On April 4, 2023, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) declared the nationwide initiation of Operation Protect Your Move in a bid to tackle moving scams before the busy summer moving season.
The FMCSA has launched this operation to address the increasing amount of consumer complaints regarding movers holding household possessions hostage and demanding excessive additional fees.
To support this intervention, numerous investigators will be deployed as examiners throughout the United States.
The FMCSA will handle grievances about non-compliant moving companies, owner-operators, and brokers who fail to abide by federal regulations and statutes for transporting household items, including safety and consumer protection measures.
This initiative targets both movers and brokers who falsely claim to link customers with local movers but who actually tend to promote scams resulting in fraud.
But Operation Protect Your Move is far from the only way the FMCSA seeks to protect movers, drivers, and travelers—read on to learn more.
What is the FMCSA?
The FMCSA is an agency that operates within the U.S. Department of Transportation. Its mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), bus companies, and other motor passenger carriers on our nation’s roadways.
To achieve this mission, the FMCSA follows a safety measurement system (SMS) to assess on-road safety performance, sets CMV safety standards, and collects relevant safety data for the commercial trucking industry.
The FMCSA regulates drivers engaged in interstate commerce activities as well as certain intrastate commerce activities involving CMVs.
Its regulations aim to ensure that bus and truck drivers are qualified to operate their vehicles safely with a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), that the vehicles they drive meet applicable safety standards, and that the vehicles are in the Federal Register with a USDOT number—so you can basically think of them as fleet management for trucking companies.
FMCSA regulations are published in the Federal Register and collected in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
The FMCSA also promotes safe operations through things like the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, and state enforcement initiatives.
In addition to regulations governing driver qualifications, hours of service, vehicle maintenance, and other safety standards, the FMCSA also limits how long drivers and carriers can operate without a break and the maximum number of hours they can legally drive in a day, or HOS (hours of service) as it’s known in the industry.
The hours are usually recorded on an electronic logging device (ELD) to eliminate high-risk lengthy driving hours.
The FMCSA also requires CMV operators to have sufficient and appropriate insurance coverage for their vehicles.
The administration is committed to improving safety on our nation’s roads and highways. Its regulations verify that motor carriers, drivers, and vehicles comply with all applicable safety standards, with regular assessments of safety performance and safety ratings.
The FMCSA works closely with state agencies, law enforcement officials, and other stakeholders to promote safe driving practices by conducting roadside inspections and obtaining safety information, eliminating unsafe vehicles, and reducing the number of CMV-related fatalities nationwide.
By working together, the FMCSA and its partners help to ensure our nation’s highways remain safe for everyone.
For more information, visit the FMCSA website at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
Who is subject to FMCSA regulations?
The FMCSA regulates interstate moving companies, helping you avoid common scams. Get a moving quote and be sure to check the company’s FMCSA registration info before making a decision.Learn More
Those subject to FMCSA regulations include interstate and intrastate motor carriers, freight forwarders, brokers, intermodal equipment providers, hazardous material shippers, and other entities that provide transportation services.
This includes both for-hire and private motor carriers and cargo van operators. Drivers of these vehicles are also subject to FMCSA regulations, including registration requirements, hours of service regulations, drug and alcohol testing requirements, medical certificates, and employment qualifications.
The FMCSA also sets CMV safety standards and establishes enforcement procedures for violations of its regulations. Compliance with the FMCSA’s regulations is essential to protect public safety and reduce the risk of accidents involving large trucks and buses.
In addition, states may have specific requirements that apply to any motor carriers operating within their borders. The FMCSA partners with state governments to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations as the operating authority.
Aiming to improve CMV safety on our nation’s roads, the FMCSA continually strengthens its enforcement programs and ensures that commercial motor carriers operate safely and comply with applicable laws.
Controlled substances, drug, and alcohol testing for drivers
FMCSA regulations require that CMV drivers subject to the agency’s drug and alcohol testing rules submit to drug testing before being hired, randomly while employed, following an accident, or if there’s ever reasonable suspicion of on-duty drug use.
Drivers must also provide a urine sample for alcohol testing if there’s reasonable suspicion of on-duty drinking or within eight hours of an accident.
The FMCSA also requires that all CMV drivers complete at least one drug test each year and that at least 50% of drivers take two or more tests during the same period.
To remain compliant with FMCSA regulations, employers must have a drug and alcohol testing program that meets the agency’s requirements.
Other moving-specific FMCSA regulations
In June 2022, the FMCSA implemented regulations to help consumers avoid common moving pitfalls, which apply to brokers and asset-based moving companies that move household goods across state lines.
