Run a search by company name or carrier number here: http://www.safer.fmcsa.dot.gov/CompanySnapshot.aspx. If the company’s registration page shows “0 power units”, you know they do not own any trucks and must be a broker.
Most brokers have a tendency to not want to volunteer to the customer that they are brokers. The tendency is to lead the customer to believe that they are an actual truck-owning moving company. And for that reason the Department of Transportation (DOT) recently (on 11/29/2010) passed a law* requiring brokers for interstate moves to:
Register for, and provide the customer with a DOT number
Give consumers the FMCSA’s pamphlet “Your Rights and Responsibilities”
Tell the customer that they are a broker and not a mover
Provide customers with a list of moving companies the broker will be using
Provide estimates of expected moving charges and brokerage fees in writing
Provide the customer with the broker’s deposit, cancellation and refund policy.
*The legislation can be viewed here: www.protectyourmove.gov under Regulations and Enforcement where it provides the PDF titled “Final Rule: Brokers of Household Goods Transportation by Motor Vehicles”.
To report a broker for misrepresentation you can fill out the following form for interstate moves: http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov/hc_disclaimer1.asp
The Pros & Cons of Using a Broker
Using a broker may be beneficial if you are coordinating multiple moves for a larger project and do not have the time to oversee several movers at once.
The idea behind hiring a broker is that they will hire a quality mover that is prescreened for you, but there is no guarantee the broker will not simply to find the least expensive mover.
You will not know what moving company will handle your possessions until near the move time.
You are paying more because the broker adds their markup.
There is a natural incentive for brokers to subcontract your move to the lowest bidder.
Broker’s cannot give you a binding estimate.
Broker is not responsible for loss or damage.
Third party communication tends to leave out details.
Your payment may only partially or not at all make it to the moving company.