It’s Moving Day on Capitol Hill: AMSA to Meet with Congress


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Let’s be honest… in recent months, several people have moved – or been removed – from Capitol Hill. But this September a whole pack of people will be moving in a much more traditional way.

On September 5-7 at the Washington Court Hotel, the American Moving & Storage Association members from all over the country will travel to our nation’s capital to meet with congressional leaders to discuss the policy and legislation that impact our $85 billion industry. AMSA will also be conducting committee meetings, offering advocacy and communications training sessions, and hosting networking events for both industry colleagues and elected officials and their staff. In short, this is a rare chance to get up close and personal with the people who shape the laws of the land – and our own industry.

And guess what? You could be there too.

For more information, check out AMSA’s event announcement. If you are interested in attending, there is a registration link right there on the page. (Note: This is an AMSA members-only event.)

Even if you can’t go, you don’t have to miss out! AMSA will be posting a summary of events once the conference has concluded. (Don’t worry we’ll be giving you a heads up when it’s out.)

Blocking New Movers: West Virginia the Latest State to Repeal Unconstitutional Anti-Competitor Law


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Category: Regulations

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First, we saw it in Missouri, then in Kentucky. Then in Oregon and Pennsylvania.

One by one, states are repealing laws requiring new moving companies to obtain a special “Certificate of Need” permit before they open up shop.

What the heck is a “Certificate of Need”? Commonly referred to as “competitor’s veto” laws, these statutes have allowed existing moving companies to block new companies – read: new competition – from entering the marketplace. But now small moving company owners like Raleigh Bruner in Lexington and Cosmo and MaryAnne Losco in Philadelphia can operate without their competitors’ permission, thanks in part to the Pacific Legal Foundation’s fight against these unconstitutional laws.

West Virginia Movers. AP Photo/(Denis Poroy)

The latest case played out in West Virginia and involved a Virginia-based moving company – located just ten miles from the West Virginia border – that had been barred from performing moves into, out of or within West Virginia. With that state repealing their competitor’s veto law, plaintiff Arty Vogt (and a host of unnamed others) can now operate freely and, in accordance with the protections of the constitution, earn a living without undue government interference.

Usually, we hear a few words from the people who have been affected by the existence – and subsequent repeal – of these anti-competitor laws. This time we get a full-blown personal account of Mr. Vogt’s very personal struggle to exercise his right to earn a living. In Vogt’s own words:

In 2012 we received a letter from the state of West Virginia telling us that we did not have proper legal authority to service local and intrastate moves within that state. This was a devastating blow to our small border-town business. We received calls nearly every day from potential customers in West Virginia asking for help — customers we now had to refuse”

As revealed later in this story, thousands of dollars in legal fees and jumping through the regulatory hoops didn’t help.

“Even though we were professionally qualified to provide the service, had a federal license to do interstate moves, and had never had a complaint, these factors didn’t overcome protests from the existing moving companies, who claimed they could handle the business without us. Remarkably, the major protest came from a large moving company with its nearest local office 150 miles from the area in which we operated.”

But this is America. And in the end, the Constitution – and Arty Vogt – won out.

Unfortunately, as the PLF states at the end of their own piece on Vogt and West Virginia, many states still have similar anti-competition laws on their books, applied to many industries, not just ours.

And so the fight for free enterprise, and thus more moving competition, rolls on.

A Look at the 2015 FAST Act


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Cities, Towns, Tolls…and Paperwork?

When was the last time you hit a pothole? Drove over a stretch of cracked and crumbling pavement? Had a bridge collapse right under your tires?

Maybe those first two have happened in the recent past. And that last one? We hope it never has and never will happen to any of us. But there’s something all these things have in common.

They are all potential targets of the five-year, $305-billion Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act signed into law on December 4th. This bill is described in a piece offered by AJOT, the American Journal of Transportation, as a bipartisan, long-term transportation funding bill that will provide much-needed investments in our nation’s roads.

Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association, summarizes the bill this way:

“Our bridges and highways urgently need a serious upgrade that will help strengthen America’s economy. This bill makes sure that both moving company drivers and everyday Americans can have access to a more modern transportation system.”

This all sounds well and good. But as we all know, federal money comes with federal rules. And Rule One is: not everybody wins.

Where are all the dollars being driven?

Eric Jaffe at Citylab points out one interesting aspect of the bill: “In the past, metro area planners had to follow the design standards used by state planners…Moving forward, (city) planners will be able to use a street manual that differs from the state’s official road design publication.”

In other words, local officials will have a freer hand in deciding how best to serve their own areas, right?

Not so fast, small-town transportation industry guy.

As Transportation 4 America puts it: “Though (FAST) does slightly increase funding directly to metropolitan areas, it failed to give smaller communities any more control over federal funding.” Why? Because this increase in funding and autonomous spending only applies to metropolitan areas with a population over 200,000.

The little guys lose again.

But wait! There’s another way to get a sliver of this $305 billion dollar pie.

A second change in how transportation funding will be allocated involves a federal road works financing program called TIFIA. In the past, qualifying for a low-interest loan through this program required a minimum project cost of $50 million. “The FAST act reduces that threshold to $10 million,” Jaffe tells us, “bringing projects from smaller cities into play.”

Sounds like some of that money will make it out to some of our suburban neighborhoods after all. But on their blog T4A reminds us that, for those of us in smaller municipalities, the FAST Act “(leaves) decisions about which projects to build in the hands of the state DOT, which often ignores local wishes.” Eric Jaffe adds the idea that since the money allocated to TIFIA has been cut from $1 billion down to about one-fourth that amount, FAST “is likely to remain biased toward larger metros that can get applications in more quickly” to grab more of that money.

Picture these smaller towns fighting for the funding they need in the face of the larger cities’ power and pull. It’s like a fiscal David and Goliath story. (Maybe we could call it Dodge and Gotham?)

But who can say with any certainty how this new bill will play out in real life? The safe money says that those of us in our country’s larger cities will have the pleasure of navigating a few more road construction sites in the next few years. The rest of us will have to be content with the usual traffic on the same old roads we’re used to.

Less Free-dom on the Highway?

The good folks at Future Structure point out one part of the FAST Act that has the potential to affect everyone – on the highways in three states anyway. All you guys and girls in Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia may not be too excited to hear that FAST contains allowances for these three states to institute new tolls on existing highways. You can, however, take heart in Future Structure’s assertion that none of these states have any plans to do this.

That’s the good news. The bad news is, that opens up the rest of us to the possibility of new tollways since, if these three states don’t use their authority to establish new tolls, that authority could be given to another state.

So keep some spare change handy, wherever you are.

As far as our industry is concerned

There are both pros (huge funding for our nation’s highways) and cons (little if any chance of seeing any of that $305 billion go to the local roads we use every day) to the FAST Act. But somewhere in the middle of this 1300-page bill we see something intriguing.

Section 5503(c)(1)(a) puts forth the recommendation of “condensing publication ESA 03005 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (aka the ‘Rights & Responsibilities’ pamphlet we give to our customers) into a format that is more easily used by consumers.” The working group charged with developing such recommendations is to be comprised of, in part, “representatives of the household goods moving industry”.

Anyone out there want to apply?

Meanwhile, Section 5503(c)(1)(c) sets forth the idea of “reducing and simplifying the paperwork required of motor carriers and shippers in interstate transportation.”

While the federal government is not exactly known for its operational simplicity we will keep our hopes up and look forward to some positive developments on this. If we don’t see smoother roads in town maybe we’ll at least see a smoother, easier ride down the paperwork trail.

Summing Up

However this $305 billion is spent, it’s going to continue to be business as usual for us. That means watching for potholes, taking it easy over those stretches of sketchy pavement and just watching out for each other out there.

All while hoping no bridges fall out from under us.


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