1. I don’t know anything about this type of company. Where should I begin?
You might want to start by reading my review of ABF on www.epinions.com (I moved with ABF in June 2003). It can be found at http://www.epinions.com/content_104644710020 and also on MovingScam at http://www.movingscam.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2050
On Epinions, I added a comment on my review describing Broadway Express, a company that I wasn't aware of when I moved. I suggest beginning with my own review because it contains a lot of detail and it was chosen “Most Helpful” of all the reviews of ABF on Epinions.
Note that there are about 80 reviews of ABF on Epinions but you can’t see them all unless you sign up as a member. If you’re not a member they eliminate the reviews that are brief or of lesser quality.
Then, I've collected all the reviews of Broadway Express on MovingScam.com in one thread that is posted as a "sticky" on the messageboard at http://www.movingscam.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1935
All the reviews of ABF on MovingScam.com are also collected in one thread that is also posted as a "sticky" at http://www.movingscam.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2050
This is just a start. You can do a search on "Broadway Express" and “ABF” to see many other comments.
U-Pack, We-Drive movers are not for everyone. ABF and BE (in its self-move division) are freight companies. You do a lot of work and you don't have the same protection against breakage and surface damage to your goods that you would have if you purchase enhanced coverage with a full-service mover. However, in my opinion these companies are a great alternative for people who are concerned about saving money and maintaining control of their things while avoiding having their lives ruined by scammers.
2. In a nutshell, what’s the difference between ABF and Broadway Express?
I believe that both are excellent companies that you can trust. The parent company of ABF has been in business since 1923 and the parent company of BE has been in business since 1971. Both companies have very good BBB reports. There is a huge size difference: ABF has more than 17,000 trailers and BE has about 100.
BE offers many amenities that ABF doesn’t offer. It has air-ride rather than spring-ride trailers (much easier on your things), all equipment such as a ramp (walkboard), moving blankets, tie-down straps, a dolly, and decking material is provided, and most important, the driver will help you load for an hourly fee--normally around $30/hour although some very experienced BE drivers who are trained as household movers have asked for $50/hour.
Moving with a freight company can be a challenging experience. In my opinion, having vs. not having the driver helping you is the difference between going through the labor of childbirth with a private-duty nurse next to you and going through it alone. (I have done both, so I know.) The amount you pay for the BE driver's help is negotiable between you and the driver. Judging from the reviews, drivers have been very reasonable about adjusting their prices downward for small loads and/or customers with limited resources.
ABF provides no equipment such as moving blankets or a dolly. It does provide ramps but it charges $50 for it on each end ($100 total), and the ramp is almost essential if you have anything other than boxes because the floor of the ABF trailer is 42” off the ground. One person posting on Epinions said he used a tilted piece of plywood instead, but I think it would be difficult to get by with that. This is a photo of the type of trailer you will get with ABF showing the height of the trailer floor and how the ramp attaches - http://www.unitedvanlines.com/images/walkboard.jpg
ABF and Broadway Express operate in different ways. ABF uses 28-foot trailers that it detaches from the tractor part and leaves for up to 48 hours for you to load--the driver doesn't participate. (If a weekend is involved, ABF will leave the trailer over the weekend as well.) Finding parking for the trailer can be a problem. BE uses 70-foot tractor-trailers and the driver waits while you and your helpers load. Parking is usually less of a problem because the BE driver can move the trailer if necessary, but you still need to check on local parking ordinances.
With BE, the driver who picks up your shipment will normally be the driver who delivers it. With ABF, you will have at least three drivers: one to deliver the trailer to the origin location (they call it “spotting”), one to pick up the trailer, and one to deliver the trailer at destination. If the driver doesn’t wait at the destination location, then a fourth driver may pick up the trailer when you’re finished unloading.
3. How much money will I be able to save over the cost of a reputable full-service mover by using ABF or BE? Which one is cheaper?
People report that they have saved 30% to 40% over the cost of a reputable full-service mover by using these companies, even after adding in the cost of loading and unloading labor. If a person has a small load, ABF is usually cheaper than BE because it has a 6-linear-foot minimum (5 linear feet for terminal-to-terminal moves) and BE has a 10-foot minimum.
However, if a person has a larger load ABF isn't inevitably cheaper. A lot depends on the particular route of the move and whether the company will have a truck in the area at the time. There have been cases where BE was cheaper than ABF. One person who was going from the East Coast to Idaho complained that his quote from ABF was higher than those of other people who were also crossing the country. But if a truck has to come back from Idaho empty because not many people are moving from Idaho at that time, the company will charge more to make up for that.
4. Will the BE drivers help you carry things from the house or apartment onto the trailer?
They aren’t supposed to, since BE’s insurance won’t cover them if they do. Judging from what people have said, the drivers usually walk through the residence to see what the general situation is and what needs to be loaded. They advise you what the loading order should be for maximum efficiency and avoidance of damage to your things. Then they go back to the trailer and stay in or near the trailer wrapping and positioning the items as your helpers bring them to the trailer to be loaded. Some people have reported that the BE drivers did do some carrying, but that isn’t really what they are supposed to do or the best use of their time. Bottom line: with BE as with ABF you will have to have helpers available other than the driver.
