Well, the first thing I did was read Rob’s account of what happened to him and his wife and their experience with a U-Haul rental trailer.
I have a similar account that could have been just as frightening had it not been for the fact that I was using a very heavy duty tow vehicle. As it turned out though, the tow vehicle ended up suffering as a result of having been used to pull this U-Haul trailer that my wife and I rented and mind you, paid cash for up front.
This story starts back on February 15, 2010. This was the day that my wife and I went to the local U-Haul dealer and picked up the auto-transport that we had reserved. My tow vehicle at the time of picking it up, was a 1978 Dodge Power Wagon Club Cab W150.
For those that don’t know what this means, is that this truck is a heavy duty half ton 4×4 truck. As I mentioned earlier, My wife and I went over there and paid cash for the rental. In addition to paying cash up front, I was told that I would need to run my debit card for “reservations purposes”. I did this grudgingly, and we then got the trailer hooked up to the truck by the local yard guy.
After getting home with the truck I ran in to some mechanical problems with it and after spending the following day trying to get it fixed, I ended up having to use my wife’s truck in order to be able to stay on schedule. My wifes truck, which to this day, I will tell anyone that asks, was my only saving grace from having fatal or near fatal accident, is a 1997 Ford F350 crew cab 4×4 diesel. I connected my wifes truck to the trailer in the exact same manner that the yard person hooked up our other truck. I then loaded the car as was instructed by the U-Haul yard person. I then again checked all of the lights making sure that all signals running lights and brake lights worked. After warming up the diesel, I then left for the interstate on my way to Minnesota. The trailer from the beginning as I soon found out, was going to give me problems.
The trailer, for the entire trip as I found out, pulled to the right. The pulling wasn’t as noticeable at first, but as time went on and the outside temperature changed along with any changes road surface (such as ruts in the road, grooves, etc.) or precipitation on the road, the trailer wanted to pull to the right badly. As night wore on and the road became colder, the trailer would want to pull more and more to the right. Most times as the weather got colder during driving whether it was daytime or nighttime, you had to reduce speed from the posted 55 mile an hour speed limit posted on the fender of the trailer to a slower speed. There were times during the trip, that I had to slow down to 40 miles per hour for fear that the trailer would start fishtailing and would cause the truck to jackknife if I was to drive at the posted speed on the trailer. To make a long story short, after many frustrating miles, I finally made it to my destination in Minnesota.
My return trip is when it really got interesting. I finally made it to my destination in Minnesota on the morning of February 21, 2010. After taking a couple hours in the morning to rest after the long trip, I started my way over to the local dealer to drop off the trailer. As fate would have it, my mother called my cell phone about a family emergency which made it necessary for me to come back to Washington with the trailer and my car in tow. This is where things started really getting interesting. On my way back, I was pulling over to fill up at a truck stop in Des Moines when the brake booster pump failed on the truck. This made the truck undriveable until it was repaired or replaced as you were unable to brake. Once that was repaired late that afternoon, I was back on the road and on my way again.
My next interesting experience was when I was on my way driving toward Laramie WY. Keep in mind what I was saying at the beginning of the story about the trailer pulling to the right all of the time. It was at this time driving toward Laramie, that I encountered black ice. And naturally, I was going much slower than the posted speed on the trailer, which I was traveling at 35 miles per hour. I was driving up the pass when the trailer started pulling to the right badly causing the truck to fishtail and almost jackknife pushing the truck toward the edge of the road. The trailer was clearly within the lane line during the time this started. I slowed down, corrected and then tried applying some power to the rear wheels again. Again when I did this, the truck now traveling at no more than 20 – 25 miles per hour, the trailer again started pulling the truck off the road, causing a fish tail and another almost jackknife.
Because of the problems with the trailer, the rear wheels of the truck alone were not able to keep the truck and the trailer on the road. The trailer constantly was wanting to pull off of the road and pull the truck over with it. It was only when I was able to safely pull to the side of the road and put the truck in to four wheel drive, did things get safe enough again to travel down the road. As it was, even in four wheel drive, I was only able to travel between 25 – 30 miles per hour before the trailer once again would want to start pulling again.
I am convinced, that had I not had a four wheel drive truck, with a heavy diesel engine at that, and being able to run in four wheel drive, I would have had either a serious or fatal accident. There was no way that with a 2 wheel drive truck, that there would have been any chance of being able to drive anywhere without being in a serious crash or fatality.
If anyone knows interstate 80 west to Laramie, they would know that there is little or no place to pull over and stop on the pass going to Laramie. Meaning that if you did try to stop you would have to stop on the road and possibly cause a multi-vehicle accident. Going through the pass with the truck in four wheel drive was the only way I was able to keep the truck and trailer on the road without the trailer pulling both the truck and the trailer off the road and over the embankment.
Had my wife been driving, even with her years of experience, this is possibly what may have happened since she would not have known how correct for the problems the trailer was causing and could have more than likely been in a fatal accident. I am not trying to toot my own horn, but I feel that it is only because I am an experienced driver that has been driving since I was 16 and seen and experienced and know how to correct for problems and have been professionally trained to do so (I am a professionally trained truck driver).
