An interstate household goods moving broker is not a moving company and is not held to the same legal standards as a moving company. An interstate household goods broker is any person or company who, for compensation, arranges, or offers to arrange the transportation of property by an authorized motor carrier. 49 CFR § 371.2(a). An interstate broker provides estimates for household goods transportation services to potential consumer shippers. The motor carrier selected by the consumer shipper to perform the moving services must agree to adopt the broker's estimate as their own and follow the terms and conditions as estimated.
How must a broker advertise it services?An interstate broker of household goods must disclose to each potential consumer shipper that it is operating as a broker and not a motor carrier. Generally, an interstate broker must disclose in writing in each of its advertisements that it is a broker. 49 CFR § 371.7.
Are brokers liable for the acts or omission of motor carriers? Generally interstate brokers of household goods are not liable for the acts or omissions of the motor carrier. A broker merely provides an estimated cost of services to a potential consumer shipper. The broker is not a party to the shipping contract (bill of lading) entered into between the consumer shipper and the motor carrier.
The United States Supreme Court has described interstate brokers as middlemen between motor carriers and the shipping public. Under the federal law brokers are not motor carriers and cannot be held liable as if they were a moving company. The legal and contractual role of a broker and/or shipper's agent is to negotiate, arrange, or coordinate the interstate transportation. As a broker's role in the interstate transportation is limited; so too is their liability. A properly licensed broker is generally not liable for the acts, omissions or negligence of the motor carrier. Moreover, interstate brokers are generally not liable for the value of the goods involved in the interstate commerce.
Note: In addition to the above general requirements, an interstate moving company must continue to follow all provisions of federal law governing interstate moves. Federal laws regulating moving companies are designed to help protect consumers and create an even playing field for moving companies. By following the law, moving companies can avoid government fines, lawsuits, and provide better service to their customers.