If you ask the driver to carry items from the residence to the trailer as well as load (arrange) the items, he will probably have to charge you more than $30/hour because it will take more of his time and time is money. Every extra hour that he spends at the residence is an hour that he isn't on the road, and the BE drivers are paid by the number of miles they drive (about 41 cents a mile for company drivers). If he can drive 65 miles an hour on the interstate, that's $27/hour that he can make by driving that he is potentially losing by being at a residence carrying things instead.
5. I can't find detailed info on the whole concept of paying the BE driver for help in loading and unloading. How does this work and what is a fair price for getting this kind of help?
The reviews of BE indicate that it varies from driver to driver. Some drivers sort of "announce" what they charge per hour and others don't say anything but just start loading. Some eagerly accept the money and others are reluctant to take it to the point that people have had to force it into their pockets. The basic amount that most drivers charge is from $30 to $50 an hour, with most drivers at the lower end of that range. Once you know what driver you're going to have, you can look through the reviews to see what that driver did before. You can also discuss it with the driver when he calls you the day before the move.
I don't think you should obsess about the amount too much because I don't think any BE driver is going to do a bad job or be unpleasant no matter how much you give him. However, some of the more experienced drivers have said that if a person doesn't want to pay X amount (say $100 for 2 hours), they would rather go to a truck stop and shower and do their laundry because they are so tired that it isn't worth it for them to exhaust themselves further for a relatively small amount of money. Remember that sometimes the driver will be arriving fresh after a good night's sleep and sometimes he/she will be pulling in after a hard day of driving or loading someone else's shipment.
6. What if I don’t have any friends or family to help me load and unload?
Both BE and ABF can put you in touch with third-party services that provide people to help you. The service recommended by BE is called Labor Ready and the dispatcher can tell you about it. Its website is at www.laborready.com and the hourly rate varies from area to area. One person posting here recently said that they charged her $11/hour per person in Orlando, FL, and the cost is reportedly about $20/hour in CA and NY. Reports on Labor Ready have been variable (see the reviews of BE by "BrooklynMommy" and "Cristy"), but "wfay" pointed out that you really don't need skilled people to unload, at least. Someone said that you can request Labor Ready workers who are specially trained in household moving but I haven't been able to confirm that.
ABF has three different loading and unloading services listed on its website on this page - http://www.upack.com/links.asp One person posting here ("Monica67") got quotes from all three and said they were fairly expensive. You might look into local moving companies to compare costs or use Labor Ready instead. If you are in CA or NY, Delancey Street Movers might be an alternate source to consider for loading and unloading labor.
I didn’t use any of ABF's companies because I had friends to help me load, and for unloading, I found that it was less expensive just to call a local moving company at destination and have them send a couple of people. Look on the online phone directories and call a couple of places to see what they say. Be aware that the guys may arrive with no equipment such as dollies. Have a talk with them right at the beginning and tell them that you'll give them a tip at the end if nothing gets damaged. Damage usually occurs when people try to work too quickly or try to lift things that are too heavy for them. Have water available.
In my case (in a more expensive location than Florida), it cost me $75/hour for two men and there was a two-hour minimum, which was all I needed even though it had taken me many hours to load. (It’s much faster to unload than to load, especially if you just offload to the street.) So, even though not having friends or family to help you load and unload can seem scary, I think you will find that there are solutions.
7. I'm worried about coordinating the delivery of the BE and ABF trucks with the arrival of loading and unloading labor. Suppose the truck arrives before or after the helpers do?
This is a valid concern because of the possibility of having to pay helpers for waiting time. With ABF, unless you have a "live load" where the driver waits for you to load, you will have no worries at origin because the trailer will be left overnight. However, I myself was very concerned that the ABF truck and the unloading labor might not arrive at the same time at destination. Reason? If the labor was late and the truck had to wait, I thought that ABF might charge me about $110 an hour for the driver's waiting time over the 2 free hours you are allowed in "live load" situations. If the truck was late and the labor had to wait, I thought that the company providing the labor might charge me $75/hour for waiting time for the two men.
Several people posting here ran into this problem. "Seth" had the labor arrive in Chicago before the BE truck and he had to pay an extra hour's labor (although he didn't object). Others have said that the labor arrived before the ABF truck, although I believe that in all cases these were friends that were able to come back without charging, or else the company didn't charge to come back.
In my own case, as it happened, the ABF driver at destination was perfectly willing to unhook the truck from the trailer and drive off and leave the trailer for whatever time it took us to unload and come back later, which is what he did (it was only an hour or so). This is called a "same-day pickup" and is available in most locations (check with the terminal). And the labor MIGHT have been willing to go home and return without charging me for the first trip, but luckily the ABF truck and the guys arrived within 15 minutes of each other, so I didn't have to test that one.
However, people moving with ABF and BE in a "live load" situation (which is always the case with BE, and sometimes the case with ABF) need to make sure that their labor is flexible and can accommodate possible variation in arrival time of the truck. They need to inquire whether paid laborers will come back without charging for the first trip if the truck arrives late. One person reported that he called Labor Ready after the ABF truck arrived, and there was no problem. (Presumably he had spoken with Labor Ready in advance.)
