Moving Companies Glossary – Speak the Moving Lingo

Movers’ Terminology & What You Need to Know

Moving requires its own language just as much as medicine or law does. However, if you’re dipping your toes into the world of professional relocation by hiring reputable movers, there are terms you’ll need to know in order to fully understand what’s going on with your move – and your bill. The following is a comprehensive list of terms you can check back to when you hear one pop up in conversation with your movers:

  • Accessorial / Additional Charges: These are charges you’ll be asked to pay in addition to your regular transportation costs based on additional services you’ve requested – such as packing or unpacking – or based on certain (expected or unexpected) requirements your move presents – such as carrying boxes up or down stairs or using a shuttle service.
  • Agent: An agent is an affiliated individual or moving company that has been authorized to act on behalf of the larger van line in order to complete any step in the moving process, including booking, hauling, etc.
  • Bill of Lading: When a commitment is made between a customer and a moving company, the customer will receive a bill of lading, which serves as a receipt for the transportation contract and all other requested services. Signing this bill means you officially entrust your possessions to the moving company.
  • Binding / Non-Binding Estimate: There are different ways that moving companies can settle on agreements with their customers. Binding estimates provide an inflexible overall cost that is guaranteed to stay the same regardless of fluctuations in the weight or distance of a move. Non-binding estimates, on the other hand, are not set in stone but rather are an approximation to be firmed up upon the completion of your move.
  • Booking Agent: Typically a customer’s first liaison in the final moving process, a booking agent accepts the customer’s move order and registers it with the van line.
  • Bulky Article: Certain items – like hot tubs, motorcycles and big screen TVs – earn designation as “bulky” because they require extra work during a move. These can result in additional charges.
  • Carrier: A carrier is the specific company that will provide interstate transportation for household goods. This is also the company under whose name the shipment will be registered with the Department of Transportation.
  • Claim: If anything is lost, damaged or delayed while in the legal custody of a moving company or one of its affiliates, the customer must submit a statement, or claim, documenting this.
  • COD (Cash on Delivery): A customer may sometimes opt to pay for services at the time of delivery by cash, money order, cashier’s check or traveler’s check. If you’d like to pay on delivery using a credit card, you’ll have to make arrangements with your moving company in advance.
  • Department of Transportation (DOT): This federal agency oversees federal highway, air, railroad, maritime and other transportation administration functions including all interstate transportation and the movement of household goods.
  • Destination Agent: This agent will be available to assist you during or provide information regarding a shipment and its arrival at its final destination.
  • Diversion: If a customer must change the destination point while a shipment is en route, a diversion is undertaken, and costs are tallied to account for the new total distance.
  • Exclusive Use of Vehicle: If the moving company can provide it, a customer may request an exclusive unit for shipment. These often have “minimum weight” limitations.
  • Extra Labor: If you request a service for which fees are not published – i.e. services that are not run-of-the-mill procedure for the moving company – you may be charged for extra labor. This is an hourly labor charge designated to secure payment for the performance of a specific task.
  • Extra Pickup / Delivery: Traditional transportation costs include one pick-up destination and one delivery destination. If you need to add extra stops along the way for additional pick-up or delivery, expect additional charges for each stop.
  • Fuel Surcharge: Increased costs of fuel can mean paying an additional tariff to your carrier to compensate for the price shift. These surcharges can change monthly and are based on a national average cost of diesel.
  • Full-Service Packing & Unpacking: If you request the service, you can have your moving company take care of your packing and unpacking for you, but be prepared to pay. Rates are based on the overall weight of the shipment and include the cost of labor, cartons and debris removal.
  • High-Value Article Inventory Form: If you’re planning on moving any items that average out to more than $100 per pound, your carrier will have you fill out one of these to ensure that everything is protected properly.
  • Insurance-Related General Increase (IRR Surcharge): When there is an increase in the cost of a carrier’s or van operator’s liability insurance, you can expect an additional tariff to account for this loss. This happens in the form of a percentage adjustment in transportation charges.
  • Inventory: Before a moving vehicle is loaded, an inventory is taken, including a detailed description of all items included in the shipment and their overall condition.
  • Method of Payment: Your moving company will accept payment in the form of cash, money order, cashier’s check, traveler’s check or credit card. If you plan on paying with a credit card, make arrangements with your moving company ahead of time. Personal checks are not accepted as payment.
  • Non-Allowables / Prohibited Items: There are certain items that a moving company will not accept liability for relocating. These items include hazardous materials, perishable items and items of high sentimental value to the owner.
  • Order for Service: This document authorizes your moving company to transport your possessions.
  • Order Number: This number can be found on the top right corner of both the order for service and bill of lading and is used to identify unique shipments. When you contact your moving company for any reason, you’ll want to have this number handy.
  • Origin Agent: This agent will assist you in readying a shipment for transportation and is there to answer any questions you may have regarding your move.
  • Overflow: If a shipment does not fit in an initial van or moving truck, an additional moving vehicle is supplied to account for “overflow.”
  • Overtime Loading/Unloading Service: If you request loading or unloading services on specific dates including Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, you will be charged an overtime rate based on the weight of your shipment. The same is true if the time of your loading or unloading service falls outside of normal work hours.
  • PBO: Packed by Owner. If you do your packing yourself, you’ll earn this designation.
  • Reweigh: Before your shipment is unloaded, you can request a reweigh of that shipment. If you choose to do so, your overall bill will reflect the new weight, whether lower or higher than the initial weight. This request also requires you to waive your right to witness the reweigh, which you must do in writing.
  • Shuttle Service: If physical restraints such as narrow roads or inadequate parking prevent your actual moving vehicle from reaching your pick-up or delivery point within a reasonable distance, a shuttle service will be used to ferry the shipment to or from the vehicle.
  • Storage-in-Transit (SIT): If your shipment cannot be delivered directly to your final destination, you can request that it be moved into storage for pickup at a later date. Keep in mind that SIT services cannot exceed 180 days.
  • Survey: An agent performs a survey of a customer’s possessions in order to provide an estimate of moving costs.
  • Tariff: This publication contains all rates and provisions set by a carrier for services performed. It will also contain information regarding the rules and regulations applicable to your move.
  • Third-Party Services: Any services provided by someone other than your carrier, agent or affiliated party fall under this category. Some services must be performed by third parties under specific federal, state or local laws, and you may also request that specific services be performed by such parties.
  • Unpacking: Unpacking services involve removing a customer’s possessions from their containers and placing them on a flat surface before removing or disposing of said containers. These services are performed at the time of delivery unless the customer requests that they be performed at some other time.
  • Valuation: As a means of determining a carrier’s maximum liability in the event of loss or damage, a shipment’s overall value is determined. This process is known as valuation.
  • Van Operator: Your van operator will oversee the loading, hauling and unloading of your shipment.
  • Waiting Time: After you have been notified that your shipment has arrived at its destination, you are granted a specific amount of free waiting time in which your carrier will wait to unload the shipment. If the time you’ll require between the arrival of a shipment and the time in which your movers will be able to unload it exceeds the free waiting time, you will be charged an additional fee. If you know in advance that this is a possibility, you can request additional waiting time. Otherwise, your shipment may be delivered to an agent’s warehouse, which can mean any number of additional costs to you. Carriers are not obligated to provide waiting time at all, but if you request it in advance and are willing to pay a little extra, you can save yourself a lot of hassle in the long run.
  • Weight Additive: Some items that are large and take up a lot of space in a moving vehicle are relatively light for their size. Examples of these large yet light items include boats, canoes, camper shells, etc. Loading these items into a van can suddenly transform a vehicle that is designated to carry 5,000 pounds into one that’s actually only carrying 2,000. To account for this inequity, your carrier may add prescribed “additional weight” to these items.

