the cost of a replacement article at the current market replacement value, regardless of the age of the lost or damaged article. Your mover will charge you for this level of protection, or you may select the alternative level of liability described below.
The cost for FVP is based on the value that you place on your shipment; for example, the valuation charge for a shipment valued at $25,000 would be about $250.00. However, the exact cost for full-value protection may vary by mover and may be further subject to various deductible levels of liability that may reduce your cost. Ask your mover for the details and cost of its specific plan.
Under the FVP level of liability, movers are permitted to limit their liability for loss or damage to articles of extraordinary value, unless you specifically list these articles on the shipping documents. An article of extraordinary value is any item whose value exceeds $100 per pound (for example, jewelry, silverware, china, furs, antiques, oriental rugs, and computer software). Ask your mover for a complete explanation of this limitation before your move. It is your responsibility to study this provision carefully and to make the necessary declaration.
Released Value of 60 Cents Per Pound Per Article. This is the most economical protection option available; however, this no-cost option provides only minimal protection. Under this option, the mover assumes liability for no more than 60 cents per pound, per article. Loss or damage claims are settled based on the weight of the article multiplied by 60 cents per pound. For example, if a 10-pound stereo component, valued at $1000 were lost or destroyed, the mover would be liable for no more than $6.00 (10 pounds x 60 cents per pound). Obviously, you should think carefully before agreeing to such an arrangement. There is no extra charge for this minimal protection, but you must sign a specific statement on the bill of lading agreeing to it. If you do not select this alternative level of liability, your shipment will be transported at the Full (Replacement) Value level of liability and you will be assessed the applicable valuation charge.
These two levels of liability are not insurance agreements that are governed by State insurance laws, but instead are contractual tariff levels of liability authorized under Released Rates Orders of the Surface Transportation Board of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In addition to these options, some movers may also offer to sell, or procure for you, separate liability insurance from a third-party insurance company when you release your shipment for transportation at the minimum released value [60 cents per pound ($1.32 per kilogram) per article]. This is not valuation coverage governed by Federal law, but optional insurance regulated under State law. If you purchase this separate coverage and your mover is responsible for loss or damage, the mover is liable only for an amount not exceeding 60 cents per pound ($1.32 per kilogram) per article, and the balance of the loss is recoverable from the insurance company up to the amount of insurance purchased. The mover's representative can advise you of the availability of such liability insurance, and the cost.
If you purchase liability insurance from, or through, your mover, the mover is required to issue a policy or other written record of the purchase and to provide you with a copy of the policy or other document at the time of purchase. If the mover fails to comply with this requirement, the mover becomes fully liable for any claim for loss or damage attributed to its negligence.
Your actions may limit or reduce your mover's normal liability under the following three circumstances:
- You include perishable, dangerous, or hazardous materials in your household goods without your mover's knowledge.
- You choose the alternative level of liability (60 cents per pound per article) but ship household goods valued at more than 60 cents per pound ($1.32 per kilogram) per article.
- You fail to notify your mover in writing of articles valued at more than $100 per pound ($220 per kilogram). (If you do notify your mover, you will be entitled to full recovery up to the declared value of the article or articles, not to exceed the declared value of the entire shipment.)
Federal law forbids you to ship hazardous materials in your household goods boxes or luggage without informing your mover. A violation can result in five years' imprisonment and penalties of $250,000 or more (49 U.S.C. 5124). You could also lose or damage your household goods by fire, explosion, or contamination.
If you offer hazardous materials to your mover, you are considered a hazardous materials shipper and must comply with the hazardous materials requirements in 49 CFR Parts 171, 172, and 173, including but not limited to package labeling and marking, shipping papers, and emergency response information. Your mover must comply with 49 CFR Parts 171, 172, 173, and 177 as a hazardous materials carrier.