8. Are BE’s trailers cleaner than ABF’s and more rain-proof?
Yes, I think they are likely to be. Only one person who moved with BE and came back here to write a review (#112) has mentioned any problems with dirtiness. The cleanliness of the ABF trailers has been a problem very occasionally, judging from reports on Epinions, although in general they have been fine. I spoke with a woman from ABF who told me that one particular driver even sprays his trailers with air freshener after he sweeps it out before delivering it! As I describe in my Epinions review, there can be a small amount of fine black dust or “blow dirt” in the ABF trailers but in my opinion it isn’t a serious problem. It's probably a good idea to put a tarp down on the floor of the ABF trailers, at least under an upended sofa.
With regard to being rain-proof, both the BE trailers and most of the ABF trailers have roofs that are made of translucent fiberglass. That’s good, because the sun shines through and you can see to load without interior lighting, but there is a potential for pinpoint holes and leaks. Obviously BE and ABF are not going to intentionally send out a trailer with a leaky roof. Two people on Epinions have claimed that their ABF roof leaked, as I recall (out of about 80 reviews). One of them is a person who also posted an ABF review here as "Jake" saying that her roof leaked enough to make a couple of boxes soggy, although she couldn't see any holes and nothing was permanently damaged.
Another person writing on Epinions said that his trailer looked dirty and "as if the roof might leak” when it was delivered, so he called the terminal and another trailer was cheerfully delivered in its place. (If you use ABF, people have said on Epinions that it’s good to visit a terminal beforehand if you can, to get an idea what the trailers should look like in terms of cleanliness and also the size of the space you will be filling with goods. The 8 foot wide, 9 foot high space—which is the same for both ABF and BE—seems enormous at first.) This is a photo from the ABF website showing the space, the ramp, and the fiberglass roof - http://www.upack.com/cmsResources/images/upackramp.jpg
Still another person posting about ABF on Epinions said that you can request a trailer that is especially clean and that has places on the sides of the trailer where you can attach straps and ropes. (Some of the ABF trailers have these and some don't.)
Getting back to the question of roof leaks, BE's drivers will have been attached (they call it "married") to their specific trailers for days, weeks, or months as they criss-cross the U.S., so they're much more likely to have noticed a roof leak than an ABF driver who hauls many different trailers, for example. The BE drivers are also highly motivated to notice and fix such leaks since they interact closely with customers in the loading situation (and are often hired by them) and they know it will cause problems for customers if they do not.
In the few cases that I know of where there was water damage to items in a BE trailer, the damage was minimal. In one case (several years ago), a quilt got wet and BE had it cleaned or replaced it--not sure which. In another case, a box of encyclopedias got wet when rain trickled down the inside wall of a trailer and was absorbed by the cardboard. BE offered to pay for the damage but as far as I know the shipper never contacted them. In the third case that I know of, a box of cookbooks and some kitchen utensile got wet when rain blew in through the door of the trailer. The utensils weren't hurt, but the shipper sent digital photos of the collapsed box with stuck-together cookbook pages and BE compensated him for that. In a fourth case, the exterior of some boxes was moist but there was no damage to items packed inside, so the shipper didn't complain and in fact was very happy with the move. In other words, with BE I have never heard of any major rain damage caused by torrents of water rushing into the trailer or anything like that. It has been more like minor damage caused by droplets.
As explained below in the answer to question #9, in my experience both ABF and BE have always compensated the customer fairly and promptly if there has been rain damage to a shipment, regardless of whether the customer purchased enhanced coverage against carrier negligence or not (in the case of ABF; BE doesn't offer such coverage). Rain damage from a roof leak is considered carrier negligence, but customers should document it with photos and note the damage on the paperwork that the driver will ask them to sign.
9. What type of insurance or valuation protection will my things have if I move with ABF or BE?
Inability to get insurance against some common types of damage is a fact of life when you move with a freight company. The companies provide catastrophic coverage against the possibility that the entire trailer will burn up or be stolen: $250,000 per trailer in the case of BE and $20,000 per trailer in the case of ABF. They also provide very limited coverage for carrier negligence as described below.
However, you can't get any meaningful insurance protection against the type of thing that is most likely to happen to your things, i.e. breakage and scrapes and dents. Someone contacted Baker International insurance to try to buy this kind of protection and the company said that it wouldn't cover shipments with freight companies like ABF and BE.
The reason that the companies don't offer this type of coverage is that you, the customer, are responsible for any damage because you are the one packing and loading your goods. The companies theoretically have no idea how you have done this--whether you have loaded things so as to avoid damaging them or not. Theoretically, they are only closing the door and driving the truck away.
That's why BE requires that its drivers negotiate with the customers directly about providing loading help in return for a cash payment. Any oral contract that exists in that case is between the driver and the customer and the company is not involved, so the company is not liable for any damage that occurs as a result of possibly improper loading.
Homeowners' or renters' insurance will cover catastrophes such as those described above (fire, theft, etc.), and people who have that insurance don't need to purchase any additional coverage of that type. However, do not believe anyone who tells you that homeowners' or renters' insurance will cover you for breakage or surface damage to your goods when you move with a freight company. It will not . . . just as it wouldn't cover the damage if you broke or scratched up a furniture item in your own residence.
The freight companies do provide free coverage for carrier negligence in the amount of 60 cents a pound (BE) and 10 cents a pound (ABF), but this is so minimal as to be worthless. If a 10 pound lamp is damaged by water from a leaky roof, you would be reimbursed the grand total of $6 (BE) or $1 (ABF). ABF does offer customers the opportunity to purchase enhanced coverage for carrier negligence. But this pays only up to $2 a pound--again, very inadequate--if items are damaged in transit. The same lamp would now be covered for $20. People should use their own judgment about purchasing enhanced negligence coverage from ABF. I myself decided not to purchase it. BE doesn't offer such enhanced coverage.
