U-Haul sees 30–40% increase in business
Bricklayer Jim Lane thought he had a 6 foot by 12 feet rental trailer lined up so he could leave Grand Junction’s slowing job market and head back to Denver.
When that reservation fell through, Lane found himself scrambling to find a trailer in time to make his move and show up on time at the new job he had waiting for him.
“The day that I wanted it became impossible. I had to wait like three extra days to get it,” Lane said.
It turns out Lane was competing with others who also are making an exodus from the Grand Junction region as a result of the economic slowdown, particularly in the energy industry.
“I have people coming in here and yelling at me,” said Cindy Williamson, a Penske moving company agent for the Grand Junction area. “I tell them I don’t have a truck, and so they start screaming and yelling because they need to move, and my hands are tied.”
In the past she typically had about 40 trucks available and rented about 15 a day, Williamson said. In the past two weeks, Penske has had to bring in about 25 trucks from Denver and Salt Lake City to meet reservations.
“They brought another five (Thursday) night, and I’m still short,” Williamson said.
“Everybody’s moving out of town, and nobody’s moving to town.”
She had a waiting list of about 15 people Friday.
Lane said he called U-Haul’s Phoenix headquarters and was told its Rifle and Montrose locations had the trailer he needed, but by the time he called them, those trailers were gone. He called the Moab, Utah, U-Haul outlet, and also struck out there.
He finally got a trailer in Grand Junction on a Friday night and scrambled to pack the next day so he could get to Denver on time.
Lane said the problem was one thing for him as a single man, but he wondered what kind of predicaments it creates for families.
“You look at other people’s situations — you’re basically stranded in Grand Junction,” he said.
It’s a situation western Colorado has been in before, on an even more dramatic scale.
When Exxon shut down its Parachute oil shale operation on May 2, 1982, thousands of people were immediately thrown out of work.
“All rental trucks and trailers within a 90-mile radius were leased within four days …” Andrew Gulliford reported in his book, “Boomtown Blues.”
The situation isn’t quite so severe today.
Justin Frank, president of U-Haul Colorado, said U-Haul outlets in the Grand Junction area did see about a 30 to 40 percent spike in business in February and March as a result of people losing energy-related jobs. That meant more rental equipment leaving the area than equipment coming back in.
“We have adjusted a few things because of a little bit higher demand with some of the oil companies flowing out,” he said.
U-Haul has a number of locations in the Grand Junction area and a central traffic operation in Denver that can route equipment to where it needs to be, Frank said.
“Sometimes what happens is people don’t see equipment at one facility, but we might have it at another,” he said.
In late March, U-Haul also began to see an increase in other customers moving to Grand Junction, Frank said. He thinks there’s now a balance in the flow of equipment, even with
U-Haul’s usual upswing in business in the Grand Junction area this time of year, as students get out of school and families are more apt to move.
Still, customers continue to report occasional challenges getting rentals. Samantha Stiles, who has stepped down from her Daily Sentinel writing job to move back to Texas, said she reserved a U-Haul trailer in Grand Junction but later was told she might have to pick it up in Montrose or Moab. She was waiting to hear Friday if she would have to make that drive.
“There just aren’t a whole lot of options, so that’s the only thing I could do,” she said.
Jeff Tiffany, owner of Marc’s Moving Co. in Parachute, said it’s not only hard to rent equipment, but it also costs a lot more than it used to. Tiffany rents the vehicles he uses and now pays $80 a day for a truck, versus the $35 he used to pay. And the charge per mile has soared to more than 70 cents, he said.
“The economy is just not working for me very good right now,” he said.
Williamson said Penske used to charge $129 to rent a truck headed from Grand Junction to Denver. Last weekend the price was $799. With a lack of trucks coming from Denver to Grand Junction, it costs Penske $300 to deliver a truck, she said.
Rental rates for people moving to Grand Junction are low because Williamson needs trucks, “but moving out is really high,” she said.
The rate Penske sets for local use of a truck is 79 cents a mile, versus 39 cents a year ago, she said.
It can be a challenge for Tiffany to get customers at a time when people think they can’t afford to have someone move them. But he said he has gotten some business as a result of the current costs and challenges people face trying to move themselves.
“That’s why they call me, because they’re tired of dealing with the headaches. I get my clients as a last resort,” he said.