Interstate Household Goods: 16 Tariff Q & A’s
- What Kind of Organization is the Surface Transportation Board?
- A Little Background on the STB
- STB Advocation
- Board Member & the 6 Offices
- STB’s Role Regarding Moving Tariffs
- What Does the STB Do For Interstate Household Goods Movers?
- STB & The FMCSA Are Paramount In Overseeing & Implementing Interstate Regulations
- Help! What Do I Need For My Tariff to be Compliant?
- Tariff Publishing & Contracts
- Dealing with Disputes
- Movers – Arbitration is Required by LAW – Consumers – It’s Your Right!
- Lost or Damaged Items – Requirments For Filing a CLaim
- Valuation: What 2 Types & What’s the Difference?
- High-Value Items – Take Safety Into Consideration
- Private Insurance
1. What Kind of Organization is the Surface Transportation Board?
The STB is not a commonly known organization within the household goods moving and storage industry. STB stands for Surface Transportation Board and acts independently by passing judgment and upholding standards and regulations put into place by Congress. In essence, STB is responsible for dealing with and resolving disputes regarding services and railroad rates and tariffs.
2. A Little Background on the STB
Prior to the STB was its predecessor, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), though as of January 1996 it became its progeny after the signing of the ICC Termination Act of 1995. Consequently, the STB synchronized with the United States Department of Transportation.
From 1995 up to 2015, the STB remained a sector of the USDOT. However, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015 changed all of that, making the STB its own completely separate organization. Since December of 2015, the STB has been an independent federal agency.
3. STB Advocation
As an agency advocating for compliance with the USDOT regulations, they have a large impact on the authorization. This includes issues regarding the above mentioned, as well as trucking companies, moving vans, some bus structure, financial, as well as operational matters. For these precise reasons, it is crucial to understand the Surface Transportation Board and how it works. The more educated you become in this industry, the better you will find yourself protected. Particularly from being ripped off, for lack of a better word.
4. Board Members and the 6 Offices
There are several board members that are the lead chairmen and/or chairwomen. Under them are six major offices. This allows STB staff to focus in on more central and meaningful discussions over pressing issues. It also saves everyone time and energy in the long run by processing matters faster and in a more agreeable manner. The six offices listed below are as follows:
-The Office of the General Counsel
-The Office of Economics
-The Office of Environmental Analysis
-The Office of the Managing Director
-The Office of Proceedings
-The Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance (OPAGAC)
With these major groups in synchronization, the household goods moving and storage industry will largely benefit. Advocating and regulating the industry will not only decrease rogue movers or scam artists, but it will also help build the moving and storage industry’s reputation back up.
5. STB’s Role Regarding Household Goods Moving Tariff Guidance
Although the STB is a widely known and powerful organization, their stretch of power doesn’t seem to reach too far to regulating the relocation of household goods by a moving company (or carrier). The STB specifically supervises interstate moves, which is when you are crossing state lines at any time.
It is significant to note that the STB does NOT apply to intrastate, or local, moves. They usually involve requiring a PUC number, or the Public Utility Commission number. When moving locally within one state, or intrastate, it’s important to contact the USDOT to reference for questions.
6. What Does the STB Do For Interstate Household Goods Movers?
The STB fundamentally regulates moving tariffs and progressing principles to govern and regulate the moving and storage industry. A tariff is a pivotal element that every moving company must have a published version of on hand at all times by the law of the USDOT. The tariff should be a fairly long document containing information regarding their services, rates, terms and conditions, valuation, etc. It’s also important to maintain relevance in the industry, especially with rapidly developing sanctions.
This is especially true when determining where responsibility lies when goods are damaged during the moving process. In cases such as this, the STB provides Interstate moves unofficial advice to both moving companies and consumers alike. They are accommodating and render both parties information on moving company tariffs, rates and disputes, and how to process lost or damaged items with a moving company.
7. STB & The FMCSA Are Paramount In Overseeing Interstate Movers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an organization affiliated among the USDOT and holds principal authorization and influence in the moving and storage industry. They have a great deal of power regarding the maintenance and regulation of keeping moving companies compliant. The FMCSA attends to certain zones in reference to the following:
-Ensuring moving companies are legally licensed to operate as household goods carrier
-Concerning the STB with safety of motor vehicles, their equipment, and drivers
-Protecting consumers and their rights
-An accuracy of estimates, orders of service, & bill of lading
-Proper weighing of shipments
-Organizing billing and payments
-Understanding consumer’s rights to arbitration services
-Obtaining claims filed against moving companies
-Assessment and actions necessary for a moving company
-Dealing with hostage situations, in which a moving company refuses to release goods
The STB and the FMCSA both advise to read and review “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” before beginning your moving process.
8. Help! What Do I Need For My Tariff to be Compliant?
It is imperative that any Interstate moving company must have an up to date and a published moving tariff. They must continue to maintain their tariff, following up with any changes in the law or any personal changes they wish to make. By the STB law, the readability of a tariff must be easy, clear, and understandable to the consumer. A customer should be able to go through and look at the tariff without hesitation.
The custom moving tariff services we provide follow ALL federal laws and regulations. Along with our expert’s tariff guidance, we collaborate to perfect your moving tariff. Our tariff services provide a published tariff to meet you and your business’ needs. We arrange each tariff with precise attention to detail and arrangement.
9. Tariff Publishing & Contracts
These particulars may seem insignificant to the untrained eye, but not to our professionals. In fact, they are absolutely necessary to protect your company. Too many companies are stuck with large fines due to lack of information. If you are audited by the USDOT, some of this tariff guidance provided may help steer you in the proper direction or help inform you more on the subject of tariffs and what documents MUST legally be presented in them.