Coverage for carrier negligence, whether basic or enhanced, will not cover the usual type of damage that people have in a move (breakage, scrapes, and dents). It is mainly intended to cover things such as bulkhead failure (the bulkhead collapses and releases your things so they fall all over the van), damage done to your things by commercial freight loaded on the van (let's say a barrel of some kind of fluid gets punctured and soaks your things), and water damage (mainly from a leaky roof). (Note that BE--unlike ABF--does not load commercial freight on vans transporting household goods, although it may load trade show or theatrical equipment.)
I feel that bulkhead failure and damage from commercial freight are very unlikely to occur. However, out of about 80 reviews of ABF on Epinions, there is one report of a leaky roof. One person posting here ("Jake") also reported that she had a couple of soggy boxes when she moved with ABF, although fortunately nothing was permanently damaged. So water damage has been known to happen.
I should add that in real life, I haven't heard of any situation in which a customer's things were damaged by carrier negligence and the customer wasn't adequately compensated by ABF or BE, regardless of whether the person had purchased the additional coverage. No complaints about inadequate compensation have appeared on the Internet, which I think says a lot about how the companies have handled such problems.
I'm not sure how possible damage to autos would be handled and I think that's something you should discuss with BE. ABF doesn't transport cars. Possibly your comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance would cover it, or maybe BE puts you in touch with companies that offer such coverage, but I'm not sure. In one case that I know about where a car roof was damaged by an inadequately secured tie-down strap, the customer's comprehensive insurance and BE's coverage for negligent damage worked together to coordinate payments. I tend to think that if the amount of damage had been less than BE's deductible, BE would have paid it directly to the customer.
The lack of "break, scratch, and dent" insurance coverage with a freight company is just one of those things that I think people have to decide whether they can live with. Some people will be willing to take the risk and others won't. The important thing is that people should go into it with their eyes open.
10. I read on another website that with ABF you load your things into shipping containers and you have to set up the bulkhead yourself, which from what I read was a nightmare.
A person might call the ABF trailers "shipping containers" but the one I had, at least, was clean and water-tight. They aren't rough and splintery the way that an average "freight box" or cargo container might be.
Technically you are supposed to set up the ABF bulkhead yourself, but I can tell you from experience that if you're having trouble the driver will help you. The driver wants to get the show on the road, so he's motivated to help. My driver also helped me offload the ramp and load it again after we were finished loading the trailer. Be sure that you know how to install the ramp, though (look at the video on ABF's website), because some of the drivers don't know how.
It's taking down the bulkhead at destination that's more likely to be a problem. Again, however, my driver helped. The problem is that with some of the older bulkheads (the top-bottom style like the one I had), the load bars get wedged too tight against the sides of the trailer and they're hard to dislodge. The people helping me, working with the driver, finally kicked loose the bottom half of the bulkhead and then they were able to dislodge the top half.
People shouldn't be afraid to use ABF because of a misconception that the trailers are splintery and dirty and the bulkhead is impossible to install. They aren't and it isn't. OCCASIONALLY a person might get a ratty trailer during the busy season, but judging from the reviews on Epinions, this is very unusual. This is the interior of an ABF trailer that was loaded by a MovingScam reader (pictured) in December 2004--she used 5 linear feet of space:
Notice how clean the trailer is and how the "upper and lower"-style bulkhead works. You can clearly see the four attached horizontal loadbars that hold the two halves of the bulkhead in place, and the installation instructions on labels pasted onto the bulkhead. The end of the metal mesh ramp is also visible in the foreground, hooked over the edge of the trailer floor. This particular trailer has a solid roof, which is rather unusual. If you get such a trailer and you want to load at night, be sure to have it parked where you can shine car headlights into it so you can see.
For comparison, below is a photo of the type of bulkhead that the BE drivers install. They put up four horizontal cargo beams, clicking them into holes in tracks in the trailer walls. Then they lean 4x8 sheets of plywood against the cargo beams and secure them to the beams with straps. According to the reviews we have of BE, the drivers don't always install a bulkhead--it depends on whether another load will be picked up and whether a divider is needed. A bulkhead would be necessary if another person's goods were going to be stacked against your goods, but sometimes the BE driver just puts moving pads over the shipment with a strap around them. There are NO reports of anyone's goods getting mixed up with anyone else's, regardless of whether a bulkhead is constructed.
11. I am looking at both ABF and BE, but there are some problems that we found when we called BE today: (a) they were charging by cubic feet based on our weight approximations and would charge us by the volume not the weight--we have seen warnings on this website that this is a red flag; (b) they couldn't come and give a visual estimate since they are in Illinois and we are in NJ; and (c) because of (b) they could not give us a GNTE quote. Is this normal? I've seen nothing but good things with these guys, but my fiancee is flipping out because she thinks we are going to get ripped off after what she read in PEOPLE magazine.
Please tell your fiancee to relax. From all the evidence we have (more than 90 mainly positive reviews of BE on this website to date and about 80 mainly positive reviews of ABF on Epinions), you will be dealing with trustworthy people who will go out of their way to do right by you. Once you tell BE and ABF the number of linear feet you have, they will give you a quote for that number of feet and they will hold to that quote. It's similar to rates per pound that are published by the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, or UPS. Those rates don't change.
