U-Haul

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Albert Flores

U-Haul is an American moving truck, trailer, and self-storage rental company, based in Phoenix, Arizona, that has been in operation since 1945. The company was founded by Leonard Shoen in Ridgefield, Washington, who began it in the garage owned by his wife's family, and expanded it through franchising with gas stations.

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Overview

U-Haul is owned by U-Haul Holding Company, a publicly traded holding company which also operates:

*Amerco Real Estate (which purchases existing buildings for conversion to self-storage facilities, existing self-storage facilities and bare land), *RepWest Insurance Company (which provides optional insurance for customers renting U-Haul vehicles and self-storage space), and *Oxford Life Insurance Company (which provides annuities, life insurance, and Medicare supplement insurance for senior adults).

The Shoen family (heirs of founder Sam Shoen) currently owns, both directly and indirectly, about 55 percent of AMERCO.

U-Haul rents trucks, trailers, and other pieces of equipment, but many U-Haul centers and dealerships also provide self storage units, moving boxes and associated packing supplies, moving assistance, LPG (propane) refueling, and hitch and trailer wiring installation, among other services.

Because of the company's ubiquity (there are over 17,000 active dealers across the country) the name is sometimes used as a genericized trademark to refer to the services of any self-move rental company. The livery used on rented vehicles is widely recognized, primarily consisting of white and a thick horizontal orange stripe, in addition to a large state- or province-themed picture, known as SuperGraphics.

History

In 1945, at the age of 29, Leonard Shoen co-founded U-Haul with his wife, Anna Mary Carty, in the town of Ridgefield, Washington, with an investment of $5,000. He began building rental trailers and splitting the fees for their use with gas station owners whom he franchised as agents. +more He developed one-way rentals and enlisted investors as partners in each trailer as methods of growth.

By 1955, there were more than 10,000 U-Haul trailers on the road, and the brand was nationally known. Distracted to some extent by growing his business, Shoen took time for multiple marriages (after the death of Anna Mary at an early age due to a congenital heart defect) and eventually had a total of 12 (some sources say 13) children, each of whom he made stockholders. +more Shoen transferred all but 2% of control to his children when two of them, Edward and Mark, launched a successful takeover of the business in 1986. Family squabbling over the U-Haul empire turned to physical confrontations between some of his children at company meetings, even before the 1986 takeover, and accusations of murder for hire when the wife of a family member loyal to Sam was murdered in the family home (the culprit was later found and stated it was a robbery gone wrong; however, Sam continued to accuse Joe and Mark of being behind the murder). The takeover sparked a major family dispute that led to a $461 million judgment in favor of Leonard Shoen and others. In 1999, 83-year-old Leonard Shoen suffered fatal injuries when he crashed into a telephone pole near his Las Vegas, Nevada, home; it was later ruled a suicide.

The Shoen family, currently led by chairman and president Edward "Joe" Shoen, owns about 40% of the company through their AMERCO holding company. AMERCO filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2003 and emerged in March 2004. +more The filing did not include or affect U-Haul operations.

In 2012, another moving and storage company, PODS, sued U-Haul in U. S. +more District Court for trademark infringement, claiming that U-Haul "improperly and unlawfully" used the word "pods" to describe its U-Box product. On September 25, 2014, a jury ruled that U-Haul had infringed on PODS' trademarks, causing confusion and damaging business for PODS. The jury found that U-Haul unjustly profited from mentioning the term on its marketing and advertising materials and began using the word only after PODS became famous as a brand name in the industry. The jury awarded PODS $62 million in damages. In 2014 UHaul sued HireAHelper for trademark infringement, a suit that was settled out of court.

Each December, U-Haul is used by UPS, USPS, and FedEx, to help temporarily expand fleets to handle a surge due to Christmas and other holiday volume.

