*new* Q. My mover's contract references a “federal license #” and their website mentions they are “fully licensed.” What does this mean?

A. In Canada, moving is not licenced, therefore there are no federally-issued licenses. The federal license number likely refers to American rules through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Canada does not have an equivalent single federal regulator like the FMCSA. Unless the company is American, it's possible they've lifted information from U.S. sources, perhaps to give themselves credibility. If their website says they are licensed, this could simply mean that their trucks have license plates on them and that their drivers have truck driver licences. Ask the movers to explain.

Canada does have federal regulations put out by Transport Canada, such as the Motor Carrier Safety Fitness Certificate Act, and other associated acts and regulations, most of which is referred to as the National Safety Code (NSC), but they are administered/enforced by the provinces. There is a group called the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) which "oversees" the NSC, but it is a non-profit comprised of provincial and federal transport administrators and is not a true government body or regulator. Having said that, every province has more-or-less the same thing, with different names in some, and every carrier will have an NSC Number. Alberta has, for example, a Safety Fitness Certificate with the operating status noted as either Provincial (intra-provincial) or Federal (inter-provincial); Ontario has a Commercial Vehicle Operator's Registration (CVOR); and so on.

Q. What paperwork can I expect to receive when my mover arrives to pick up my goods? What if he doesn’t provide me with anything?

A. Never allow a mover to begin work without paperwork!

The importance of the Bill of Lading or Work Order

When you move with a professional moving company, you will receive a copy of the moving company’s Bill of Lading or Work Order which details your name, your address and likely phone number, the date of the service, details of the work done, as well as the name, address and phone number of the company that is doing the work as well as their order number. Other information that usually is on the form is listed below under Long Distance Move and Local Move.

Ask to see the work order/bill of lading before the work even begins. If they don’t have any paperwork, make them wait and contact their office to speak to the boss and find out why there isn’t any. If there isn’t paperwork produced shortly after that phone call – cancel the move. Don’t risk having this “company” load up everything you own into a truck and disappear, with no proof of who took it. You won’t get much sympathy from the police when you call in for theft.

Long Distance Move

If you are moving to a different city, generally the Bill of Lading will include specific information about your move including the estimated weight of your shipment, the anticipated delivery date spread, as well as the contact information for the moving companies that will be involved in the servicing of your move. Finally, you should see estimated charges (based on your quote) on your bill of lading and the option to choose the level of replacement value protection you want for your relocation. You will also receive a copy of the detailed inventory and tag numbers that the driver and crew have created. This is another very important document that details each of your items and the condition they were in when the moving company picked them up. The driver will ask you to check off appropriate boxes and sign and date the documents before he leaves.

Local Moving

Similar to the long distance move paperwork, all your contact information and the moving company’s should be on the work order that you receive. As you are moving in one day, normally at an hourly rate, all of your moving charges must be written on the work order, with the agreed upon rate already written on the form when the crew arrives. In most cases, this document will also be your invoice to pay at the end of the move. Once the move is complete, the final charges will be calculated and written down - information should include the number of hours it took to complete the job, any replacement value protection you may have purchased from the mover, as well as any other charges (packing, appliance hook up charges, for example). If the information is incomplete – make sure the moving company fills in it. The work order is also a great spot to write in any damages that may occur to your furniture or property, so that they are recorded at the time of the move.

Regardless of how you move, make sure you hang on to any documents the moving company gives you. You need these in case there are any issues post move, and also for income tax purposes.

Q. What is an origin surcharge?

A. Surcharges vary by specific origin and destination and are intended to cover unique variable costs inherent in the designated area. For instance, large metropolitan areas have surcharges recognizing local licences, delays routinely caused by traffic, reduced access routes, etc. Fuel surcharges, for instance, vary on a month-to-month basis based on national/local fuel costs as published by agencies, such as the Federal Government. They vary by van line/carrier but are published in their individual tariffs.

Q. We are considering several movers for an upcoming move and they include a "Fuel Surcharge" in their quotes. What is this cost for?

A. The price of fuel can substantially change the cost of moving goods, therefore most movers monitor the average retail prices for diesel on a weekly basis. Transportation companies will often include a Fuel Surcharge (FSC) to the cost of moving goods that is either based on cents per mile or as a percentage of the line haul amount, rather than having to constantly change the base tariff for household moving. Fuel of course, is a significant cost factor in the transportation service. The trucks that movers use are large and, as a result, consume large quantities of fuel. Fuel costs are very volatile so most movers regularly review a publically-available national average fuel price, such as the Average Retail Prices for Diesel published by the Federal Government. The volatility of fuel prices is very apparent on cross-border moves to and from the US as well. For example, fuel was $2.02 per gallon ($3.02 per litre) in March 2016 and $4.13 per gallon ($6.18 per litre) in March 2013 – just three years earlier. The amount of the FSC depends on the price program being followed by each mover. Some tariffs, for example, assume a basic fuel price of $0.70 per litre. Below that threshold, no fuel surcharge would apply. Some movers build in a rate per hundredweight per mile; others build in a percentage of line haul cost. Often a low amount is rolled into the tariff to begin with – so the mover doesn’t overcharge clients when fuel price drops to unusually low levels. When fuel prices exceed the basic level built into the base rate, the FSC formula would apply.

Q. Is it standard practice for a mover to charge in advance for a move?

A. Most credible movers will not charge up front for a planned move. Some will charge a deposit to hold the moving date. However the industry standard is to require payment on delivery (just before the goods are moved into the new home).

Q. Is it standard practice for a mover to ask a customer to provide a copy of their driver's license?

A. It’s not a regular practice to have to provide a driver's license, but it might be the practice of that particular company to have some kind of identification as proof to back up the credit card. But this would be the practice of that company alone. If a customer feels uneasy about this request, they might look around for another mover.

Q. We are moving 1,700 lbs about 1,000 km. Should we expect to pay a small shipment charge?

A. It is not uncommon for a small shipment charge to be on a shipment under 2,500 pounds. Basically it’s a charge that’s added for shipments where it’s not economically feasible for the driver to bring the big truck and park it in front of the house/apartment to pick up the load. But the small shipment charge should be disclosed on the quote/estimate.

Q. How does pricing for packing services generally work in the moving industry?

A. There are two types of packing and both pricing methods are acceptable. There is the packing by box rate, where the customer would be charged for the number and types of boxes used. For example, if a kitchen was packed, it might be three 2 cubes, five 4 cubes, and 4 China barrels, at a cost of 12 boxes x rate (although each box size has a different rate). There’s also the packing by weight system, which is usually used when a home is fully packed by the moving company. The cost is determined by the weight of the shipment based on the scale ticket, so if the weight of the shipment is 4500 pounds, it would be 4500 x whatever the rate is (or more commonly by hundred weight - cwt = 45 x $xx.xx). If it’s only a few boxes being packed, it would normally be calculated by the individual box rate, however it is not uncommon when there’s a lot of boxes to be packed, that the sales person might figure out if the packing by box rate is cheaper than the packing by weight rate. It is not unusual that 20 or 30 boxes being packed might be cheaper being charged by weight than by individual box.