Why should I care if the company that’s moving us is legally compliant or not? Why can’t I just use a guy with a truck or a trailer who tells me he’s a mover?
I am very familiar with this question, because, before we started Best Mexico Movers, it’s the same question I also asked, right after getting quotes from the existing movers. I didn’t understand why the price we were quoted by the existing moving companies to move our household goods was as high as it was, so I set out to find a way to create a company that could bring household goods into Mexico in the least expensive way possible. In short, I wanted to be that guy with the truck or the trailer.
I have a lot of experience with this type of investigation, because it was in large part what I did in other industries while in the US—I founded, ran, and sold several companies for myself and did the same for my clients, along the way guest lecturing at the graduate business school at the University of Arizona.
Compared to the other industries I had investigated, I figured that understanding the business of moving from or to Mexico or would be easy.
I was very wrong.
All in all, I spent almost six months discovering what would be required to run a moving company to legally move household goods from and to Mexico. I ran into huge hurdles, including legal, regulatory and insurance issues, including different rules for different states in the US, Canada, and in Mexico. I found that while the US trucking industry is highly regulated, with a patchwork of compliance issues depending in which state(s) you operate, moving household goods requires yet another, additional layer of compliance and that was without dealing with any of the customs and other issues of crossing an international border.
There were issues with the Department of Transportation, what type of driver’s licenses the drivers needed, what visas they had, how far into the US the trucks could drive, if you are or are not “in the furtherance of commerce”, the license(s) for the truck, regulations for the Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier, logs the drivers had to keep and restrictions on how many hours they could drive, apportioned registrations, how much the truck weighed, US Customs requirements, countless forms to fill out, liability and other insurance, etc., and that was only for the US side. Mexico had its own rules and so did Canada.
And these rules would be for anybody moving household goods for hire in the US legally across state lines or into or out of Mexico. No exceptions.
What would happen if I didn’t comply with each and every rule? I would be subject to huge fines, confiscation of my client’s household goods, etc., and ignorance of the law would be no defense.
Put simply, the option to just “wing it,” perhaps with my own truck or trailer or perhaps by partnering with a local furniture company, car rental company, a “guy with a truck and a trailer,” a baker, etc. that was not legally in the business of moving household goods across borders could be done, but it would be very irresponsible, not only for me, but more importantly, for my clients. If I got caught, my otherwise innocent clients would suffer right along with me, their household goods could be held up, etc., it could be very expensive, or worse.
While I am not certain, I suspect that this is exactly what happened with a “mover” recently, who very suddenly went out of business, leaving some clients without a mover, but after some of his clients had paid a deposit. The reason I know is that some of his former clients called me to see if I could help.
If you are moving your own household goods in the US or even to Mexico without help from anyone who asks you for money, until you get to the border, you are free to move your own household goods without worrying about any of these rules. However, if you pay anyone to help you, then everyone is subject to all the rules and regulations I describe above, and have to comply.
Most people don’t even know to ask if their “mover” is legal, even if he is just a guy with a truck and / or a trailer or perhaps even runs a local furniture store. Here are some questions to ask:
- Do you have the licenses in the US and Mexico to move household goods for hire?
- Do you comply with each state’s Department of Transportation requirements for moving household goods for hire?
- Do you comply with all Transportation Federal Motor Carrier rules and regulations for moving household goods for hire?
- Are your drivers in full compliance with all laws, rules and regulations for performing work for moving household goods for hire?
- What insurance do you offer? Who is it with? Does it potentially cover everything from packing and loading to transportation in both countries right through to unloading in another country?
- Do you use licensed customs brokers who are authorized in both Mexico and (either the US or Canada) or do you just “do it yourself?”
If you don’t get full and complete answers, you’re probably not using a company that can legally move your household goods.
You could entrust your household goods with someone who can’t answer these questions and there is a good chance it would work out, or, alternatively, you could be the one left without a chair when the music stops and they get caught. What happens then to your money and your household goods is anyone’s guess, but it won’t be pretty and there’s not a lot you can do about it. After all, you’re the one who hired the mover who wasn’t legal.
In contrast, we just weren’t willing to play that short term game and put ourselves and, worse, our clients, in jeopardy.
We established Best Mexico Movers legally, complying with all regulations, by establishing a network of suppliers, each of whom in turn are also acting legally. We found that, while we could substantially lower our clients’ pricing because of our efficiency, new ways of doing things, and the flexibility our network gives us to custom-design each move as per our clients’ situation, there was a point beyond which, we could not lower the price any further, because to do so, would require us to be out of compliance.
The risk of doing so was just too high, and I like to sleep at night.
The moral of the story: if you are going to hire anybody to move your household goods, it’s very good to get the lowest price, but make sure you’re working with a mover one who is legally compliant and uses a certified customs broker, not just a local guy with a business or a guy with a truck or a trailer. If you don’t, you’re paying for that lower price by putting your money, your peace of mind and your household goods at risk. It may work out, but then again, it may not.