Both ABF and BE do “charge by cubic feet" in the sense that you are reserving a certain space in the trailer. If you reserve 10 linear feet, that is 720 cubic feet because the trailer is 8 feet wide and 9 feet high (10 feet x 8 feet x 9 feet). Freight companies like ABF and BE charge in this way and there's nothing shady about it. (Actually, on its website BE equates 10 linear feet with 640 rather than 720 cubic feet because few people can actually stack things 9 feet high, only 8 feet high.)
The CUSTOMER is the one who estimates the amount of space (linear feet) in the trailer that his goods will take up. In effect, the customer is doing his own in-home visual estimate. BE and ABF give the customer a quote based on this number of feet. With BE the quote is listed on a Service Order/Price Quote and with ABF the quote is listed on a Bill of Lading. To the best of my knowledge, neither BE nor ABF has ever, ever tried to cheat a customer by changing this quoted amount once it has been given. Their BBB reports show no complaints of this nature.
If the customer uses more than the estimated number of feet, both ABF and BE charge a certain amount specified in the quote per additional foot used. If the customer uses less, ABF gives refunds (up to a certain point) but BE does not. So it's important to be as accurate as possible.
Bottom line: you do have a certain amount of responsibility to measure accurately to avoid surprises, but the company will hold to its written dollar estimate for the number of feet you reserve. The only extra "space" charges with BE and ABF would be for extra feet that you use. In addition, with BE you pay for a shuttle if it’s needed. With ABF you pay for any parking tickets or towing fees in the unlikely event that the trailer is towed. BE pays for any parking tickets.
12. How can I figure out the number of linear feet I need to reserve?
The BE dispatcher and the ABF sales representatives are experienced and will help you. For ABF, you can begin by going to the ABF "Space Estimators" page at http://www.upack.com/estimators.asp Then click on "Advanced" and use the tool to go around your house or apartment clicking off what you have. For BE, you can begin by going to the BE "Household Cost Calculator" page at http://www.broadwayexpress.net/household.html Both will give you a cubic foot measurement, which the tool will convert to linear feet.
Also, if you know how many pounds of goods you have (for example if you have had an in-home estimate from a full-service moving company), the dispatcher at BE or the sales representatives at ABF will be able to convert this to cubic feet because people in the industry have figured out that the average weight of a cubic foot (1 foot x 1 foot x 1 foot) of household goods is 7 pounds. From there, the cubic feet can be converted to linear feet.
As a rough guide, every 400 pounds of goods will take up 1 linear foot of space in an ABF or BE trailer. Technically, you should be able to fit 500 pounds of goods in every linear foot, but nobody can fill the trailer all the way to the 9-foot ceiling. I was able to stack my things only 8 feet high, and even that was difficult. Be sure to have a 4-foot ladder handy or you’re going to end up throwing things on top at the end. When I observed a loading with BE (see review #60), I saw the driver climb on an aluminum cargo beam to use it as a makeshift ladder. BE's interactive household move estimator at http://www.broadwayexpress.net/household.html assumes that customers will be able to stack things only 8 feet high.
The most common thing that I have seen with ABF is that customers reserve slightly too few feet, but it doesn't matter because ABF can adjust the amount of freight loaded behind it. I don't think I've ever seen them reserve too many feet.
The most common thing that I have seen with BE is that customers reserve slightly too many feet, and they have to pay for space that they didn't use. But oddly enough, they don't complain because they're so happy with the driver (who is usually the one who helped them load in such a way as to use fewer feet). See the reviews of BE on this website for evidence of this.
If you reserve too few feet with BE, you can usually get more space if you need it. People have said that BE's policy is to give the customer as much space as needed as long as there is unreserved space on the trailer. However, there have been very occasional situations where the customer's load was the last one on and there was no more room. In those cases BE has sent a truck to pick up the rest of the goods as soon as possible.
13. I really like ABF, but they seem very suspect because their quote did not include the ramp, which costs $50 extra for both locations for a total of $100. Who wouldn't need the ramp? It seems sneaky not to include it in the base price.
I talked with an ABF spokeswoman recently who said that everyone complains about the cost of the ramp. She said that ABF used to justify it by saying that it was an expensive piece of equipment (it is--it's made of metal mesh and very sturdy). She added that ABF is leaving it with customers often for days while they load, so it's sort of like a "rental" that they stand a risk of losing. People have said that there is a $50 off coupon for ABF in the USPS relocation packet, which would help offset the rental cost.
Also, it's not that ABF is sneaky. The fact is that ramps aren't available at all locations. And some people hire local moving companies to help them load, and those movers may bring a ramp (walkboard) with them. So to make things simple, ABF puts the ramp as an add-on rather than including it in the base price and then having to deduct it from the person's bill if no ramp was available or if the customer had a ramp provided by a local moving company.
As I said before, you MIGHT be able to get by with tilting a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood against the trailer bed, leaning heavy things against it, and then raising the ground end of the plywood up horizontal to the ground and sliding the item into the trailer. Although someone who must be a Superman described this very cheerfully on Epinions, I think it would be very difficult. You really do need to rent the ramp at both ends if it's available.
