U-Haul: A History of Risky Truck Rentals and AccidentsU-haul is a popular brand of rental truck in California and throughout the United States. Unfortunately, some reports indicate that U-Haul may be offering a dangerous product to many truck renters.
“In recent years, accidents involving the company’s rental trucks and trailers have corroborated claims concerning its unscrupulous business practices,” said California truck accident attorney James Ballidis.
Many of the potential problems with U-Haul trucks are outlined on a website entitled U-Haul Safety Alert.org. This website addresses several major issues with U-Haul trucks including aging fleets; improper vehicle maintenance; brake problems; unsafe towing policies; untrained personnel offering rental vehicles; underpaid and overworked employees; a poor reservation system and other quality control problems.
According to the website, U-Haul does not automatically take vehicles out of circulation once they have driven a certain number of miles. In fact, according to recent testimony in court by an executive from U-Haul, approximately 4,500 of the 6-ton trucks belonging to the company have driven 200,000 miles or more. Most other trucking companies, including Budget Truck Rental and Penske, retire their vehicles more frequently and have an average truck age of four years and two to two and one half years respectively.
While U-Haul Safety Alert acknowledges that an older vehicle is not necessarily unsafe, they caution that lack of proper maintenance increases the chances that an older vehicle will have a problem. Evidence indicates that U-Haul has a poor maintenance record. For instance, when approximately 200 U-Haul vehicles were surveyed, the Los Angeles Times reported that more than half of them were overdue for a safety certification intended to check the brakes, tires and other parts. Some of the safety checks were more than one year past due.
The brake problems referred to on U-Haul Safety Alert include a lack of required brakes on small and mid-size trailers as well as faulty brakes on large vehicles. The unsafe towing policy referred to is the stance U-Haul takes allowing customers to tow trailers with passenger vehicles. Because these vehicles have a low weight in relation to the trailer, and because many customers use pickups or SUVs with a low center of gravity, the chance of a rollover accident is greatly increased.
The issues of untrained personal and overworked employees are a safety concern because the employees rarely know what to look for or how to report problems and have no time to conduct required safety inspections. The other quality control issues mentioned include failure to provide a scale that would allow customers to know whether the bulk of the load is placed in the front of the vehicle (as is required for safe operation).
Finally, the poor U-Haul reservation system results in customers not receiving the trucks that they confirmed or reserved. In some cases, they are forced to take larger trucks. This presents a significant safety issue when customers have no choice but to drive a truck that is too large for them to comfortably operate. In 2008, the Los Angeles Times reports that U-Haul settled a class action in California because of this poor reservation system, agreeing to pay $50 to customers for failure to honor a guaranteed reservation.
Safety issues with U-Haul’s fleet and business practices have resulted in several accidents and lawsuits. In 2007, a customer in San Francisco was fatally injured due to an employee’s negligence while repairing the parking brake and his family pursued a wrongful death claim against the company; that same year, a woman in Seattle was awarded $15 million in damages after a piece of furniture flew out of a poorly designed and loaded trailer and nearly killed her.
Given its record for safety—or lack thereof—customers should consider opting for using other companies for truck rentals; however, those without other options should conduct their own inspection of the vehicle and research best practices when loading and operating large trucks or trailers.
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