The STB doesn’t speculate any specifics that must go into a tariff, however, the Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance (OPAGAC) suggests that a tariff should include the following sections:
-This is the “Title Page” that should contain
Moving company name, address, & contact info
FMCSA license or operating numbers
Full name, phone number, and email address of employee in charge of tariff
Start date of tariff
-“Table of Contents”
-Definitions of “Moving Terms” that will be used in the tariff
-Rates and Charges – Easy to read in a table format
-Full value protection
-Released value protection
-Binding estimate rates
-Additional charges & when they apply
-Defined account of the moving company & what losses or damages it is liable for
-Information on filing a claim due to damages, losses, & overcharge claims – include a description of the moving company’s arbitration program
-Terms & Conditions – Bill of Lading is Crucial to Every Move
Typically an Interstate moving tariff will consist of around roughly 35-45 pages depending on your tariff, specifically when you’re dealing with one of our custom tariffs. Each moving tariff is unique and made especially for you and your business.
10. Dealing With Disputes
If you have questions or concerns regarding rates, rate disputes, or dispute charges, the Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs and Compliance (OPAGAC) will most likely be the organization you should turn to.
STB provides information on how OPAGAC might be able to work with customers in order to come to a resolution or way to settle a dispute. OPAGAC will provide assistance through means of:
-collecting all information from the customer including bill of lading, a copy of original estimate, invoices, receipts, pictures, and any other documents that may be helpful in solving this dispute
-communicating with the moving over the dispute as well as request the mover’s tariff and any other price-related docs
-assess and evaluate charges and services provided
-Last, they will provide an unofficial, non-binding determination of the legitimacy of the charges being disputed
This valued information will be kept classified and confidential. If the office attempts to get in touch with the moving company to obtain their tariff or information regarding pricing, your information will be forbidden to divulge, unless authorized. If a customer wants to reach out to a mover, however, this may require a breach in identity. Although OPAGAC will not proceed forward without given permission.
A different dispute may be over charges that are related to changes in a customer’s shipment weight. In this case, the STB advises to take this kind of matter up with the FMCSA and the USDOT. Seek help through these organizations that enforce both movers’ and consumer protection regulations.
11. Movers – Arbitration is Required by LAW – Consumers It’s Your Right!
Another requirement is that every Interstate motor carrier, or moving company, must have an arbitration service in place. Arbitration is specifically designed to settle large disputes. This information should be found within the tariff. As a consumer, it is important to know that arbitration is your right as a customer and you may choose to enter into arbitration at any time if a problem arises.
12. Lost or Damaged Items – Requirements For Filing a Claim
In the moving industry, it quite common for goods to be lost or damaged for which the moving company is generally responsible. At this point, a customer may file a claim for what was lost or damaged, however, a moving company may deny that claim. In which case, it will most likely be time to follow a lawsuit or enter into arbitration for a binding agreement.
Keeping yourself informed and knowledgeable is the most important aspects of the moving process, especially when filing a claim. Knowing rules, deadline, and when and how to file paperwork is crucial to file a proper claim.
Under FEDERAL law, you must file a claim within 9 months of your delivery date. For example, if your delivery date was January 1st, 2018, you must have it filed prior to November 1st, 2018. The absolute last day you would be able to file your claim would be October 31st, 2018.
A claim must also meet requirements of the federal government. Your claim MUST include:
-Submitted in handwriting or electronically
-Clearly label the shipment with the customer name, address, date, and bill of lading number
-Discern and specify reasons the moving company is at fault for loss or damage
-Distinguish compensation specifically by dollar amount [such as a cost of repair or replacement totals]
13. Valuation: Why 2 Types & What’s the Difference?
Unfortunately for many consumers trying to relocate, the federal law allows moving companies to limit their liability regarding damages or losses, calling it “released rates” otherwise known as “released value protection.” Released rates essentially mean that the customer is paying a lower rate in the interest of releasing the moving company from “full” liability or responsibility.
The STB does indeed regulate this, requiring moving companies to offer released value protection at $0.60 per lb. After doing the math, if something expensive is damaged, you will basically receive next to nothing in return.
However, there is another type of valuation with higher rates, known as full-value protection. According to the STB, they have ascertained certain methods for a mover to follow as tariff guidance regarding regulations. This requires a mover to include a “valuation statement” in every moving company’s bill of lading informing the customer of:
-Full value protection opportunity
-Option to waive full value protection
-Allows customers to choose a variety of released rates
It is important to note that by choosing released value protection, the responsibility for damages or losses is significantly lower, thus if anything were to be broken, they would hardly be held accountable monetarily. Both two types of valuation MUST be available to all consumers by all moving companies.
This is another aspect of the moving industry that moving companies must inform and offer their customers about. They must provide a full-value protection rate without any deductible. Although, they do have the option to offer full-value protection with the choice of selecting a deductible.
15. High-Value Items – Take Safety Into Consideration
If a customer has high-value items, generally they choose full-value protection, however not all do. There are customers who do not request further protection meaning in this case they must notify the movers of what is in their shipment. The STB does not require that an Extraordinary Value Inventory is filled out, but the STB strongly encourages movers to utilize this as a means to provide proper notice.
16. Private Insurance
There are times when valuation is not enough to cover some items being shipped. In this case, some customers may want to purchase insurance to cover their goods in regards to damages or losses. Remember, this is NOT the same as full-value or released value protection.