14. I checked ABF out on www.safersys.org the way we're supposed to and it says that ABF isn't licensed to move household goods. Should I be worried, or is this because it doesn't handle the goods--the customers do?
ABF (Arkansas Best Freight) is a freight company, and it is not licensed to move household goods because the drivers--theoretically at least--never touch them. ABF U-Pack operates under a tariff governing the freight system, not the household goods system. Very, very occasionally, a driver has been known to help a customer handle a big piece of furniture in a "live load" situation where he is anxious to get going, but this almost never happens. So ABF's lack of a license to move household goods isn't anything to be concerned about.
15. The Broadway Express website implies that they are full service movers, yet they use the same linear foot measurement that ABF uses. Can they hold my stuff hostage? How are they different from full service movers?
With regard to BE holding your stuff hostage: it is both a freight company and a full-service mover. In the latter role, it does a lot of moves for military personnel (generals and so on). However, in doing a self-move you will be dealing with it in its role as a freight company, and it uses linear feet to give estimates just as other freight companies do. All the evidence we have (more than 90 reviews of ABF on Epinions and more than 90 reviews of BE on this website) indicates that they will NOT cheat you. BE has only three complaints with the BBB and ABF has none recorded there. To the best of my knowledge, neither company has any validated complaints with MovingScam either.
If you use more linear feet of space than you initially reserved, if you keep the ABF trailer for longer than two hours in a "live load" situation, if you incur fines (parking tickets) with ABF, or if you are not able to take delivery of your goods in a timely manner, you do have to pay the additional charges before your goods are released. That is the only sense in which either ABF or BE could possibly be regarded as "holding goods hostage." The companies have the right to recoup legitimate costs that they have incurred. However, they do not want their trailers to be tied up with goods stored inside, so in my experience they are motivated to work with customers to resolve such situations quickly.
16. It makes me nervous that BE asks for its money up front. That seems to be typical of scam companies. Wouldn't they want their customer to feel more comfortable and therefore not follow what the typical scam companies do? ABF is also a freight company, and its website says "ABF does not require a deposit or prepayment of the service. The customer has the option of paying by cashier's check, money order, or credit card." So I'm wondering if I should have looked further into ABF, but it's too late.
It's true that BE has recently changed its policy. They now ask for their money up front, prior to loading. They do this to protect themselves and also to simplify things for the driver. In the past, they have had problems with credit card charges being declined due to insufficient credit. They want to get it settled prior to loading so that they don't have to keep contacting the credit card company for an update to see whether the money is there or keep contacting the customer to get the number of a different credit card--all of this while the shipment is on its way. They want to get it settled up front to simplify things.
However, I know that in the past BE has worked with people who want to use a credit card to do one of the following: (1) simply get an authorization from the credit card company prior to loading day to put a hold on the funds (and then they charge the card for that amount at destination); (2) charge the credit card half the amount prior to loading and half the amount at destination prior to unloading. I suggest that you call BE to discuss this with the person in charge of billing to see what might be possible in your case.
The fact is that many if not all full-service moving companies get an authorization from the credit card company to put a hold on the monetary amount of the move, whether they do it before pickup, on the day of pickup, or while the goods are in transit. It's not as if they take a credit card number and never check on whether the customer has the necessary credit until the goods are delivered. So the difference between BE and full-service movers isn't all that great, and I suggest that you call BE to discuss your concerns and see whether they can make some arrangement to put your mind at ease.
As you say, ABF charges the card while the goods are in transit, before they are delivered, or if you don't want to pay before the day of delivery, you can pay with a cashier's check, money order, or cash when the truck gets there. But BE is a much smaller company than ABF and less able to absorb losses if someone couldn't come up with a cashier's check at destination (for example), so it has gone to a policy of requiring payment on day of loading.
BE used to allow customers to pay either with a credit card in advance or with a cashier's check on delivery day. However, they encountered a couple of unscrupulous customers who told the drivers that they had already paid with a credit card when they had not. BE is closed on weekends so if this happened on a Saturday or Sunday the drivers had no way of contacting the office to confirm that the customers had already paid with a credit card. In these cases, they trusted the customer and failed to collect a cashier's check and the company had a lot of trouble getting paid later on.
Because of being burned like this, BE has gone to a policy of requiring payment with a credit card in most cases. If a customer wants to pay with a cashier's check for whatever reason (such as not having a credit card), he or she can do so, BUT the check must be mailed so that it is received at the BE office by delivery day. That way, the driver doesn't have to deal with payment issues at all.
17. I checked Broadway Express with the Better Business Bureau. There have been 3 complaints made about them and they aren't members of the BBB. "Complaints are concerning Selling Practices, and Service Issues. Of all the complaints filed 1 was closed as Assumed Resolved, and 2 were closed as Disputed." I'm a little anxious about this because we pay up front. Can you ease my mind?
For many years, BE had no complaints with the BBB. From what I know of the 3 complaints you mention (people contacting me about them), none of them were what I would consider justified. I can't go into detail because of confidentiality issues, but remember that BE is doing many, many moves for Movex as well as moves that it books itself. Poor performance by Movex (for example in terms of failure to compensate people for damage to goods) could result in a BBB complaint against both Movex and BE even though BE was not legally responsible for compensating the customer.
Another thing to remember is that not every customer is completely honest. There are some that will say things that are not true in an effort to maneuver a company into giving them a free or reduced-cost move. Since it's hard for the BBB to sort out the facts in those cases, those types of complaints are normally recorded as "disputed." Unfortunately, they stay on the company's record forever.