Those regulations included:
- Increased fraud protection
- Improved consumer education
- Simplified paperwork
- A condensed and modernized version of the “Ready to Move?” publication
- More significant penalties for unscrupulous brokers and movers (minimum of $2,070 per civil violation)
Prior to these beefed-up consumer protections, there hadn’t been any significant rule changes in this area for nearly a decade. To help with the rulemaking process, the FMCSA formed the Household Goods Consumer Protection Working Group.
How do FMCSA regulations protect movers?
Thanks mainly to the internet, the number of moving brokers has exploded in recent years.
It’s worth noting that brokers are transportation intermediaries. They don’t employ moving crews or have assets like trucks and warehouses. Instead, brokers act as “middlemen” between customers and traditional asset-based moving companies.
Though not inherently wrong, the broker business model has several serious drawbacks.
Moving companies and brokers weren’t always subject to the same regulations in the past, and enforcement has been spotty. In addition, brokers now commonly demand deposits exceeding 50% of the total estimated move cost.
On the other hand, most traditional movers don’t require any deposits.
Worse yet, many brokers don’t have written policies regarding deposits, cancellations, and refunds, and if they do, they often keep them out of sight.
Movers and brokers who intentionally bilk unsuspecting customers out of deposits are collectively called “deposit mills.” Many make significant portions of their annual revenue from this dishonest practice.
Thankfully, there are FMCSR regulations to address this issue:
Orders for service are a thing of the past
Before June 2022, orders for service were among the most essential moving documents. They’re now no longer required on interstate household goods moves.
The applicability of the term has been eliminated from consumer protection regulations. All information previously included on the order for service should now be on the bill of lading.
Bills of lading are king
Bills of lading are legal documents issued by carriers (movers and brokers) to shippers (customers). FMCSA rules now require that bills of lading include all relevant move information, excluding that which remains undetermined, like actual shipment weight.
To give consumers ample time to review bills of lading, they must now be provided, signed, and dated at least three days before the scheduled loading date.
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Customers have the right to cancel their moves
In the past, last-minute move cancellations usually meant forfeiting deposits. Now, customers can cancel or “rescind” their moves without penalty, as long as it’s done within the three days between signing the bill of lading and their scheduled move day.
Within this window, customers can cancel moves for any reason or no reason at all. However, there’s no explicit mention of deposits in the FMCSA rules.
Customers are entitled to know their rights and responsibilities
Since orders for service are no longer used on interstate moves, carriers and brokers must now provide customers with a copy of Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move at the time of the estimate.
When hard copies aren’t available, movers and brokers must provide clear links to the FMCSA website or show a clear and accurate reproduction of the document on their website.
Either way, movers and brokers must obtain signed and dated receipts to prove they’ve fulfilled this requirement and where exactly the financial responsibility lies.
Move changes must be documented
It’s typical on many long-distance moves for customers to add items or request services not included in the original estimate. In such cases, movers and brokers must prepare a new binding or non-binding estimate instead of simply revising the original.
These new estimates must be prepared before loading and include the date/time of and reason for the changes.
Remember that new estimates don’t restart the three-day clock for cancellation.
Customers can’t be forced to sign blank documents
Savvy consumers rarely sign incomplete or blank documents anyway, but FMCSA rules expressly forbid companies from requiring customers to sign blank documents.
Customers may sign incomplete documents only when the missing information isn’t known or cannot be accurately determined.
Excluded information might include actual shipment weight and delivery dates (for customers who aren’t sure when they’ll take possession of a new residence).
Physical surveys are a must
Before the 2022 rule changes, movers and brokers were required to perform physical surveys only when the distance from their office to the customer’s residence was 50 miles or less.
These days, there’s no distance exemption and physical surveys are required unless customers waive them in writing.
However, the definition of “physical survey” has now been expanded to include virtual surveys with video components allowing moving company representatives to see the customer’s items.
Because of the video requirement, voice-only phone surveys do not constitute physical surveys.
How to further protect yourself against moving scams
FMCSA regulations for movers and brokers aim to increase consumer protection by providing customers with more precise and accurate information and estimates.
Ideally, these regulations will help usher in the decline of moving scams and the increasing transparency of moving companies.
But if there’s one thing we know about shady movers and brokers, it’s that they’ll always try to find clever ways to skirt the rules.
The best ways to protect yourself, your family, and your finances include:
- Getting personal referrals from friends, family members, and coworkers
- Listening to your instincts (this is huge)
- Just saying no to deals that seem too good to be true
- Being wary of movers and brokers who require extensive deposits
- Vetting potential movers with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)
- Checking each company’s USDOT number
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