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The STB & Interstate Tariffs

The STB & Interstate Tariffs

 

  1. What is the STB?
  2. Background of STB
  3. STB Reduces Rogue and Scamming Movers
  4. Board Members and 6 Offices
  5. STB’s Interstate Moving Tariff Regulations
  6. What Does the STB For Interstate Household Goods Movers?
  7. The FMCSA Is Fundamental For Interstate Movers
  8. STB Regulates But Offers Interstate Tariff Guidance
  9. OPAGAC Is the Most Helpful Sector For Disputes
  10. Arbitration is Required by USDOT Law!
  11. Lost or Damaged Items
  12. A Moving Company’s Strategy Limit Liability for Loss and Damage
  13. When Should I Seek Guidance From the STB?

 

1. What is the STB and What Does it Do?

 

The STB is not a commonly known organization but not within the household goods moving and storage industry. STB is the Surface Transportation Board acts independently managing standards and regulation put into place by Congress. Essentially, STB is responsible for handling and resolving disputes regarding services and railroad rates. This is accomplished by inspecting and examining railroad mergers. It’s an organization related to the moving and storage industry, but it still has little authority over it.

Although unlike the DOT, it is not a major source of power and it’s unlikely you will come into contact often with the STB.

 

2. Background on STB Independence

 

After the signing of the ICC termination Act of 1995, the STB took it’s place and has been around ever since. While the STB was established and became a sector of the United States Department of Transportation. The STB Reauthorization Act of 2015 changed by making the STB its own completely separate organization. Since December of 2015, the STB has been an independent federal agency.

 

3. STB Advocating

 

As an organization that regulates the household goods industry, they organization is already powerful. Working with the USDOT regulations as well, they have a large impact on authorization. This includes issues regarding the above mentioned, as well as trucking companies, moving vans, some bus structure, financial, as well as operational matters. These reasons can lead to fines, making it important to understand the STB and how it works.

 

The more educated you become in this industry, the better you will find yourself protected from being scammed both as a carrier and shipper. There are many ways that you can find yourself being fined for things you didn’t even realize were laws. This is why it is crucial to stay up to date for yourself and for your business.

 

4. Board Members and 6 Offices

 

There are several board members that are the lead chairmen and/or chairwoman. 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. Though there are 6 offices, the most important one that directly deal with the industry is The Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs, and Compliance (OPAGAC).

 

With these major groups working together, the household goods moving and storage industry will benefit in many different ways. 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.

 

It’s important to us as well because we know that many moving companies are not bad or illegal moving companies, which is why we make it a large part of our company to know such detailed laws and regulations.

 

5. STB’s Contribution to Moving Tariffs

 

Although the STB has become a powerful organization, but they don’t seem to reach too far into regulating  the relocation carrier’s household goods moving companies. 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.

 

One thing to keep in mind is that in some states, even if you’re only traveling locally, you may still be required to have an Interstate tariff. To most people this doesn’t make sense so I’ll break it down a little. According to some states, like Texas for example, if someone’s goods from Ohio or any other state out of Texas state lines are dropped off with your moving company and you move those goods locally from Dallas to Houston, this is still considered an Interstate move. Why? Because you are carrying goods from out of the state.

 

Regardless of whether you are on moving the good locally, because they came from out of Texas state, moving those Ohio goods is considered an Interstate move. This can be a very tricky and misleading state law that you want to check out with your state USDOT as well as with us at Moving Authority before deciding on your tariff. Fines for accidentally moving the wrong goods are not forgiven by the DOT and will result in thousands of dollars in fines.

 

This is always something to consider when trying to get your tariff done and you’re unsure if you want to go with a local or Interstate service. These kinds of laws can be so complicated that each move you make, even local ones, have to be carefully planned out and will ultimately cost you money in the long run. The most current posted tariff requirements of the STB can be found here. 

 

6. What Does the STB Do For Interstate Household Goods Movers?

 

STB fundamentally regulates moving tariffs and other developing principles to govern and maintain the moving and storage industry. A tariff is one of your most crucial components to your business that every moving company must have a published version of on hand at all times. These laws must be followed according to laws and regulations set by the USDOT. If done correctly, a 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 laws that follows through with progressive scientific research and technology. This is especially true when determining where responsibility lies when goods are damaged during the moving process.

