The household goods moving industry was developed in the U.S. around the expansion of the intercontinental railroads during the 1800s.
The turn of the century saw the introduction of the first specialized covered wagons and then, a few short years later, newfangled motor trucks designed specifically to transport the personal effects of adventurous Americans using the country's growing network of national highways.
The original “moving van” that replaced the horse drawn dray wagons consisted of small, two axle trucks powered by simple two-cylinder, air-cooled engines.
As the country grew and then expanded more quickly after World War II new opportunities steadily developed in these burgeoning relocation businesses as new steel and concrete warehouses began springing up around the country for storing household goods.
The storage industry is believed to have established it’s roots “across the pond” in the 1800s when British banking institutions were asked to safeguard valuable ‘stuff’ for their clients who were embarking on extended voyages. The idea of 'do-it-yourself storage' didn’t take hold in the U.S. until much later when the first facility opened in Texas in the mid-1960s. Shortly thereafter, the popular notion of self storage quickly spread to the West Coast and throughout the U.S.
Today moving and storage is a mature, $15 billion dollar industry in the U.S. Each year approximately 42 million families in this country pay a couple of guys with a truck or engage some type of full service mover, third party relocation company, freight forwarder, or do-it-yourself (DIY) transportation or storage company to pick up their stuff and move it. In today’s mobile, global marketplace, it’s not surprising that the number of international relocations is increasing at a faster rate than domestic moves.
Drawing in $22 billion dollars annually, the relatively young self storage industry has become been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the United States commercial real estate industry over the last four decades.
In 1980, Congress deregulated the trucking industry to increase business competition. Within a very short period, an industry with several hundred carriers quickly grew to 20,000+ nationwide. Overnight, consumers considering relocation were faced with many new price and service level options offered by a multitude of unknown service providers.
About the same time that the era of strict motor carrier oversight met its demise, widespread consumer acceptance of the Internet began to flourish. Due to the expensive and unregulated nature of the industry, the high price tags associated with “moving” and “relocation” piqued the interest of many legitimate and not-so-legitimate small business owners and internet entrepreneurs including many unscrupulous and unlicensed household goods carriers, independent movers, agents, move brokers and relocation company wannabees.
As the number of options increased, so did the number of complaints. In 2001, the nation’s Better Business Bureaus (BBBs) ranked the moving industry sixth in the most frequently checked out industries with 274,388 inquiries at their offices. By 2006, that number had jumped to 1,109,342 queries and movers sank into fourth place as the public searched even harder to find a company they could trust for the large amount of money that were going to have to invest.
In a consumer protection report entitled Federal Actions Are Needed to Improve Oversight of the Household Goods Moving Industry
, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) advised Congressional committees that “the primary responsibility for consumer protection lies with consumers to select a reputable household goods carrier, ensure that they understand the terms and conditions of the contract, and understand and pursue the remedies that are available to them when problems arise.”
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A Look Back – The History of the Moving Industry
- Anyone who really knew Joe Harrison, the former President of the American Moving and Storage Association, recognized the passion for his profession that he so skillfully hide behind his quiet, friendly demeanor.
Since the chronology of my 26 years in the industry begins in the early 1980s, I thought it would be of interest to precede my account of the industry with a brief look back at the origin of the industry. However, no chronology of our industry’s challenges and accomplishments can really do justice to the men and women who over the past 100 years made this industry what it is today through their perseverance, hard work, innovation and risk-taking. — Joe Harrison