MAY IS NATIONAL MOVING MONTH - Texas Cities Rank in U.S. Top 10 for Moving Scams, Secretary of Transportation Urges Consumer Education
May 1, 2013
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) joined U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood along with state, industry and consumer advocate officials today to urge Texans to educate themselves before hiring a moving company. In addition to its consumer education efforts, the TxDMV also recently entered an agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to assist with federal household goods investigations.
USDOT, TxDMV, Better Business Bureau, Southwest Movers Association, and the American Moving & Storage Association kicked off National Moving Month by warning consumers not to fall prey to moving scams at a press conference at the TxDMV Regional Service Center. May begins the summer moving season when more people change residences than any other time of year.
"Moving is an exciting, but hectic time – the last thing a family should have to worry about is whether their personal belongings will arrive at their new home," LaHood said. "The Department of Transportation is partnering with states like Texas to crack down on bad movers, while educating consumers. Knowing the red flags to moving fraud will help consumers choose wisely when hiring a mover so they can protect their move – and their memories – from the start."
Houston receives the fourth-most interstate moving complaints of any U.S. city, with New York, Los Angeles and Chicago taking the top three spots. San Antonio also ranks in the top 10. FMCSA traditionally investigates interstate complaints while moves inside Texas fall under the TxDMV.
However, TxDMV staff is currently being trained by FMCSA to enforce the federal consumer protection regulations. Texas is only the third state to enter into a formal agreement with FMCSA to conduct investigations on interstate moving companies. The other two states are Louisiana and Ohio.
The TxDMV reports complaints against illegal movers in Texas are up six percent in the past seven months and the Better Business Bureau of Houston and South Texas is seeing a 20 percent increase this year.
"Illegal operators posing as moving companies take a financial and emotional toll on consumers," said TxDMV Board Member Johnny Walker. "They can drive off with everything you own or hold your household goods hostage, refusing to unload your items until you pay them more money."
TxDMV Executive Director Whitney Brewster thanked the moving industry associations for their consumer and moving company educational programs. "It takes all of us to make a difference," she said.
"These actors, operating illegally, hurt the reputation of the hundreds of law-abiding, licensed movers in Texas," said John D. Esparza, executive director of Southwest Movers Association, the state moving association representing Texas mover members. "The moving industry is committed to working with the TxDMV and the Better Business Bureau to ensure consumers are not taken advantage of by rogue operators."
Southwest Movers Association and the American Moving & Storage Association offer certification programs called Pinnacle and ProMover that identify moving companies that adhere to the highest ethical and legal standards.
"If an offer seems too good to be true it probably is; that is an immediate warning sign you may not be working with a licensed mover," said Linda Bauer Darr, president and chief executive officer of the American Moving & Storage Association in Alexandria, Va., the industry's national trade group.
The U.S. Congress and Texas Legislature have increased fines and jail time for illegal operators.
"Laws and investigations help consumers after they have a problem, but the only one who can make sure rogue operators don't have any business is you," Brewster said.
Dan Parsons, president of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas, said consumers need to stay away from free internet advertising sites. "Websites offering free classified ads are fertile ground for illegal moving operations," he said. "Before you hire any moving company in Texas go to the TxDMV website where you can check whether a moving company is licensed in the state, and whatever you do, don't hire one that isn't licensed."
Officials Warn Texas Consumers of Moving Scams — Highlight Consumer Protection Law and Promote Moving Education
May 1, 2012
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV), which licenses moving companies, and the Southwest Movers Association, Texas’ trade organization for licensed moving companies, sponsored the press conference at the TxDMV Regional Service Center to raise awareness about the prevalence of moving scams in the state and nation. More than 60 percent of the moving complaints received at the TxDMV deal with unlicensed movers. To operate legally, a moving company must display a valid TxDMV or United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) license number on the truck.
“It is of utmost importance that we educate consumers today with the start of National Moving Month, the beginning of the summer moving season and the time of year when Texans are most likely to hire a moving company,” said SMA’s Executive Director John D. Esparza. “Illegal and unethical, fly-by-night moving operators think of summer as prime time to prey on unsuspecting Texans and we will not tolerate these heinous actions.”
