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The Uberization of moving companies

For when you don’t have a friend with a pickup truck and you need to move on the cheap.

A new breed of online moving companies with names like Buddytruk and PICKUP has drawn interest from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, which wants to ensure the companies are following state laws requiring moving truck drivers to be licensed.

“Anyone moving household goods in a pick-up truck for hire is required to register with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and show proof of insurance in the amounts required by law,” reads a letter the department sent to Plano-based PICKUP in October. “Something bought at a garage sale for home use would qualify as household goods.”

Since May, the department has sent letters to four app-based moving companies, warning each that they may be violating state law, according to spokesman Adam Shaivitz. Along with PICKUP, they include Austin-based Burro, as well as HashMove and Buddytruk, both based in California but offering services in Austin.

“Providers that refuse compliance can be referred to law enforcement because moving household goods without a license is a crime,” Shaivitz said. So far, the agency has not referred any cases involving these four companies to law enforcement.

Department officials say the issue is more than just the state keeping track of moving companies. The agency has pursued unregistered movers in the past who demand more money before delivering goods or fail to show up for delivery at all. Often, such movers advertise their services on sites like Craigslist, according to officials in several states.

The past two years have seen the launch of more than a dozen Uber-style moving or delivery companies, most debuting in cities on the West Coast. Many advertise themselves as being more convenient than traditional moving companies. Like Uber, some encourage those with access to a large enough vehicle to sign up as drivers to make extra money.

“You need to have a smart phone, a full-size pickup truck legally registered to you and insured to State requirements,” says PICKUP on the driver sign-up page of its website. The company, which promotes its drivers as “Good Guys With Pickups On Demand,” launched in 2014, serving the Dallas area. Asked if the company requires its drivers be registered with the state as household goods movers, CEO Brenda Stoner said in an email that the company was addressing that issue.

“We are working closely with a very collaborative Texas DMV, other regulatory agencies, and our attorneys and consultants to ensure that customers can adopt this new style of delivery service in a trusted, safe, insured and compliant manner,” Stoner said.

Both Burro and HashMove only employ drivers that comply with state laws, according to company officials. Buddytruk declined to comment.

I don’t expect to move again any time soon, and if I were anticipating a move I’m not sure I’d go for a service like this. Too many questions about liability and insurance and how good the service is. That said, the last time we did move we used a no-name company that was basically a guy with a repurposed bread truck and his three or four helpers, so who am I to talk? I guess overall I feel the same way about this as I do about major software releases – I’d wait till the bugs have been worked out first. Your mileage may vary, and if you’re looking at a soon-to-expire apartment lease, this may be a good way for you to go.

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One Comment

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Interesting. For decades, I was that “friend with a pickup” who was always popular on moving day. All those moves, and all I ever got was pizza and beer at the end of the day, if I was lucky. Now I find out people get paid to do that? Boy do I feel like a chump!