International Moving: Definition, History, and Types of Moves

International Moving: Definition, History, and Types of Moves

Definition: A van line, a removalist, or a moving company deals with assisting businesses and people with moving their assets / belongings from one location to another. They offer various services, including moving, packing, unpacking, arranging the items, loading, and unloading. Such a company may also offer cleaning services for warehouses, offices, houses, and apartments.

 

History

In the U.S. alone, storage and moving is an industry worth more than $15 billion. Every year, more than 40 million families relocate using a moving company, and the number of both domestic and international moves are constantly growing. The storage industry is also growing, each year bringing more than $22 billion in profit.

These being said, how did the moving industry begin? Why was it created?

Ancient moves were carried out using objects similar to sleds. These travois, as the French named them, were pulled by hand or by horse moving along the family’s belongings. People were often on the move, and they kept few belongings that could weigh them down.

However, during the agricultural era, they started settling down. Because they were now stationary, their belongings grew in time, making relocating far more difficult. Soon afterwards, someone invented the wheel and the axel. Wooden carts and wagons were built, and the rail car appeared as well.

In the United States, it was only in the 1800s that the moving industry took shape. It evolved along with the continental railroad and the migration towards the west. It was around 1800 that the first cover wagons, the conestoga, were created.

To reach a new destination safely, 5-6 families would move at a time. Eventually, they switched to train travel due to the railroad’s development. Their belongings would be placed on wagons, then taken to nearby warehouses.

From here, moving companies would step in. They took these possessions, transported them via rail cars then placed them in a warehouse in the town the family was moving to. Afterwards, the items would arrive at their new home using another wagon. This is how the first paid moves were conducted in the United States.

But these services could only be performed part time. We would have to wait until the middle of the 20’th century for full-time movers to appear.

Soon after the conestoga type of wagon was created, motorized trucks appeared, created for transporting large loads. The 2 axel truck was the first such van. It ran horse drawn wagons out of business, since they could carry more and were generally safer, faster, and cheaper to maintain.


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The moving business grew more and more along with the country. Steel and concrete warehouses were created, causing the storage business to grow. This industry was first present in Britain before being adopted into the U.S. It started with clients requesting banks to keep their belongings safe while they were away on long trips.

In 1927, the Interstate Commerce Comission gave the Mayflower company a certificate to operate in 48 states, the first such event in history. In 1928, the Inner City Removals Bureau was created by the NFWA (National Furniture Warehouseman’s Association).

They helped find shipments for moving companies’ drivers on their return trip. It gave its members a dispatching and communication service which informed companies of where equipment and trucks were placed, as well as the shipment’s locations.

After the Second World War, many people wanted to move to the countryside, due to the growing population. Moving companies started making more and more profits along with the growth of the suburbs. Moving was also done easier, due to an interstate system created during the war. Because of these 2 factors, new moving companies took shape. Because fuel, automobiles, and tires were scarce due to the war, possessions were once again moved using rail cars.

The storage industry grew along with the moving industry. In the middle of the 1960s, the first US storage appeared in Texas. Afterwards, the idea moved to the west, then through the whole country.

In 1980, Congress deregulated the trucking industry. Soon after, the United States’ carriers rapidly grew in number to around 20 thousand. The options for service level and price expanded as well, including the amount of new companies.

However, many movers were illegitimate, and of the legitimate kind, some offered poor services. After a surge of complaints to the Better Business Bureau, in 2001, the moving industry was ranked 6’th in the list of the most inquired industries. The Better Business Bureau received more than 270.000 searches regarding it. In 2006, the number surpassed 1 million, ranking it fourth in the list.

Congress was advised by the United States’ General Accounting Office that the most important thing in the protection of consumers is for them to choose reputable movers, to read and understand the contract’s terms and conditions, and to use the available options in case of a problem.

Besides this, there are several regulations in place designed to protect the moving industry’s integrity. Movers must have a minimum of $750 thousand BIPD, as well as a FMCSA cargo insurance. They must also procure a license containing a DOT.

Rates and regulations have arguably had the greatest effect on the past 100 years of the moving industry. Specifically, the way rates are being established and the how much the government regulates movers are the main issues.

Starting with the 1930s, the government has tried to create rates for the storage and moving industry. Previously, only state regulations affected them, the federal government not taking any stance.

One of Hoover Institution’s seniors, Thomas Gale Moore, published an article on the railroad industry’s influence on state regulations. According to this article, regulations on buses and trucks between 1914-1931 were created mostly due to the railroad companies’ pressure and various law suits started by these companies. From the beginning, railroad owners saw buses, trucks and carriers as competition. Because of this, they tried to influence politicians to create laws that were against motor carriers’ interests.

