Operating authority is a type of legal regulation that is required by all moving companies that transport goods between states on behalf of others for some form of financial compensation. It often goes hand-in-hand with a U.S. DOT number, which is a requirement for state to state moving companies, though not necessarily required of all in-state movers. There are a few moving companies that may not need operating authority, but they are few and far between and most movers will have to maintain operating authority to legally operate.
Depending on the type of operating authority, there will be a different letter combination assigned to it. The most common one is an MC number, which stands for “motor carrier” number. An FF number refers to a freight forwarder, which is a company that arranges for transportation of goods, rather than hauling them itself. An MX number refers to a motor carrier that is owned by a citizen or resident of Mexico and is obviously less common in the United States. For the most part, moving companies you encounter should have an MC number if they are the company that will be transporting your belongings for you. Those companies with an FF number are brokers, which means that simply arrange for the transport between you and a carrier.
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All types of operating authority are specific to a given company, which makes it easy to look them up and verify information about the company. Just as most moving companies you deal with should have an MC number, they should also have a U.S. DOT number if they operate between different states, referred to as interstate transport. A U.S. DOT number is not required in every state if the company only operates in that state, but the majority of states do require a U.S. DOT number in addition to a number that designates their type of operating authority.
Like a U.S. DOT number, you can look up a moving company based on their operating authority using the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Moving Company Database. (You can also look up a moving company based on their name if you are unable to find a registration number for them.) It’s definitely advisable to look up information about a moving company before you agree to hire them so that you can verify certain information about them. Once you’re able to find a company’s records on in the moving database, you can verify that they’re a carrier, meaning they do the moving themselves, rather than operate as a broker. You can also check to see if they have current operating authority to move household goods, find information about their past safety performance and audits, and find out where their headquarters are located.