Although President Reagan’s signature phrase “Trust, but verify” is usually used in a political context, it applies to many aspects of life – you need to remember it every time you’re expected to place belief in or act upon information or claims another person presents to you. Even if you’re taking their word for it, it is always important to fact check before making a decision – or you may deeply regret it.
This is especially true in the event of moving house – you’re supposed to trust your movers with all your earthly possessions – just like that, without knowing anything about them. They will say that they’re trustworthy professionals, of course, and will promise to do a good job for you, but how can you know if this is true? How to make sure you’ve found reliable and experienced moving specialists who will handle your relocation with professionalism, efficiency, and care? How to know that you’re not dealing with rogue or incompetent movers?
There are some foolproof ways to make sure your movers are qualified professionals, but the most important thing to do when researching your potential moving partners is to confirm that they’re properly licensed and authorized to transport household goods and provide moving services. If you’re looking for interstate moving companies, the fastest, easiest, and surest way to verify their licensing status is to check their USDOT number.
What is a USDOT number?
A USDOT number is a carrier identifier issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and assigned to a census record in the Motor Carrier Management Information System. (The abbreviation USDOT stands for the United States Department of Transportation.) The number is unique for each company and allows the government to track carriers on their system.
All companies that transport passengers or haul cargo across state lines must be registered with the FMCSA and have a valid USDOT number in order to operate legally. The number must be displayed on every commercial vehicle the company uses for transportation purposes.
Searching the DOT number of a motor carrier on the SAFER database (The FMCSA Safety and Fitness Electronic Records System) gives you access to the company’s licensing and safety information, so that you can learn more about the people you’re dealing with and make an informed decision about your move.
How to check a DOT number?
A USDOT number lookup will provide you with a lot of useful information about the movers you’re interested in – their identification, type and range of operations, operating status, safety rating, etc. In order to get this information you need to:
- Go to the FMCSA official website;
- Find the “FMCSA Searches” menu (located in the middle lower section of the home page) and click the “Company Snapshot” link;
- Select your search criteria;
- Enter the mover’s name, USDOT number, or MC/MX number and click the “Search” button.
You will get access to the company’s profile in the MCMIS and will see a report with all the available data on the carrier in question.
What to look for during a USDOT number check?
Take a close look at the displayed report and pay attention to:
- The type of operations the company is authorized to perform – it should say CARRIER;
- The company’s operating status – it should say AUTHORIZED FOR HHG;
- The company’s identification and contact information – the carrier’s legal name, DBA name (the trade name under which the company does business), physical address, phone number, and mailing address;
- The company’s registration numbers – USDOT number, MC/MX/FF number(s), State Carrier ID number and/or DUNS number (as applicable);
- The number of power units (vehicles registered under the company’s name) and drivers the company has;
- The carrier’s operation classification – there should be an X before “Auth. For Hire”;
- The carrier’s range of operation – interstate or intrastate;
- The type of cargo the company is authorized to transport – there should be an X before “Household Goods”.
Good to remember: Check if the company’s identification and contact information match the ones provided by the mover and make sure the company has an active USDOT number and is not ordered out of service.
Once you’ve confirmed that the carrier is properly licensed and certified, you should focus on the company’s inspections summary and safety ratings in order to obtain greater detail on their performance and find out how reliable they are:
- Inspection and crash reports – The table below the general company information shows the number of inspections made to the mover during the last two years and their results – the first row indicates the number of roadside inspections made to the vehicles and drivers; the second one shows the number of inspections which resulted in an “Out of Service” status (when out-of-service violations have been found during the inspection); the third row shows the percentage of inspections that resulted in an “Out of Service” status; the last row represents the percentage of all inspections made in the country during the year specified in the field that resulted in an “Out of Service” status. The next table shows the number of crashes reported to the FMCSA during the last 24-month period that involved vehicles operated by the moving company you’re researching;
- Safety rating – The company’s safety rating status shows its compliance with the Federal Safety Regulations – a SATISFACTORY rating means that the carrier abides by the FMC safety rules; a CONDITIONAL rating indicates that the company has been found in violation of one or more regulations; an UNSATISFACTORY rating shows significant non-compliance with the federal requirements.
A USDOT number search will help you find out the mover’s legal status and make sure that you’re dealing with legitimate moving professionals. Yet, it is only the first step to make when looking for reputable movers – once your verify the USDOT number of the company you consider hiring for your move, you need to confirm that they’re trustworthy and experienced specialists who will ensure your safe, smooth, and successful relocation. You can find some useful tips and tricks that will help you choose the best movers for you at the links below:
How to avoid moving scams
What are the red flags of moving fraud
How to compare moving companies
How to find good movers
What questions to ask movers
What mistakes to avoid when hiring a moving company