As in a hostage situation, if a company like BE starts paying ransom to customers in order to avoid having them complain to the BBB, it is a very slippery slope. Where would it end? To the best of my knowledge, BE has ALWAYS compensated customers promptly and fairly when it made a mistake, but it has not given in to blackmail-type situations where customers were demanding things they weren't entitled to.
There are very few companies that I would put my own reputation on the line for. I can say unequivocally that from what I have seen, I trust Broadway Express 100% and if they ever did anything to cheat a customer I would be out of here so fast they wouldn't know what happened. Yes, there will be service failures when a truck breaks down or a driver is hospitalized or whatever. But based on what I've seen over the past year, I do not believe that the people running BE would ever, ever do anything unethical.
As for their not being members of the BBB, many reputable companies choose not to be members. The BBB isn't all that it's cracked up to be, for one thing. It also costs money to belong. I'm not sure what BE's reasoning might be on this. For now, I just want to reassure you that given the number of moves that BE does each year (thousands), I would not be bothered by the 3 BBB complaints or their not being a member.
18. Most of the reviews of ABF on Epinions were favorable, but a few people said it was nervewracking to arrange for a parked trailer and that the trailer wasn't delivered or picked up at the precise time when it was supposed to be. I'm worried about having to cope with uncertainties and delays.
It's true that there are a few people on Epinions who complain about the ABF trailer being delivered or picked up a few hours late. A few . . . out of about 80 reviews. There is one person who didn't agree with ABF's opinion about what a "business day" was (ABF was correct).
What those people don't realize is that with ABF they are saving 30% to 40% over the cost of a full-service mover, paying about what a scammer would quote them before the scammer doubles or triples the price. Those people have no concept of what a DELAY really is. A "delay" is when you're waiting for your things for six weeks or more. Those people can't put the two- to four-hour delay in perspective because they've never been to this website to read about how people are scammed.
And with regard to arranging for a place for the trailer to park, you don't have to have the trailer park if you can load in two hours, at least in some locations. It's called a "live load"--you can ask about it when and if you contact ABF. The driver waits while you load. People who are very concerned about dealing with a parked trailer--and I admit that they should think about it carefully to find out what any restrictions are--might want to consider Broadway Express instead, because the BE driver always waits while you load.
It's well known that unhappy people are more likely than happy people to post something about a mover on Epinions. If you take a look at the reviews of the major van lines on Epinions, you'll see tons of complaints, and about far more serious things than a two-hour delay or a parked trailer. They talk about breakage and surly movers and missing items and so on. Many reviews of moves with major van lines on MovingScam talk about surface damage and delays of days rather than hours.
So, bottom line, I actually think it's kind of a badge of honor that ABF, with about 80 reviews (you have to be a member to see them all), comes out so well on Epinions. It's the highest-rated moving company on that website, although it isn't really a moving company but a freight company. (There is no category for Broadway Express on Epinions, and new categories can't be added, unfortunately.)
19. What about transit time once my goods are picked up? Will ABF and BE take more or less time to deliver my goods than a regular moving company will take?
The answer depends on when you are moving. In the off-season, I believe that the transit time for freight companies is likely to be similar to the transit time for moving companies. However, in the busy summer season between Memorial Day and Labor Day, transit time is likely to be less for ABF and much less for BE than for regular moving companies. The reason is that those companies do not pick up your things and then move them out of the trailer into a warehouse while they wait for another truck and driver to deliver them. Instead, the goods are delivered in the same trailer they are loaded into, and in the case of BE they are also delivered by the driver who picked them up.
I have never heard of a case in which BE has taken longer than 14 days to deliver a load in the continental United States, even during the summer. One of the 14-day shipments was when a straight truck broke down twice, and the second was when a 6-foot load was booked with a 30-foot load from the East Coast to Texas and the latter was cancelled at the last minute. The driver had to wait on the East Coast in his 53-foot trailer until another large load was booked.
Otherwise the usual transit time for a BE load to go cross-country in the off season is from 7 to 10 days, and less if the load is the only one on the trailer. ABF has occasionally had transit times of up to 21 days in the summer, especially for loads going into Florida, where a lot of freight goes in and not much comes out. However, I feel that using ABF and (especially) BE will help people avoid the excessive delays of up to six weeks that some have experienced with conventional moving companies during the summer.
If you need a long transit time for some reason, ABF may be a better choice than BE, because the BE drivers cross the country so quickly. However, I have never heard of anyone having to pay a trailer detention fee (currently $300 a day) with BE except in one case where a person's house wasn't ready to be moved into. In that case the home builder paid the detention fee and BE moved the load into mini-storage for the shipper after a few days. Usually the drivers are able to coordinate the delivery with the shipper so this isn't a problem.
20. If I use ABF or BE, can I pack my stuff into those common moving boxes with handholds, or would I have to use boxes of some specific dimensions?
You can use any kind of boxes you like (I myself like the ones you're describing), but it's best if you can stick to one or two different sizes so they're easy to stack and you can make maximum use of the space in the trailer. In my opinion, it would be worth it to buy some boxes if yours aren't uniform. People have said that U-Haul has good ones. Be sure not to put books in boxes that are any larger than the boxes that a case of wine usually comes in because the boxes will be too heavy to lift easily. Also, be sure that you pack those boxes solid. If you don't, they will crush in when the next layer of boxes is put on top of them.
