What is a van line agent?

What is a vanline agent

By Christopher Noblit - American consumers have grown accustomed to the exceptional quality control which is exercised by multi-location companies such as McDonalds where the Big Mac purchased at "Location A" is identical to the Big Mac purchased at "Location B." Unfortunately such quality control is not as common in the moving industry. Please read on...

So you're moving from one state to another and you've obtained several cost estimates, but you don't understand why there are two company names on the mover's business cards, sales literature, or maybe even the company's moving trucks. You see a little mover's name and the big van line's brand name. The sales people all tell you that the little names are "van line agents" (agents for the big national brand name), but you're still confused. What's going on? What is a van line agent? How does this affect my move? Understanding the answers to these questions can have a dramatic impact on the quality of your moving experience.

Intrastate Moves
It's really quite simple: when a move takes place within the same state (for example, you move from New York State to New York State) the "little name mover" operates as itself and moves your shipment under the operating license authority which is granted by the local governing state authority (the NYS Department of Transportation in this example). These state-to-state moves are called "INTRAstate" moves. When you move within a state you will notice that while the truck and the mover's uniforms may display the big van line's name, all of the legal documents and paperwork (the bill of lading, inventories, etc.) shows only the little mover's name. With very few exceptions, the big national van line brand names do not perform INTRAstate moves.

Interstate Moves
However, when you move across state lines the move is generally performed under the operating authority of the "big name mover" (the big national van line brand name) which is licensed by the Federal Department of Transportation (I say "generally" because some smaller moving companies are not affiliated with big national "van line" brands and some of these small companies often perform moves of this type under their own Federal DOT authority). Moves which cross state lines are called "INTERstate" moves.

Now, as mentioned previously, American consumers often view the national van line moving brands as they view the McDonalds organization. However, in the relocation industry the extraordinary "McDonalds like" quality control is not always the case with national van lines where (sometimes) the quality differential between ABC Movers and XYZ Movers (both agents for the same national brand) can be significantly different; one provides outstanding service while the other performs marginal service.

While most of the national brands attempt to address quality control with various "quality programs," the nature of the agent/van line agency agreement, the fact that most van line agents are independently owned and operated, and the nature of the relocation industry itself often means that there is significant quality differences between agents within the same van line organization. The result is that ABC Movers is widely regarded as an outstanding mover while XYZ Movers is considered a marginal mover...and yet both of these companies represent the same national brand.

As a result, a customer who had a terrific experience with MegaVanLines Inc. some years ago, but who recently had a bad experience with MegaVanLines Inc., may ask "what happened to MegaVanLines Inc....they were so good several years ago but now they are so bad!" Well...the answer is that nothing happened to MegaVanLines Inc.! It's simply that the customer chose a high quality MegaVanLines agent 10 years ago but chose a marginal quality MegaVanLines agent for their recent move.

So what's a consumer to do?

That's simple: do research on the quality and reputation of the individual van lines agent...not just the big national brand.

Which leads us to this conclusion: your moving job is not a hamburger, so don't choose a brand name. Rather, choose an agent who has a reputation for providing high quality moving services and you're more likely to have a positive and less stressful moving experience.

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