 

With claims and now the requirement of arbitration, 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. The FMCSA Is Fundamental For Interstate Movers

 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an organization affiliated alongside the USDOT and holds principal authorization while also largely influencing 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 carriers
  • Concerning the STB with safety of motor vehicles, their equipment, and drivers
  • Protecting consumers and their rights
  • 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 of 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. The STB is Really More For Tariff Guidance

 

It is imperative that any Interstate moving company must have an up to date and published moving tariff. They must continue to maintain their tariff by following up with any changes they make in their tariff and by updating it to follow the law. The STB requires that the readability of a tariff must be easy enough for a consumer to comprehend and understand. A customer should be able to go through and look at the tariff without hesitation.

 

The STB doesn’t speculate exact 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:

 

  1. This is the “Title Page” that should contain at least:
    1. Moving company name, address, & contact info
    2. FMCSA license or operating numbers
    3. Full name, phone number, and email address of employee in charge of tariff
    4. Start date of tariff

 

  1.  “Table of Contents”
    • Definitions of “Moving Terms” that will be used in the tariff
    • Rates and Charges – Easy to read in a table format
      1. Full value protection
      2. Released value protection
      3. Binding estimate rates
      4. Additional charges & when they apply
  1. Defined account of the moving company & what losses or damages it is liable for
    • Information on filing a claim due to:
      1. damages losses
      2. overcharge claims
      3. include description of the moving company’s arbitration program
  • Terms and Conditions & Bill of Lading

Typically an Interstate moving tariff will consist of around 35-45 pages depending on your tariff, specifically when you’re dealing with one of our custom tariffs. If you build a tariff with us each tariff is unique and made especially for you and your business.

9. OPAGAC Is the Most Helpful Sector For 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.

 

Although the STB provides unofficial advice and regulates and enforces laws in the moving and storage industry, they rely more on OPAGAC to work with customers to a resolution or settle a dispute. As with any case, you must provide some evidence to support your dispute with the moving company such as:

 

  • bill of lading
  • copy of original estimate
  • invoices
  • receipts
  • pictures
  • other documents that may be helpful
  • communicate with the moving company over the dispute
  • request the mover’s tariff and
  • any other price related docs

 

They will then assess and evaluate charges and services provided. In the end, 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 isn’t allowed to be divulged, unless otherwise authorized. When a customer chooses to reach out to a moving company this will likely reveal information about their identity. Although such information wouldn’t be revealed without permission of client.

 

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 consumer protection regulations.

 

10. Arbitration is Required by USDOT Law!

 

If you’re a motor carrier, or a moving company, you are required to enroll in an arbitration service. Arbitration keeps you out of small claims court, must be offered to every customer, and is a right of the customer. Usually companies will have some sort of certificate and a brochure that will go along with the tariff, so as to help explain the process.

 

As a consumer, it is important to know that arbitration is your right at a customer and you may choose to enter into arbitration at any time if a problem arises. Each moving company must legally offer you arbitration and explain it.

 

11. Lost or Damaged Items

 

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 or settlement. Being an informed customer is the most important part of the moving process, especially when filing a claim. Knowing rules, deadlines, and when and how to file paperwork, and keeping track of evidence is crucial to filing 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 the requirements set by the federal government.

Your claim MUST include the following:

 

  • submitted in hand writing or electronically
  • clearly label the shipment with: 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 cost of repair or replacement totals]

 

12. A Moving Company’s Strategy Limit Liability for Loss and Damage

 

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 means that the customer is paying a lower rate in the interest of releasing the moving company from “full” liability or responsibility.

 

The STB regulates this by requiring moving companies to offer released value protection at $0.60 per lb per article. 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 in or to limit liability. This requires a mover to include a “valuation statement” in every moving company’s bill of lading informing the customer of:

 

  1. full value protection opportunity
  2. option to waive full value protection
  3. allows customer the choice of released rates

 

13. When Should I Seek Guidance From the STB?

 

While the STB has has wide range of authority in the transportation business, it’s affect and rulings on the household goods moving and storage industry isn’t really on it’s radar except for some of the main things that we’ve covered in the above discussion.

 

The STB doesn’t apply to local or intrastate tariffs, claims, arbitration, but instead refers moving companies to their state’s PUC (Public Utilities Commission), FMCSA, or the USDOT mainly. Though they establish and uphold the law in many ways, when it comes to moving household goods they often refer to other organizations like the FMCSA or their booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move”  that the FMCSA provides.

 

When it comes to Interstate tariffs and what is required of them, the STB is familiar with the requirements. They give out unofficial advice to those who need it in this industry. While all of this is helpful, the STB has many other sectors that they focus on as well. With so much else to focus on, you can’t expect one organization filled with sectors to blanket an entire industry. That is why we the USDOT and FMCSA and other regulating organization exist. 

 

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