U-Haul Knowingly Rents Deadly Trailers

U-Haul knowingly rents unsafe tow trailers that have the potential to kill customers. A yearlong investigation by the L.A. Times found that U-Haul’s practices unnecessarily expose customers to the dangers of trailer sway.

Traveling downhill or shaken by a sharp turn or a gust of wind, a trailer can begin swinging so violently that only the most experienced — or fortunate — drivers can regain control and avoid catastrophe.

Trailers can sway when towed by vehicles lighter than the trailer. U-Haul regulations allows trailers to outweigh the tow-vehicle by up to 25%, openly flouting guidelines set by automakers. For instance, U-Haul allows a 2007 Crown Victoria to haul 4,400 pounds, even though Ford suggests that the 4,100 pound vehicle tow no more than 1,500 pounds. “Two U-Haul competitors, Penske and Budget only rent trailers to customers renting trucks heavier than the trailers. Safety is the reason.”

The practice has killed dozens of customers…

Most of the statistics are secret, dredged from lawsuits and dragged into the sunlight by Times reporters. 1,173 accidents caused in a three and a half year period in the 70’s involved trailers. 49% of trailer crashes involved vehicles that ignored U-Haul’s own safety regulations, and violated the laws of several states. Estimates suggest that trailers are still responsible for more than one hundred accidents every year.

When accidents do occur, U-Haul places the blame squarely with the customer, who is expected to learn how to safely tow a trailer from a detailed safety manual. Yet the manual is rarely distributed with trailer rentals, and there is no Spanish version. The Chairman of U-Haul, Edward Shoen says that a Spanish version is “a nice idea,” but “we don’t have a big demand for it.”

U-Haul has already altered certain practices: they no longer let Ford Explorers tow trailers, not because the combination is dangerous, but because the Explorers have become “a magnet for attorneys.”

Defying the evidence uncovered by the Times, Shoen is adamant that his vehicles are safe. “Our equipment is suited for your son and daughter. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say U-Haul is rated 10 in safety.” — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Driving with rented risks [L.A. Times] (Thanks to Daniel!)