Moving Non Allowable Items – Not to Pack

Prohibited Items: What Our Movers Just Won’t Move

When you’re in the process of packing up all of your personal possessions for your next move, it’s important to remember that some items just aren’t okay to include. Moving companies simply won’t transport a number of items in order to protect themselves and the rest of your possessions from harm during the journey to your new home. Before your professional movers come knocking, make sure you haven’t packed up anything they won’t allow. Here’s what American Van Lines just won’t move:

Hazardous Materials

If it looks or smells dangerous, odds are we won’t be piling it into the back of one of our trucks. Items that are considered hazardous include:

  • Aerosol cans
  • Ammonia
  • Ammunition
  • Batteries
  • Bleach
  • Car batteries
  • Charcoal/lighter fluid
  • Chemistry sets
  • Cleaning solvents
  • Darkroom chemicals
  • Fertilizer
  • Firearms
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Fireworks
  • Fuels/Oils
  • Kerosene
  • Matches
  • Nail polish
  • Paint/Varnishes
  • Paint thinner
  • Pesticides
  • Poisons
  • Pool chemicals
  • Propane tanks
  • Sterno fuel
  • Scuba tanks
  • Weed killer

Perishable Items

Transporting foodstuffs can attract all sorts of problems along the way, and moving living things can put those things – and your movers – at great risk. That’s why we won’t move things like:

  • Food that hasn’t been properly preserved
  • Frozen foods
  • Open containers of foodstuffs
  • Plants
  • Produce
  • Refrigerated food

The best rule of thumb is to save your foodstuffs for your pantry and your plants for your ceramic pots or garden. Neither belongs in the back of a moving truck.

Items of Personal or Sentimental Value

There are some items that deserve to be carried along with you when you move. If you have items of real personal or sentimental value, don’t risk anything happening to them by packing them along with the items with which you don’t share the same intense emotional connection. These items you shouldn’t pack include:

  • Address books
  • Airline tickets
  • Car titles
  • Cash
  • Cell phones
  • Checkbooks
  • Computer data or backup files
  • Family photographs
  • Financial documents
  • Furs
  • Home videos
  • Insurance policies
  • Jewelry
  • Keys (to anything)
  • Laptops
  • Medical/dental records
  • Medicine
  • School records
  • Work files

If you’re worried about packing any specific item, don’t be afraid to ask your AVL representative. He or she will be happy to provide you with more specific guidelines before your moving crew arrives to get your show on the road!