Linda Bauer Darr, president and chief executive officer of the American Moving & Storage Association in Alexandria, Va., the industry’s national trade group, said moving scams are a national problem. With so many things on the move “todo list” people often don’t spend the time investigating who they are about to hire.
“They need to stop for a minute and ask themselves ‘Who am I about to let into my home?’ because it might just be some guy living in a basement or with a criminal record who is going to show up with a rented moving truck to cart off everything you own,” she said.
Assistant Chief John Trevino of the Houston Police Department’s Special Investigation Command said he knows where Texans should never hire a mover: Free internet advertising sites.
“The most important piece of advice I can offer those planning a move is not to hire your mover from a free internet advertisement,” he said.
Read Full Story - AMSA Press Release - AMSA & SMA Poster
Move It Poster - MoveSafe Poster - ProMover Flyer
May 1, 2012
Former SMA Chairman Bob Adams
Adams Transfer & Storage Co. Conroe, TX
Bob Adams at the GHMA Golf Tournament, March 28, 2012
Bob Adams, a friend and long time SMA member as well as a wonderful ambassador for the Texas’ moving industry, lost his battle with cancer Monday, April 30.
Bob served as chairman of SMA as well as the SMA Foundation and was honored with the Heritage Award in 2005. Known for his humor, guidance and enthusiasm for life, Bob will be sorely missed. Please keep the Adams family in your prayers during this time.
Memorials in Bob Adams’ name may be made to the SMA Foundation.
TxDMV - Don't Make A MOVE Without Us!
April 19, 2012
The TxDMV licenses moving companies and provides consumer protection information so you can make a smart move.
Texas law requires movers to give you:
• A written proposal or estimate that shows either a guaranteed price or
a “not to exceed” maximum amount for the move.
• A written contract before the move.
• Standard liability of 60 cents per pound per item. (Note: This is not
insurance. However, you have the right to obtain insurance to further
protect your items during the move.)
• A brochure that outlines your rights and responsibilities under Texas
• A final copy of the contract upon completion of the move that
includes the total charges for the move; an itemized list of what the
charges are for; and the method used to calculate the charges.
If you decide to alter the original contract, you and the moving company
representative must sign and date an amended contract.
• If a moving deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
• Never accept a verbal quote or agreement.
• Never hire an unlicensed mover. Texas movers must be licensed by the
• Check the company’s license status by going to Moving Companies on
• Read the contract BEFORE signing it.
• If a truck shows up without the company name and a US DOT or
TxDMV number printed on it, be aware of the possible risk. (These
numbers verify it’s a licensed moving company.)
• If a mover attempts to hold your items hostage for additional payment
not in your contract or threatens to drive off with your belongings, call
your local police.
Charge disputes or damage claims must be filed with the mover within
90 days after the move date. The TxDMV advises consumers on claims
handling procedures, coordinates mediation, and responds to inquiries
More information is available at www.TxDMV.gov
or by calling
Download PSA - English
Download PSA - Spanish
Texas Moving Industry Kicks Off National Moving Month - Highlights Consumer Protection Law and Promotes Moving Education
April 19, 2012
Southwest Movers Association (SMA) and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) have teamed up to help consumers avoid moving scams and educate Texans about increased penalties for rogue operators during National Moving Month.
The May event will highlight consumer protection legislation HB 1523, authored by Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) and sponsored by Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) last year, which levies more stringent penalties on unlicensed operators posing as movers and preying on Texans. The bill, signed into law by Governor Rick Perry, went into effect Sept. 1, 2011, and is one of the most meaningful changes to enforcement dealing with household goods cons in recent history.
"We have made tremendous progress protecting the rights of Texas consumers during the moving process," said SMA Executive Director John D. Esparza. "The great work of Texas' leaders to pass this legislation into law increases the integrity of the entire moving industry and we look forward to continuing to educate consumers about these rights."
SMA and TxDMV officials will be joined by American Moving and Storage President and CEO Linda Bauer Darr as well as SMA mover members and area law enforcement. The event will be held at TxDMV Houston Regional Service Center on Tuesday, May 1 at 11:00 a.m.
National Moving Month Kick Off
Tuesday, May 1
TxDMV Houston Regional Service Center
7721 Washington Ave
Houston, TX 77007
May marks the beginning of the busiest moving season for Texans, which is also when unscrupulous operators are most likely to take advantage of consumers.
