Long-Distance Moving Companies: The Household Goods Transportation Act of 1980

Long-distance moving companies enjoy special rights and privileges thanks to the wonderful bureaucratic system that is the U.S. government. In 1980, Congress passed the Household Goods Transportation Act, which essentially deregulated how long-distance moving companies fixed their prices.

Up until then, the household goods moving industry was difficult to break into and as such there were only a few long-distance moving companies that you could choose from. These companies’ prices were fixed by a small piece of legislation called the Carmack Amendment, which was originally put into place in 1906 to stop railroad barons from price-gouging farmers who needed to ship their goods across the then-emerging railroads.

Railroad companies – and, later, interstate moving companies – were forced to post their “tariffs,” or schedule of rates and services – and anyone could see how they priced.

With the Household Goods Transportation Act of 1980, two things served to turn the long-distance moving industry into the quagmire it is today. First off, it allowed moving companies to provide “binding estimates,” which in theory is a good idea because the price is fixed.

It also, however, relaxed the rules for up-and-coming long-distance moving companies to enter the industry and get authority to move goods across state lines. It used to take five years to get authority; now, it takes about three weeks.

Long-Distance Moving Companies: Low-Ball Prices and the Carmack Amendment

Long-Distance Moving CompaniesMany long-distance moving companies have been operating for years, have great reputations, and are legitimate companies that want to help you get your stuff across the country. But there are also a lot of companies out there who like to low-ball your price, and if you don’t know what low-balling is, that’s okay.

Basically, what it means is that these shady long-distance moving companies will tell you it’ll cost a certain amount of money to ship your stuff across the country. Then, halfway during transport, they up your price by a few grand and hold your stuff hostage until you pay.

And because the FMCSA has only nine (yes, nine) investigators to handle the thousands of claims like this they get every single year, it takes – at the very least – months to even look at a claim, and sometimes years before it is resolved. Your out: pay up, or else you don’t get your stuff.

Why can these long-distance moving companies get away with it?

Well, the Carmack Amendment states straight-up that it preempts other solutions that may be present under individual state laws, and under the Carmack Amendment long-distance moving companies are required to only give you back what they stole – which would be the amount that the moving company said you had to pay extra.

If they said it’ll cost a thousand dollars, then hit you for $2,500, you’d only get $1,500 back. And that’s only if they got caught, and these shady long-distance moving companies only get caught months or years afterwards, with you supplying much of the frustration and grunt-work. Months of work isn’t worth the $1500 they stole to most people, and this is how they get away with it.

Long-Distance Moving Companies: What YOU Can Do To Avoid The Scammers

We speak about how low-balling is easy to achieve in the household moving industry, but the reality is that most of the companies that practice shady techniques do get caught, sooner or later. It’s 2018, and it’s been over 30 years since the market first opened up; now, customers have a lot of resources to determine whether the long-distance moving companies they’re debating booking with are actually legitimate companies.

First off, the internet is the best research tool known to mankind, and it only takes a quick search to find out which companies come highly recommended and which ones you should avoid. Searching for customer reviews is a great way to find the best long-distance moving companies out there, and we highly recommend looking at more than just a handful, so you can get an idea of which companies are right for you. We also recommend older companies that come with many high ratings, as these companies are usually time-tested and honest moving companies.

Dave Armstrong
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