The Issue According to the US Census Bureau, the average American moves 11.7 times in their lifetime. Each time they move, people are anxious to get their move done as quickly and as inexpensively as possible. This combination of frequent moves and lax industry regulation has created an opening for con artists and so called "rogue movers." In order to protect yourself when hiring movers there are a number of common sense public records techniques you should employ in addition to the traditional ways we seek referrals (e.g., through the phone book, from friends, etc.)
Places to Check
Once you have met with potential movers or obtained an estimate, get a copy of the "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move" booklet. This booklet should include the moving company's official name, address, phone number and Department of Transportation and Motor Carrier license numbers assigned to the company.
With this information in hand, you should:
Consult with the Secretary of State's office which can provide information on the business, its officers and how long it's been incorporated. Most of this data is available online.
Check with the American Moving and Storage Association to determine if the company is a member of the Pro-Mover certification program (www.promover.org). Members must sign an ethics agreement and submit to annual checks for state and federal felony convictions and verification of company ownership.
Check the company's history with your state attorney general or public utilities commission, the Better Business Bureau (customer satisfaction, complaints, licensing data, etc.) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These entities assemble lists of registered moving companies and track complaints against them.
State regulators will maintain complaint and administrative action files. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/) also maintains a National Consumer Complaint Database and numerous other records (for a period of up to six years) related to the companies, many of which are accessible without filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Here are a few:
Motor Carrier Safety Ratings
This is an overall safety rating the agency develops. You can request it by phone at (800) 832-5660. You can also write away for it:
Office of Data Analysis and Information Systems (MIA) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590.)
The following information is available from a system the agency calls the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) Data Dissemination Program:
Carrier File Extracts Accident File Extracts Carrier Safety Profiles Personalized Carrier Reports Personalized Accident Reports Carrier Count Reports Accident Count Reports
There are several additional documents available by filing a FOIA request. Among them:
Enforcement Reports Compliance Reviews Roadside Driver/Vehicle Inspection Reports (MCS-63s) State Accident Reports General Correspondence
In addition, FOIA requests are required to get copies of negotiated Settlement Agreements, Notices of Claim and Out-of-Service Orders, final opinions in adjudication matters and decisions of the Chief Safety Officer.