Hazardous materials include explosives, compressed gases, flammable liquids and solids, oxidizers, poisons, corrosives, and radioactive materials. Examples include the following: nail polish remover, paints, paint thinners, lighter fluid, gasoline, fireworks, oxygen bottles, propane cylinders, automotive repair and maintenance chemicals, and radio-pharmaceuticals.
There are special exceptions for small quantities (up to 70 ounces total) of medicinal and toilet articles carried in your household goods and certain smoking materials carried on your person. For further information, contact your mover.
Yes, your mover may have agents. If your mover has agents, your mover must have written agreements with its prime agents. Your mover and its retained prime agent must sign their agreements. Copies of your mover's prime agent agreements must be in your mover's files for a period of at least 24 months following the date of termination of each agreement.
Your mover must publish and use only truthful, straightforward, and honest advertisements. Your mover must include certain information in all advertisements for all services (including any accessorial services incidental to or part of interstate transportation). Your mover must require each of its agents to include the same information in its advertisements. The information must include the following two pieces of information about your mover:
- Name or trade name of the mover under whose U.S. DOT number the advertised service will originate.
- U.S. DOT number, assigned by FMCSA, authorizing your mover to operate. Your mover must display the information as: U.S. DOT No. (assigned number).
You should compare the name or trade name of the mover and its U.S. DOT number to the name and U.S. DOT number on the sides of the truck(s) that arrive at your residence. The names and numbers should be identical. If the names and numbers are not identical, you should ask your mover immediately why they are not. You should not allow the mover to load your household goods on its truck(s) until you obtain a satisfactory response from the mover's local agent. The discrepancies may warn of problems you will have later in your business dealings with this mover.
All movers are expected to respond promptly to complaints or inquiries from you, the customer. Should you have a complaint or question about your move, you should first attempt to obtain a satisfactory response from the mover's local agent, the sales representative who handled the arrangements for your move, or the driver assigned to your shipment.
If for any reason you are unable to obtain a satisfactory response from one of these persons, you should then contact the mover's principal office. When you make such a call, be sure to have available your copies of all documents relating to your move. Particularly important is the number assigned to your shipment by your mover.
Interstate movers are also required to offer neutral arbitration as a means of resolving consumer disputes involving loss of or damage to your household goods shipment and disputes regarding charges that your mover billed in addition to those collected at delivery. Your mover is required to provide you with information regarding its arbitration program. You have the right to pursue court action under 49 U.S.C. 14706 to seek judicial redress directly rather than participate in your mover's arbitration program.
All interstate moving companies are required to maintain a complaint and inquiry procedure to assist their customers. At the time you make the arrangements for your move, you should ask the mover's representative for a description of the mover's procedure, the telephone number to be used to contact the mover, and whether the mover will pay for such telephone calls.
Your mover's procedure must include the following four items:
- A communications system allowing you to communicate with your mover's principal place of business by telephone.
- A telephone number.
- A clear and concise statement about who must pay for complaint and inquiry telephone calls.
- A written or electronic record system for recording all inquiries and complaints received from you by any means of communication.
Your mover must give you a clear and concise written description of its procedure. You may want to be certain that the system is in place.
Federal law requires your mover to advise you of your right to inspect your mover's tariffs (its schedules of rates or charges) governing your shipment. Movers' tariffs are made a part of the contract of carriage (bill of lading) between you and the mover. You may inspect the tariff at the mover's facility, or, upon request, the mover will furnish you a free copy of any tariff provision containing the mover's rates, rules, or charges governing your shipment.
Tariffs may include provisions limiting the mover's liability. This would generally be described in a section on declaring value on the bill of lading. A second tariff provision may set the periods for filing claims. This would generally be described in Section 6 on the reverse side of a bill of lading. A third tariff provision may reserve your mover's right to assess additional charges for additional services performed. For non-binding estimates, another tariff provision may base charges upon the exact weight of the goods transported. Your mover's tariff may contain other provisions that apply to your move. Ask your mover what they might be, and request a copy.