Saturday, February 28, 2009

Avoid being a victim of illegal transporters

Go With A Professional Boat Transporter
When you choose an illegal boat transporter - who covers you in case of an accident like this?

We have been concerned about the rising number of complaints by consumers in regards to illegal transporters. Some of these complaints range from raising an eyebrow to raising lawsuits. We wanted to start out by giving some examples of the ramifications of selecting an unlicensed or uninsured driver to transport your goods and then with some precautions you can take to protect yourself and your property. It is always our recommendation - no matter whom you choose for your transport - that you select a boat transporter that is licensed and insured.

Our most recent complaint was by an elderly woman who put a call into us over the weekend. She was obviously distraught and very upset. The woman had arranged for an individual to move her powerboat across the country. Offering a good price compared to legal boat transporters, she gladly obliged and granted the marina permission to release the uninsured transporter the vessel. A few days into the trip he had not made any contact with her to set up a time to drop off the boat at the destination marina, so she gave him a call. He informed her that he had broken down on the side of the road due to an axle problem on his own personal trailer. He then proceeded to tell her that she was going to have to pay for repairs or he would put a hold on her boat sitting on the side of the road until she complied, also accruing lay-over fees for himself in the process. The woman couldn’t believe what she was hearing from this illegal transporter, and tried to explain to him that his faulty equipment was not her error nor should she pay for it (which we must say that we agree). He didn’t want to hear it and said he would just take the boat home if he had to for non-payment issues. She was so upset by the whole ordeal she had called us in desperation just to see what her legal rights were as a legitimate boat transporter. After asking her what the gentleman’s full name was, she did not know, she also didn’t know his license number or tag numbers on his personal truck. She called the Department of Transportation to help assist her in getting the boat back – and here is the kicker, since he was not a legal transporter, they had no authority to pursue him. It had then blossomed that she was going to have to attempt a long-distance legal battle with an individual (NOT a company or legal entity) she knew hardly anything about, and in addition, during that time he would be the one in possession of her property. We were greatly saddened that we could not offer her more assistance, it is one of the horrible ramifications of doing business with non-professionals. She had hardly any recourse and did not even know his whereabouts.

Another problem that consumers and transporters alike are dealing with is the on-coming popularity of uShip. uShip is an online organization that offers an auction-style marketplace for shipping and transport services. Consumers list their items for free and transporters bid on the transport job. uShip does not offer any protection in the form of a brokerage for either party, they just provide the communication services to do so - and claim no legal responsibility for the transport agreement. Being affiliated now with eBay, their website has grown. Often, illegal transporters will create uShip accounts and bid on jobs against professional transporters. Not paying for commercial insurance and liability insurance, the private runners do not have the overhead expense that legitimate transport companies do. This often results in private individuals out-bidding or “low balling” the commercial (aka: legal) runners. Consumers have the option to ask for the license and DOT numbers for the shippers bidding on their transport request, but often do not or do not know how to verify them on the DOT website to ensure they are up-to-date. (They technically can give you any set of jumbled numbers and claim they are legal transporters.) It is really up to the buyer to perform their due-diligence when it comes to their transporter. uShip does not offer this information for their consumers to readily find or how to make the best decision for their transport service requests. They also do not regulate their transport bidders in verifying their status with DOT or if they are fully licensed and insured to do so in a legal manner.  uShip does not have the power to do much to rectify any problems between the two parties since they are not a brokerage, and the only repercussion they can hold is to suspend or ban the transporter from their service after a problem has been brought to their attention. This does nothing to stop the illegitimate transporter to create a new account to scam again - not protecting either the consumer nor the transporter in these agreements. We recommend that if you must use uShip, to be sure to view how long the shipper’s account has been active and their transport feedback. This can speak volumes for the unawares customer - and you may also do search engine research to see if this shipper has been listed as a legitimate transporter or a scam artist. (Don't underestimate the power of good research before a purchase!) Beware of uShip and it's short-comings.

This also goes without saying as to what you would do if someone were in an accident with your property. Who would pay for the damages? Who is liable? Would you trust your boat, worth thousands of dollars, on the trailer of someone who could be no more than the person around the corner? If your goods were to be totally destroyed in an accident, does the transporter have cargo insurance to cover your loss? If in the event this happened, and you were to lose your commodity, you would be engaged in a lengthy legal process for recourse? If the illegal transporter has nothing to go after (they have no money and no property values), then you have nothing to go after and will ultimately be involved in a lawsuit that will get you nothing in return. In a legal sense, you would be held liable for allowing your load to go with such a transporter without verifying their legal transport status beforehand (which is public information offered on the DOT transport verification website).

So what can you as the consumer do to help protect yourself and your boat? No matter whom you decide to use for your shipping needs, research research research. It may not seem that important, but when you realize that you have a $50,000 vehicle (or any item for that matter) sitting on who-knows-where on who-knows-what equipment and you have little more than a first and last name for the person…it can become pretty scary. We have created a list of transport tips to assist a consumer in their due-diligence so that you may be informed before choosing your transporter.

· It is illegal to ship anything for hire without having valid operating authority from the DOT. You may request a copy of this certificate from your prospective transporters, and you may verify the information provided on the DOT website for your protection.

· You may also check their Motor Carrier number (MC#) out at to make sure their authority is active and their liability and cargo insurance are on file. You may request a copy of their insurance as well.

· Not every legal transport company has a website or contact person, request this information beforehand, so if a problem should arise in the future, you know who to contact.

· Request a list of pre-trip instructions if the transporter provides it. Transporters are not held responsible for damage that occurs from improper preparation of your boat. It is better to know ahead of time to secure the boat or arrange for your marina or pick-up point to do so on your behalf.

Christine Transport offers a full and comprehensive checklist for preparing your boat for travel and can be found on our transport homepage. If you need to check the status of your transporter, you can do so at the DOT website to verify license and insurance status for your company of choice. This is just another service we provide to help keep you informed to protect you and your valuables - every transport experience should be an enjoyable one!

Christine Transport
Free Boat Transport Quotes: 352-553-8637
“Get your boat to where the fun is."

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Photo credit: Linda Kuo

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