DON'T FORGET: Foundation Scholarships Deadline is May 31
April 16, 2012
Please encourage your employees to take advantage of this SMA membership benefit. The Foundation awarded $11,000 in scholarships last year to deserving students of SMA members.
Applicants must be high school seniors or college students. They must be an owner, employee or a dependent of someone employed by a company with membership in the Southwest Movers Association. The scholarships are available to all SMA members, movers and associates. The NAIT award is available to mover members only.
Midterm transcripts are acceptable for use with the application. The deadline date for applications to be received is Thursday, May 31, 2012. Mail to: SMA Foundation, 700 East 11th Street, Austin, TX 78701.
Should you have any questions, please contact me, Dorothy Brooks or one of the members of the SMA Foundation Board. These members are listed below:
Bill Andis - Texas Moving Co., Inc.
Joyce Foster - Crossroads Movers
Traci McCullah - Westar Moving & Storage
John Hart - Hart Moving & Storage
Chris Moucka - I.M.S Relocation
April Surratt - East End Transfer & Storage
Pat Crocker - Crocker Moving & Storage Co.
Beverly Boydstun - Queen Moving & Storage Co.
Frances Marx - New World Van Lines of Texas
David Basch - Dase Insurance Agency
Ronnie Bell - Victory Packaging
Lana Keating - New Haven Moving Equipment
With the increased costs of college today, these scholarship awards will certainly be of assistance.
Download the 2012-2013 SMA Foundation Scholarship Application
Surface Transportation Board Valuation Decision Effective May 15
March 15, 2012
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has just pushed back the date of when its changes to shipment valuation regulations will become effective. Its clarification to its previous decision in Released Rates Order, Amendment No. 5 to RR-999, released in January, makes a number of changes in the way that shipment valuation will apply for interstate household goods movers. The STB now advises that all carriers must be in compliance with the new regulations no later than May 15, 2012. This is a postponement from April 2.
The STB ruling represents good news for both consumers and the moving industry.
The changes will reduce shipper confusion over liability limits and consumers will be afforded an enhanced protection level which is more consistent with typical homeowner coverage on their possessions. The industry will benefit from simplified paperwork and a more straightforward valuation declaration process. The STB incorporated our suggestions regarding value levels and placement of the valuation statement on the bill of lading (and not the estimate form); they also granted flexibility regarding deductible levels and the appearance of the valuation statement itself.
Click here to read a summary of the changes.
Moving and Trucking Industry Hail Passage of Historic Highway Bill
March 14, 2012
Thank you to all SMA members who reached out to the Senate. Early this afternoon, the Senate approved its two-year highway reauthorization bill by a vote of 74-22.
American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves issued the following statement today congratulating the Senate for passing an historic, long-term highway bill, and urged the House to quickly follow suit:
"The highway bill passed by the Senate is an example of how things should work in Washington," Graves said. "This bill advances the cause of highway safety and takes a number of important steps toward reforming our transportation system - two accomplishments for which the committee chairmen and ranking members - Senators Boxer, Inhofe, Baucus, Hatch, Rockefeller and Hutchison - are to be commended.
"As representatives of the trucking industry, we're particularly pleased to see this bill provide not just attention to - but $2 billion a year in funding for - highway freight-specific projects, reforms and consolidates redundant programs, speeds project approval; and steers clear of the tempting, but ill-advised use of tolls on existing Interstates," Graves said. "In particular, we'd like to thank Sen. Bingaman for his work to ensure that public-private partnerships protect the public interest, and that states do not get extra credit for selling off their transportation assets to the highest bidder. We also appreciate Sen. Hutchison's efforts to prevent the spread of tolls.
"This bill is also a step forward for highway safety. It orders the creation of a clearinghouse for commercial drivers' drug and alcohol test results, directs the federal government to create a notification system so employers can be told of drivers' traffic infractions, moves us in the direction of establishing crashworthiness standards for large trucks, raises the bar new companies and drivers must clear before coming into the trucking industry; and orders the mandating of electronic logs for all commercial drivers," Graves said. "While several safety initiatives, such as improved truck productivity, were not included in this bill, it is important to recognize just how much this bill does to improve truck safety.
