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What National Investigations Have Found:
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Book by Ronald J. Watkins: Birthright: Murder, Greed and Power in the U-Haul Family DynastyBirthright: Murder, Greed, and Power in the U-Haul Family Dynasty by Ronald J. Watkins

During this move, the engine in their U-Haul truck caught on fire and their entire cargo burned to a crisp.

Where was U-Haul during all this?
See this at YouTube.

U-Haul Problems At-a-Glance

There are too many reports of unsatisfactory or dangerous experiences with U-Haul to include on this website. Many of those reports include complaints of trailer brakes, engine failure, crashes caused by trailer sway, being forced to accept vehicles that were too big or not getting what was reserved, and poor quality in customer service. We have outlined in detail many of these problems below. If any of these sound familiar, please tell us about what happened to you.

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Aging Fleets

Among U-Haul’s fleet of 100,000 trucks are many aging, high-mileage vehicles. Unlike its major competitors, U-Haul doesn’t automatically retire vehicles after so many miles or age. A U-Haul executive, in recent court testimony, noted that nearly 4,500 of the company’s 6-ton trucks were still in use after logging 200,000 miles. Penske Truck Leasing says it replaces up to half its consumer rental fleet every year, and that its oldest trucks are less than 4 years old. Budget Truck Rental says the average age of its trucks is 2 to 2 ½ years. The U-Haul truck that severely injured Talmadge Waldrip in 2006 was 19 years old! An older vehicle doesn’t necessarily mean an unsafe one, unless it’s poorly maintained.

Vehicles Not Regularly Maintained

Of the 200 U-Haul vehicles they surveyed in California and other states, Times reporters said more than half were overdue for company-mandated safety inspections, which are required every 30 days. Many were more than a year overdue. If you review the victims list, you’ll see many of the deaths and injuries can be traced to lack of vehicle maintenance. The Los Angeles Times series and the internet is filled with stories of vehicles rented with no brake fluid or brake pads, leading to brake failure, faulty tow dollies leading to vehicle roll-overs, tire blow-outs and the like.

Brake Issues

U-Haul small and midsize trailers lack brakes, a safety requirement in 14 states that U-Haul ignores. Faulty brakes on large vehicles are a recurring problem.

Unsafe Towing Policies

Trailer sway is a factor in pulling any trailer; the greater the sway, the more likely the trailer and tow vehicle might fishtail or overturn. A crucial factor in controlling sway is the weight of the tow vehicle relative to the trailer. The heavier the tow vehicle, the easier to control the combination. Because of this, most rental companies do not allow passenger vehicles to pull rental equipment. For example, Penske Leasing and Budget Truck Rental only rent tow dollies and auto transports to customers who rent large trucks to pull the load.

U-Haul, on the other hand, allows customers to tow its trailers, tow dollies and other equipment with passenger vehicles. Most renters use pickups or SUVs, which have high centers of gravity and are prone to roll-over. Under U-Haul policies, its largest trailers can outweigh the customer’s vehicle by up to 25% when fully loaded. Its smaller trailers can weigh roughly the same as the tow vehicle. Many major automakers specifically state that their cars should not pull weights even beginning to approach the weight of the vehicle.

(Since 2003, U-Haul has had a policy of not renting trailers to be towed by Ford Explorers. Not because it’s not safe, but because “they are a magnet for attorneys.”)

Untrained Rental Personnel

U-Haul has 1,500 company-owned dealerships and about 14,500 independent dealers. Of the independent dealers, only about one-third of them are automotive businesses like gas stations and repair shops, with employees who are trained in making vehicle safety checks, know how to inspect a tire, fill a tire, etc. The rest are places like liquor stores, storage sites, and mini-markets. These places rely on U-Haul field personnel and repair shops to maintain their equipment. However, all independent dealers are expected to perform “receive and dispatch” inspections of vehicles, know how to safely hook up a trailer to a vehicle, and know what to look for and how to report problems to U-Haul. Given the turnover at many of these locations, and the fact that renting U-Hauls is just a side-line, how trained do you expect these employees to be?

Underpaid, Overworked U-Haul Employees

Court documents and media investigations have pinpointed a particularly abhorrent practice by U-Haul employees called “hanging paper.” They say the company’s written policies of requiring safety checks of all vehicles when they are returned, before they are re-rented, are often by-passed in the interest of time because of short staff and the pressure to turn rentals around. The result is vehicles are often stamped “inspected,” but often aren’t. Former Employees have testified in court that they were fired because they refused to go along with faking safety inspections.

Poor Reservation System

U-Haul has a practice of booking reservations without knowing when or even if a particular vehicle will be available to rent. This not only leads to frustrated customers, but it’s dangerous, too. For a typical rental horror story, see “Jeffrey’s Story” under news/blogs.

Other Quality Control Issues

1) Trailer safety in large part depends on proper loading. U-Haul, and others, say to be safe, at least 60% of the load needs to be placed at the head of the trailer. How is a customer supposed to determine that? U-Haul has refused to make an inexpensive scale available to customers to check the weights. Also, loads need to be tied down properly to keep them from shifting or, in the case of open trailers, keep them from blowing out and possibly injuring another driver. This is what happened in the case of Maria Federici.

2) How to load a truck or trailer properly and how to drive a fully-loaded truck or trailer is spelled out in a safety pamphlet published by U-Haul, but many media, when they have done investigations of U-Haul in their area, have reported that often U-Haul employees forget to hand out these safety instructions. Even if they did, how can a company expect someone who has never driven a large truck or pulled a trailer to properly load, tie down, haul or drive away safely after a quick read of a brochure?