But, this was not the last of my problems. Driving in to the gorge in the rain, I further experienced the trailer wanting to pull heavily to the right. My speed through the gorge was no more than 45 miles per hour at any given time due to the trailer pull finally reaching my destination back home again on February 26, 2010.
As I mentioned earlier, not only did the trailer pull to the right, it also caused problems for the truck itself. The surge brake on the trailer was not working which was very readily apparent when trying to brake and slow down going down-hill on a pass. The entire weight load of the trailer and my car were being placed on the truck itself with no help to be had from the trailer. As a result, the front rotors of the truck will need be replaced. And I also believe, that since there was no help from the trailer for stopping it also cause a premature failure of the brake booster pump. The brake booster pump cost $410.00 to replace on a on site service call. The replacement of the rotors is also going to be very expensive as well although I do not yet have the cost for that.
To add insult to injury, after returning the trailer to the U-Haul dealer that it was originally rented from, my wife and I were told that the trailer could not be checked in until someone from U-Haul maintenance looked it over to see if there was a problem with it or not. My wife called the U-Haul dealer the following Monday and was told that nothing wrong was found with the trailer and that the dealer had rented the trailer out the following day after my wife and I returned it.
In the meantime, 2 weeks later in the early morning of 03/14/2010, I was looking at the online transaction register for my debit card and saw that another $230.00 had been charged against it by U-Haul when the card was just supposed to have been used for “reservations purposes”.
Since my wife had been speaking with and working with U-Haul reps up to this point on my behalf while I was traveling, she called U-Haul later that day during business hours to find out what the charges were about. My wife was told by the U-Haul rep she spoke to that the trailer was never officially checked in, and that we were charged for the rental additionally from the time we had dropped it off until it finally went over to U-Hauls Clackamas shop on 03/13/2010, to be checked over by what I am sure are U-Hauls crack expert staff of maintenance personnel.
Not only were we charged for the additional time that U-Haul never checked it in, but it had gone out and been rented the following day after we dropped it off so it ended up being rented and some other poor sap ended up being charged for a piece of crap that had not yet been looked at.
Not to get too disjointed with the story, I’d like to insert some other details that my wife found out from speaking to U-Haul’s Roadside Assistance staff on my behalf while I was traveling. What my wife was told by Roadside Assistance when she called was that the trailer that was rented to us, was not rated for road speed in excess of 45 miles per hour even though the logo on the trailer fender stated it could go up to 55 miles per hour. And additional to what Roadside Assistance was saying about the speed limitation of the trailer, they also said that they were not willing to come out and look at the trailer while I was on the road with it because it was only rated for 45 miles per hour loaded.
We were further told by the local U-Haul rep when we turned in the trailer that because of all of the problems we encountered with the trailer, that we would not be charged for the use of the trailer for the trip back. And, that after U-Hauls crack team of experts looked at the trailer, we would have their answer as to whether the trailer had any issues and to whether we would be getting any additional refund to the $660.00 cash we had originally paid up front.
And when we returned the trailer, the person who checked it in when they went out to look at the trailer with us, admitted in the yard and pointed out where the trailer was mis-aligned, but when they went back in and called and spoke to a manager over the phone, that person made no mention or even was willing to acknowledge to the manager over the that the trailer tongue to the trailer frame was mis-aligned as they had admitted first seeing when they had gone out with my wife and I to check in the trailer. Oh, I just took a quick look at what it was going to cost for replacement rotors, and that’s without the labor, is anywhere from $50 each to $142 depending on what type of four wheel drive rotor is currently on the truck. And like I mentioned before, this is before labor.
One other thing I would like to mention is that during my travel in every state I went through, because of the speed that I was limited to because of the trailer, I was pulled over by the State police of that state and warned about driving too slow and being a hazard on the interstate.
Also, when I called the local U-Haul store the trailer was rented from and explained that I was going to need the trailer longer than the 7 day rental and asked that they note this information on the rental log so that I didn’t get pulled over for a stolen trailer, the U-Haul rep told me that there was nothing they could do and that I would need to contact the store that I was supposed to drop the trailer off at and let them know. This was not possible to do other that to leave that store a message since they were closed on the Sunday that I had to turn around and drive back. I never received a call back from that store even though I gave my cell number 3 times in the message. Also after my wife had spoken to U-Haul at 1 instance she was told that the local rep that we rented the trailer from should have given me the 800 number to reserve the trailer for the trip back which the local rep never did.
In closing, I wish there were more laws in place that governed rental companies from renting faulty equipment that has the eventuality of killing someone using it. There also needs to be regulations in place that place strict fines and penalties on companies that do. U-Haul is the absolute worst when it comes to their equipment and I will never ever rent another piece of unsafe crappy equipment from them again. And anyone that reads this, should take this story very seriously because it is very much a true story and that if anyone does rent from U-Haul should know that they run a serious risk of injury or death using their equipment. I can’t believe in this day and age ……….companies can get away with putting peoples lives in danger! There’s no amount of compensation that can bring back a loved one killed by their inability to keep equipment in good working order.
I. & V.Z.