The Law and Household Goods Physical Surveys
Written by David Piotrowski Esq.*
Household Goods Physical Surveys- www.attorneydavid.com
Introduction and Background
Physical surveys, also known as visual estimates, is an area of the household goods moving industry that has seen change in recent years. This article will highlight the law as it stands today in relation to physical surveys, as well as provide pros and cons to requiring moving companies to provide their customers with a physical survey prior to loading. For purposes of this article, the “mover” is the moving company, and the “shipper” is the person moving and using the services of the moving company.
Under federal law, a physical “visual” survey is required prior to the mover loading the shipper’s goods onto the truck. This is a relatively new law, which came into effect by a piece of legislation known as the “Household Goods Mover Oversight Enforcement and Reform Act of 2005.” By providing a physical survey of the job, the visual estimator conducting the household goods physical survey will be able to see first-hand what the shipper intends to move and can use that information to create a customized estimate for the shipper, based on the mover’s tariff. When the mover completes the physical survey, he or she (or another company representative), will put together an estimate. Providing the shipper with a physical survey should assist in alleviating certain shipper’s stress levels. A physical survey will also allow a mover to introduce itself directly to a potential shipper and provide the shipper with marketing brochures and other relevant handouts, so that the shipper can make an informed decision on which mover to hire.
Many moving companies do not wish to give potential shipper’s a physical survey because of the time and cost involved in sending people to the shipper’s residence to conduct in-person surveys. Physical surveys are costly because, under normal circumstances, most estimates do not become “booked” jobs. Also, conducting in-person household goods surveys is extremely time-consuming. Statistics show that only a small portion of leads turn into actual jobs and many movers believe their time could be spent better by calling more “leads” on the phone.
Nevertheless, current law requires movers to provide a physical survey prior to loading.
There are some exceptions to the rule requiring physical surveys. Many moving companies try to avoid the household goods physical survey requirement by finding an exception to the rule. These exceptions are legal and many legitimate moving companies utilize these exceptions to reduce costs and to be able to provide better overall services by utilizing available resources in other areas. Shippers should not feel uncomfortable simply because a moving company does not provide a physical survey, so long as an exception to the rule is used.
Waiver in Writing Exception
One such exception is that a shipper may elect to waive a physical survey by signing a written waiver before the shipment is loaded. So long as the carrier obtains a signed waiver from the shipper before the carrier loads the goods, then the household goods physical survey requirement can be waived. A copy of the waiver agreement must be retained as an addendum to the bill of lading and will be subject to the same record inspection and preservation requirements as are applicable to a bill of lading.
A physical survey waiver may look something like this:
50-Mile Radius Exception
Pros of a Physical Survey
- Will likely result in a more accurate estimate
- Reduces the likelihood of needing a rescission and a new estimate
- Reduces the stress on a shipper, which is already high when planning a move
- Allows movers to introduce themselves in person and provide the shipper with marketing materials
- Weeds out so-called “rogue” movers who give the industry a bad name
- Will cost the mover time
- Will cost the mover money
* David Piotrowski is an attorney practicing in the areas of transportation, business, real property, and other transactional matters. His transportation practice includes the representation of both movers and shippers with their interstate shipping needs, with an emphasis on training, education, and the satisfactory resolution of claims and disputes without the use of litigation. For more information, please visit www.attorneydavid.com.
This article is not intended to be, nor shall be, legal advice, and contains only general information