"Now that the Senate has completed its work, I urge the House to pass its own bill and then quickly work with the Senate to send a bipartisan reform bill to the President, one which sets a new course based on the principles of promoting targeted, effective safety programs, and funding the most cost-beneficial transportation projects," Graves said.
The House, which is in recess this week, is in the process of determining whether to take up a version of the Senate bill or its own multi-year reauthorization. House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, told House Republicans that he plans to bring the Senate version to the floor this month if they continue to disagree on their own alternative.
FMCSA Announces Final HOS Rule
Legislation regulating speed limits takes effect
September 1, 2011
Texas motorists may notice some changes to speed limit signs in the next several months, as new laws regulating speed limits on the roadways of the state highway system begin to take effect.
The 82nd Texas Legislature passed and the Governor signed House Bill 1353, which takes effect on September 1. This legislation allows the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to create a 75-mile per hour speed limit on any state highway found to be reasonable and safe through a speed study. TxDOT will be reviewing existing 70-mile per hour speed limits to determine where a 75-mile per hour speed limit may be safely posted.
HB 1353 also eliminates the 65-mile per hour nighttime speed limit and all truck speed limits. On September 1, the existing nighttime and truck speed limits are repealed and no longer enforceable.
Click here for full story
Southwest Movers Association Helps Fight Hunger in Texas
July 11, 2011
Southwest Movers Association's (SMA) Executive Director John D. Esparza announced that the association's partnership with Move For Hunger turns one year old this month. Move For Hunger is a nationwide non-profit that partners with moving companies to pick up unwanted food during the moving process and deliver it to local food banks. Since joining forces with the Texas based moving association, SMA members alone have collected more than 23,622 pounds of food. That food donated to local food banks across the state is enough to provide more than 18,000 life-saving meals to struggling families throughout Texas.
"Through Move for Hunger, our members are improving the lives of Texas families," says SMA Executive Director John D. Esparza. "This program is an excellent way for SMA movers and their customers to assist struggling and hungry families in their own home town, one move at a time."
Moving gives families an opportunity to clean out their pantries. Participating movers in the Move for Hunger program are asking their customers to donate unopened, unwanted food items to help hungry families. Even the smallest donations make a difference. Every time movers go out on an estimate or perform a move, they leave behind a box for food items. Customers can pack the box, or their professional moving staff will pack it for them, and the mover will deliver the food to the local food bank, where it can be distributed to families in need.
According to Feeding America's latest hunger studies, one in six Americans struggles to find their next meal; 17 million children are in need. With one in seven Americans relocating every year, Move For Hunger has a huge opportunity to help fill our nation's food banks.
Move For Hunger is working with movers nationwide and in just the past two years has delivered more than 325,000 pounds of food. With the support of its partners such as Southwest Movers Association, Move For Hunger is turning the average food drive into one of the nation's largest, year-round service programs.
"If we as an association have helped just one family feed their children, we have improved the community around us," said Esparza. "This is a simple way to do something that directly impacts those in need and in turn provides a necessary public service."
To learn how to donate to Move For Hunger, visit www.MoveForHunger.org.
HB 1523 Filed Today
February 18, 2011
HB 1523 was filed today by the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Larry Phillips (R- Fannin), that would stiffen the penalties for unregistered movers in Texas. The bill would now subject violaters to a class A misdemeanor.
More than 100 Southwest Movers Association and Texas Motor Transportation Association members from around the state spent the day Wednesday talking to legislators about supporting this change. If passed, the fine would increase from $200 to $4,000.
Released Rates of Motor Common Carriers of Household Goods
January 21, 2011
To provide additional protection for customers of interstate moving companies, the Surface Transportation Board adopts two changes concerning the responsibility of these companies to pay for damage to or loss of customers' household goods and requires the moving companies to amend certain documents they provide to consumers accordingly. One change requires moving companies to place on the written estimate for a move an estimate of the cost of the move if the moving company assumes liability for the replacement cost of goods damaged or lost. Another change increases the minimum total and per-pound value to replace a consumer's goods in the event that the goods are damaged or lost and the consumer did not provide a value for the shipment.
Click here for full story.