Equipment

U-Haul's rental fleet is composed of trucks, trailers, auto-transports, and various other equipment. Heavy duty pickup truck and van cabs manufactured by Ford, GMC, and Ram are mated with U-Haul manufactured truck boxes in fabrication plants located at various places in North America. +more The vehicles are all gas powered, with previous models offering diesel 17 ft trucks that must be brought back to the same location where they were rented. Six truck sizes are available, ranging from 10 ft to 26 ft, and multiple trailer sizes, in addition to a two-wheeled "Tow Dolly" and a four-wheeled "Auto Transport". U-Haul advertises that their trucks have lower decks which are built below the tops rather than above the rear tires like standard cargo box trucks. Some trucks also have an over the cab storage area called "Mom's Attic. " The trucks are painted with SuperGraphics which are educational images of different states and provinces across the United States and Canada. Pickup trucks and cargo vans are also available at most corporate owned centers, and select neighborhood dealerships.

U-Haul has two main classifications for equipment in its fleet: "In-Town" and "One-Way". The "One-Way" equipment is mostly used for one-way trips, meaning pickup and drop off can be at different locations whereas the "In-Town" equipment is required to be picked up and dropped off at the same location and the equipment is meant to be used for a local move. +more U-Haul has been building new one-way vehicles en-masse, and as these one-way trucks are being built the older one-way fleet models are being retired to "In-Town" local use only while previous "In-Town" local use trucks are being de-imaged and sold.

All trucks owned by the U-Haul corporation (including those assigned and decaled for use in Canada) display apportioned Arizona license plates that do not expire. Newer trailers in the U-Haul fleet have apportioned plates, registered in a variety of states. +more In the Alaska and Hawaii markets, U-Haul registers equipment locally because those states do not have apportioned vehicle registration systems.

Storage space rentals

Some U-Haul facilities provide self-storage lockers for weekly or monthly rental, and rent portable storage lockers called U-Boxes on a monthly basis. The U-Boxes also serve to load customer possessions at one location that can then be shipped to another location. +more The storage facilities are located at most corporate locations.

Ford Explorer ban

In 2003, U-Haul enacted a policy of denying trailers rentals intended to be attached to a Ford Explorer. According to U-Haul: "U-Haul has chosen not to rent behind this tow vehicle based on our history of excessive costs in defending lawsuits involving Ford Explorer towing combinations. +more This policy does not involve safety issues. This is an unusual circumstance for U-Haul. " This applies to all production years and models of the Explorer (including, for example, the Ford Explorer Sport Trac), regardless of tire brand that is attached. This comes from the high rate of failures of Firestone tires installed on the Ford Explorer.

Consumer Reports found that the policy was still in effect for the 2012 Ford Explorer. A company representative cited litigation costs as the reason behind the policy, “Every time we go to hire an attorney to defend a lawsuit, as soon as we say ‘Ford Explorer,’ they charge us more money. +more”.

Safety problems

In Canada, various news agencies have found serious safety problems in U-Haul equipment. In July 2005, the Toronto Star reported statistics suggesting that about half of U-Haul vehicles in Ontario were not road safe. +more Shortly afterward, the Ministry of Transportation (Ontario) reported that, of 296 U-Haul vehicles inspected in the summer of 2005 (43. 5% of all inspections performed), 58 (19. 6%) were found to have out-of-service defects, meaning that they are not roadworthy. CTV followed in October 2005, conducting their own inspections across the country, and finding that all 13 rented U-Haul trucks failed to meet basic provincial safety standards.

Replying to the Toronto Star, the company's Canadian officials cited its inspection policies and procedures that employees and dealers are expected to follow. In response to the CTV results, Canadian U-Haul vice-president admitted to not heeding earlier warnings to improve their vehicles' safety conditions, and said older trucks would be replaced.

In October 2006, CTV's W-Five re-investigated U-Haul by renting trucks from nine locations across Canada. The rentals were then taken to mechanics for an inspection. +more Of the nine trucks rented, seven failed basic safety standards and were not deemed roadworthy; the other two, while roadworthy, had minor problems.

On June 24, 2007, the Los Angeles Times published a story on U-Haul's safety problems titled "Driving With Rented Risks". There were also related articles published such as "Upkeep Lags In U-Haul's Aging Fleet" and "Key Trial Evidence Goes Missing". +more The articles outline reports of ongoing maintenance problems, falsification of maintenance records and lawsuits against the company for injuries and accidents with quotes from former maintenance workers and executives.

Further reading

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