U-Haul's Trucks Are Unsafe, Not Maintained

Part 2 in a LA Times investigation into U-Haul’s business practices and safety record isn’t any less bleak than part 1. The LA Times investigation has uncovered that U-Haul fails to properly maintain their aging fleet of vehicles while mechanics “hang paper” (forge safety inspections and repairs) to keep the trucks and the money rolling.

During a yearlong investigation, Times journalists surveyed more than 200 U-Haul trucks and trailers in California and other states and found that more than half were overdue for a company-mandated “safety certification,” a check of brakes, tires and other parts typically required every 30 days.

Some safety checks were more than a year overdue.

In response, U-Haul said its fleet of more than 200,000 vehicles is safe and well-maintained. It said it is investing heavily to modernize the fleet and spends about $350 million a year — about 20% of its rental revenue — on maintenance and repairs.

The consumer stories mentioned in the report are horrifying—trucks sent out on the road with the wrong tires and no lug nuts, trucks with emergency brakes that fail and roll over their drivers, breakdowns that end with big rig trucks smashing into families stranded by the side of the road.

The Times checked the safety certification stickers of 207 U-haul trucks and trailers during January and February and found that about half the trucks and three-fourths of the trailers were more than 30 days overdue for safety certifications. Some trucks hadn’t been inspected in many months; one was last certified in November of 2005.

U-Haul responded by claiming that the stickers probably fell off the trucks, or that the safety inspector had neglected to attach a new sticker. Even if the inspector had attached a sticker, it seems likely that the inspection or repairs never actually took place, according to several ex-employees quoted in the report:

“I would never rent a U-Haul truck,” said David Esquivel Jr., who was a U-Haul mechanic in Fremont, Calif., before being fired under disputed circumstances during a union organizing campaign in 2004. “It’s not dependable.”

Darryl Stasher, formerly a top U-Haul executive in Mississippi, said he was accused of “hanging paper” when the company fired him in 2001. Stasher, who worked for U-Haul more than 17 years, said that the charge was a pretext in his case, but that the practice was rampant.

“They set standards and guidelines that, in reality, they knew were not happening,” he said. “All these trucks were breaking down the day after they were rented, and after they said maintenance had been performed.”


Upkeep lags in U-Haul’s aging fleet [LA Times] (Thanks, Daniel!)
(Photo:Christina Alspaugh)