All this happened during the Great Depression. President Roosevelt’s attempt to help the economy recover led to many economists encouraging the government to regulate competitive practices and effectively take control of the free market. The belief behind this was that fierce competition led to many companies going out of business, which brought the U.S. many losses. It was thought that preventing unethical business practices would stop this.

The Congress started promoting fair competition codes in the new National Industrial Recovery Act. In both the moving and the auto transport industries, carriers had to go to a motor carrier rate bureau and declare their minimum tariffs and rates.

In 1935, the Motor Carrier Act was passed by the U.S. Congress, with the goal of encouraging fair competition in this industry. Prices were stabilized and the carrier industry became regulated by the Federal Government and protected from the railroad companies’ actions. Bigger companies could no longer give discounts based on volume.

The moving industry would now be regulated under the authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission, including motor carriers performing interstate commerce. Every carrier had to ask for their services a minimum, as well as a maximum rate, within reason.

Congress passed the Reed Bullwinkle Act in 1948. If a bureau was performing its activities under the Interstate Commerce Commission’s agreements, it would be immune to antitrust laws and could decide on collective rates. Because of these actions, in the next few years, the industry grew more prosperous and stronger.

To promote competition, the regulations affecting interstate carriers were repealed by the Motor Carrier Act in the 1980s. The moving, auto transport, and other similar industries, were allowed to decide upon a benchmark tariff.

The purpose of the antitrust immunity was to give everyone a fighting chance in the moving industry, and to help the industry’s clients to compare prices easier. To compete with other companies, carriers could publicize in the published tariff their discounted rates. Before being used in the private market, it was high volume contracts where these discounts were most used.

The base level for the tariff was determined periodically by the Household Goods Carrier Bureau. According to market conditions, they would suggest modifications when necessary. Those who were active in the tariff could afterwards discount the rates as needed.

All these modifications in the tariff and subsequent discounts required companies to balance offering competitive prices with their need to cover costs. Because of this, in the remaining 30 years, prices went down, despite fuel, insurance, real estate, labor, and equipment costs going up.

In 1995, the moving industry was once more deregulated, when the Interstate Commerce Commission was eliminated by the ICC Termination Act. The Federal Highway Administration took over the storage and moving industry as the new authority which would take care of it. As part of the Department of Transportation, this administration eliminated the remaining regulations created in 1935 to enable competition even more.

The Surface Transportation Board was also created by the above mentioned act, with the responsibility to verify the agreements made by the Motor Carrier Bureau once every 5 years. Collective ratemaking was abolished in 2007 by the Surface Transportation Board. Starting with 2008, each company was responsible for publishing their own tariffs separately.

Although companies could now create their own independent tariffs with their new pricing and rate freedom, most carriers made them similarly to the 2007 collective tariffs. Some decided to give an all inclusive flat rate, according to the distance and the weight.

However, despite this being considered an improvement due to its simplicity, discounted tariff lies at its foundation. Thanks to this system, corporations and individuals can compare market prices much easier.

Although the system is logical, there should be other pricing options companies and clients could benefit from. There is great opportunity in this new deregulated system for eliminating discounts, simplifying tariff, and creating new formats for prices that are more predictable in terms of costs.

Currently, the moving and auto transport industries are very divided, as most companies focus on either short or long distance moves. Those who offer both are few in number.

Moving Types

If you’ve decided to employ a moving company to handle all the risks and hardships involved, choosing among the various services must be done carefully. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages.


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So your decision is right, you may want to take the time to check the various moving types and the companies which best suit the type of move you’re trying to make.

Depending on the distance over which they perform their moves and their services, there are a few ways to classify a moving company.

Local Movers

Some companies specialize in moves across short distances and within their state’s boundaries. The Public Utilities Commissions or Departments of Transportation regulates them, and they usually won’t take on moves over distances longer than 100 miles. They do not require a FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) USDOT to function.

If you ask for a local move, you will be charged by the hour, each mover asking around $35 per hour. Because of this, the final cost is calculated according to the number of people working on your move and how many hours they spent to unload and load your items. You will have to pay an additional charge for the time spent on the road from the start to the end point, and this will usually be equivalent to 1 working hour.

Long Distance Movers

These are usually done between states, though if an intrastate move is done across more than 100 miles, it will probably be classified as a long distance move as well. In this case, the costs of moving will be determined according to the distance to the destination and the shipment’s weight.

If you’re planning on moving over a longer distance, ask for the company’s USDOT number, since they need it to offer their services legally. Also, even if the distance to the destination is shorter than 100 miles, if you need to cross a border for it, the move falls into the interstate category, and the moving company will need a USDOT number to do it legally.

