The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is going after two California carriers for holding household goods hostage, using the new authority granted to it under the highway bill passed earlier this year.
FMCSA ordered Trusted Moving and Storage, d.b.a. Nationwide Top Movers (Trusted Moving and Storage) of Santa Clara, Calif., to return household goods to the original shippers.
This order follows an extensive investigation of the company's operations, which discovered that Trusted Moving and Storage is holding hostage household goods of individual shippers and alleges violations of federal household goods motor carrier statutes and regulations. The order is the first time FMCSA has used new enforcement granted to the agency under the federal surface transportation reauthorization program known as MAP-21.
FMCSA has also initiated a proceeding to suspend Trusted Moving and Storage's authority to operate in interstate commerce as a household goods motor carrier.
FMCSA discovered that the company has in its possession and control household goods from approximately 54 individual shippers, including household goods FMCSA says the company has knowingly and willfully failed to give up possession in violation of its estimates and contracts after the shipper tendered payment.
In addition, FMCSA revoked Trusted Moving and Storage's operating authority registration, effective Nov. 27, 2012, for failure to maintain compliance with federal financial responsibility requirements. Trusted Moving and Storage recently terminated many of its employees and has informed FMCSA that it intends to cease operations for financial reasons.
FMCSA is coordinating with local law enforcement and the Santa Clara District Attorney in conducting the investigation and taking this action.
FMCSA also initiated a proceeding to suspend California-based Peace of Mind Relocation Inc.'s operating authority registration following an agency Final Order issued on Nov. 30, which determined that Peace of Mind held hostage household goods of individual shippers.
FMCSA's final agency order determined that Peace of Mind Relocation, Inc.'s refusal to give up possession of the shippers' household goods constituted a knowing and willful failure to give up possession of the household goods in violation of its estimate and contract after the shippers tendered payment.
"Consumers should not have to fear the loss of their property at the hands of non-compliant household goods movers," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Companies that violate federal regulations and take advantage of consumers will be held accountable and they will face serious legal and financial consequences."