If you are planning a move, renting a U-Haul truck or trailer can be a simple alternative. But if you are not prepared, a U-Haul accident can be into a ten-ton disaster.
Why U-Haul Is Dangerous
Cars and trucks are very different vehicles, and driving a truck comes with different risks: they are much bigger than cars, and have the potential to cause much more damage. Trucks have longer stopping distances, are much higher off the ground, and have more blind spots. Because of all this, even the most skillful car driver will be out of place the first time they take the wheel of a moving truck.
This is the reason the government issues commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) to the drivers of large trucks and vehicles which pull trailers. The standards for CDLs are much higher than those for ordinary Class C driver’s licenses, of the type most drivers carry. In fact, although most vehicle licensing law is regulated by the states, CDLs are regulated at the federal level, and overseen by the United States Department of Transportation through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
However, U-Haul trucks are not considered commercial vehicles, so anyone over the age of 18 with a valid driver’s license can drive them, without needing a commercial driver’s license or special training.
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This is good for U-Haul and its customers, because it allows most people to easily rent their trucks. However, many U-Haul customers have no experience driving heavy trucks or pulling trailers.
However, the fact that U-Haul trucks are not considered commercial vehicles means they don’t have to meet the Department of Transportation’s safety requirements, as similar trucks do.
The Dangers of Sway
U-Haul trailers are subject to “trailer sway.” Trailer sway is a dangerous phenomenon that occurs when side forces on a trailer, such as wind, cause it to lose control and fishtail wildly from side to side. In the worst case scenario, trailer sway can lead to devastating accidents.
A 2007 investigative report by the Los Angeles Times, entitled “Driving with Rented Risks,” investigated the safety record of U-Haul. Their investigation found numerous U-Haul accidents that were caused by trailer sway, including the story of Marissa Sternberg, a young woman who was disabled for life after such an accident.
One way to prevent sway is to ensure your own vehicle is heavier than the trailer being towed.
U-Haul also takes measures to ensure its drivers do not overload their trailers, but some allege that their standards do not go far enough, and their measuring methods are not always sufficient to determine vehicle weight.
U-Haul Accident: Insurance Coverage
If you rent a U-Haul truck or trailer, and find yourself in a collision, your ordinary insurance policy may not cover any of the damages, because most auto insurance policies do not extent to rented trucks. U-Haul vehicles are typically not even covered by supplemental credit card insurance, or other types of insurance that cover rental cars. If you are towing a U-Haul trailer behind your vehicle, and you are involved in a collision, you may be covered for damages to your own vehicle by any collision insurance you have, although the collision insurance will not cover the U-Haul trailer.
Before renting a U-Haul, you should speak to your insurance provider to learn the specifics of your policy’s coverage.
Most likely, you will need to obtain supplemental liability insurance from Safemove insurance, which U-Haul offers. Safemove covers damage to the U-Haul truck itself, as well as the truck’s cargo and any medical injuries. Safemove Plus, a higher tier policy,covers liability to other vehicles up to $1 million. Safetow insurance applies to U-Haul trailers, and covers damage to the trailer, as well as property damage and medical injuries. In addition, U-Haul also offers Safestor insurance for its storage facilities.
If you are in a U-Haul accident, and you did not purchase coverage on the truck or trailer, you may be liable for all repair costs. If the truck has been totaled or severely damaged, these could range well into the tens of thousands of dollars. Purchasing additional insurance for your U-Haul is worth it, if only for the peace of mind. Moving is stressful – you don’t need more to worry about.