Commercial Moves

Moving a big corporation, a warehouse, a shop, or an office, necessitates lots of equipment, manpower, and specialized packing techniques. To move an entire business efficiently and safely, the moving company must use advanced technology, have great experience, and be adequately trained.

There are several factors which determine the costs of such a move, such as its complexity, additional services, the volume, and the weight of the company’s belongings. Depending on all these factors, commercial moves can end up being much more expensive than household relocations.

Household Moves

These types of movers specialize in helping families relocate from one apartment or house to another. They can adapt to any circumstances you may have, and can handle both small and huge relocations.

Full Service Moves

Some customers want the moving company to do everything. In these cases, you can apply for a full service move, where the company will pack your things, load them in their truck, move them to their new destination, unload, and unpack them. If you know where each items should be placed in, they will also assemble, install, and place them where you indicate.

 

 

This option is the most convenient, easiest and safest way to move. However, it is also the most expensive. Among the pros of this option, we count:

  • All the lifting and work is done by the movers;
  • It takes less time than do it yourself methods;
  • The chances of an accident happening are lower;
  • The company is liable in case anything breaks during the process.

Partial Services

To save money, you can do part of the moving process yourself, leaving only the most difficult and/or important tasks to the movers. Among the partial services a company offers, we number:

  • Packing. Valuable or delicate belongings may break if not handled properly. Packing them is also a very tedious process many could do without. In such a case, employing a moving company’s packing services may be best. They will arrive on the day you’ve agreed on and prepare everything as fast and safe as possible. Afterward, you can either ask them to transport your goods, or you can do it yourself.
  • Loading / Unloading. If health issues prevent you from lifting your furniture, professional companies can be employed to do it for you. You can even ask them to assist only with the loading and unloading of your belongings for an hourly rate. The rest, you can take care of yourself.
  • Transport. If you don’t have a driver’s license or your destination is too far away and you’re worried about your items’ safety, you can hire a professional moving company just for the pickup and delivery part of the process. The company will leave the packing / unpacking to you, and just take care of the loading, driving, and unloading.
  • Small moves. If your total belongings are no more than 1000 pounds in weight, they probably won’t fill the entire trailer of a truck. In such cases, it may be cheaper to go with a small scale move. The downside is your items will travel along with other people’s goods, and the speed of delivery will be a bit slower due to the extra stops along the way.
  • Storage. In case the new location for your belongings is not yet finished, you can keep them in a moving company’s temporary storage for a fee.

Self Service

If you choose the self service option, the company will move your items, but the packing, unpacking, loading and unloading will be left to you. This can be done in 2 ways:

  • On the agreed upon date, a sufficiently large moving truck will arrive at your home. Your belongings must have been packed beforehand and ready to go. You’ll have to lead them into the van fast, for every passing minute will cost you extra. After that’s done, the driver will take everything to its destination. You will have to go as well, meet him there and unload everything.
  • You can ask for a container to be sent to your home and left there for the time you’ve agreed on. After all your items are placed inside it, the pod will be shipped to your new home. An advantage of this method is you’ll be left a few days to unload and arrange everything, before the container is retrieved by the company.

Truck Rental Services

When using truck rental services, some basic equipment and a moving vehicle will be sent to your home. However, the move and what it implies, like packing, unpacking, loading, unloading, and driving, will have to be done on your own. As you can see, this is a do it yourself move where you rent a truck (presuming you don’t have one)

Specialty Moves

Fragile items, like wine collections and art work, as well as large items like safes, pool tables, pianos, and hot tubs, must be handled carefully. Without special equipment and trained movers, the risk of damaging them is high. To avoid this, you can contact a specialized company, and insure your items just in case.

Auto Transport Companies

If you have an automobile to move along with your belongings, there are specialized companies that offer such services. People usually employ them for long distance auto transport, though short distance moves are common as well. They offer their own range of services you can choose from, depending on the price, protection level, and size of the vehicle you’re trying to move.

International Moves

If you’re moving to another country, there are companies specialized in this type of service. Due to global regulations and Customs, you have to prepare a lot of documentation. The type of transport you choose will also change the shipping requirements greatly.


A-1 Auto Transport, Inc. can help you move your household goods nationwide. Call 888-509-3213 to get a free, no obligation to buy price quote on interstate moving services.


This makes international moves very difficult and complex, so it’s highly recommended you have a moving company backing you up and guiding you through the process. In future articles, we will cover what such a company can do for you, what documentation you need, the rules you must abide by, as well as the various types of international moving methods you can choose from.

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