Someone posting on this website said that Lowe's has good boxes at bargain prices. This person bought wardrobe boxes for $4 each and extra-large boxes for $3, and commented that most storage/truck rental places charge twice as much. Another person said that Barnes and Noble is an excellent source of free boxes for books, which have to be strong. Still another person commented that Kinko's and other office supply stores can give you boxes of the type that paper comes in--they usually have lift-off lids, which is good. You'll probably have to ask these places to save the boxes for you, because nowadays they are crushed for recycling pretty quickly.
Still another person (in Minneapolis) posted as follows: "Another tip is to look in the good ol' yellow pages under Moving Supplies and see if there are any places in your area that sell used/overstock boxes. We haven't paid more than $1.50 each for our boxes, and most of them are quite sturdy. We even got some nice small ones for $0.25 each. We were also able to get some used furniture pads (who cares if they're used?!) for less than half the retail price."
Finally, still another person posted, "I have found that no one place is best. For medium size boxes and bubble wrap, the cheapest is Sams Club. 22"x14"x12" boxes, rated for 65 lbs, are $14 for a pack of 12. 175 foot rolls of bubble wrap (1 ft wide) are $10.28. For packing paper I found 50 lb packs of unprinted newsprint at a paper store called XPEDX for $24. XPEDX boxes are really expensive, but their price on paper can't be beat. They are pretty inexpensive for bubble wrap, but not as good as Sams Club. If you are packing heavy fragile items, such as TVs, you can use sheets of styrofoam insulation material, which is relatively inexpensive."
21. What kind of padding would ABF or BE provide me with to cover my wooden furniture, etc.?
Broadway Express will use moving pads with thick quilting. There is a photo on their website that shows how they do it - http://www.broadwayexpress.net/picture-r1c1.html - and BE provides at least 150 pads on each trailer. Each person can use the number of pads proportional to the size of his load. For example, the trailer is about 50 feet long, so a person with a 10-linear-foot load he would be able to use at least 1/5 of the 150 pads, or 30 pads. This is more than enough for anyone.
ABF doesn't provide pads, and on their spring-ride trailers, pads are especially important to prevent furniture items from rubbing against each other or against the trailer walls. One person said that cheap quilts from Wal-Mart work well. Another person suggested buying quilts and blankets at garage sales for $1 each and donating them later. Bear in mind that good-quality moving blankets are expensive—around $20 each—and it’s not as if you can use them later for bedding or something. Also, when I tried to wash one it fell apart.
A person moving with ABF posted recently that she used egg-crate / egg-carton pads of the type you put on top of a bed instead of moving pads. She bought them at Target for $8 each for double size and held them around her furniture with 3" shrink-wrap tape. Another person recommended this as well. If you are using ABF, you definitely need to pad your furniture, especially the edges, because there will be a lot of jouncing up and down on the spring-ride trailers.
Whether you use ABF or BE, and especially with ABF, I think one of the most important things is to load tightly. Wedge pillows or garbage bags full of bedding or clothes into any "voids" (empty spaces) between furniture items so they don't shift. You don't want them to rub against each other or against the sides of the trailer. This photo shows a tightly-loaded trailer of the type that ABF uses - http://www.unitedvanlines.com/images/tier.jpg
However, be aware that mere mortals will probably be unable to achieve this level of loading. The trailer in the above photo has been loaded all the way to the fiberglass roof, which is almost impossible. Pads with multiple layers of paper have been used to protect items. Note that these paper pads do not provide sufficient protection for corners of furniture because the corner may tear through the paper.
22. How should I pack fragile items like glassware and china?
China plates should be packed standing on edge, not one on top of the other. One person posted that the very best packing material she found was shredded paper.
I bought a cheap, confetti-cut shredder and have shredded everything I can get my hands on. Newspaper, printed or not, doesn't work that well because it's so soft and the ink may come off, but regular paper, magazines, junk mail (finally, a good use for it!), and the slick color ads from the Sunday newspaper all make wonderful filler for packing even the most fragile items. I bought several large rolls of bubble wrap to wrap more delicate items in and I filled in the spaces with the shredded paper. Do it right and nothing will budge. This works well and is much cheaper for crystal than those expensive dish packs.
Note that if newsprint ink, colored or not, rubs off on china or glass, it may be very difficult or impossible to remove.
23. Will ABF and BE provide me with plastic sheets or bags to cover the mattress?
ABF won't because it doesn’t provide any equipment, and BE won't either, because those things can't be reused. You can buy them at U-Haul or sometimes get them free from places that sell beds and mattresses.
24. Will they come and pick up my packed stuff from my home or do I have to drop it at their terminal?
Both ABF and BE will come to your home or apartment. Be sure to discuss with the dispatcher or sales representative the size of your street to make sure the truck will have access. BE's drivers always wait while you load and sometimes they can double park, but not always. The trucks are 70 feet long.
The ABF drivers detach the truck from the trailer and leave the 28-foot trailer for you to load. They can either pick it up the same day or leave it for up to two days--longer on weekends. You won’t be able to have it left that long in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, and Boston, but for people who want a long load time, ABF will usually be a better choice than BE. Be sure to check with the police about parking regulations if you use either BE or ABF, as described below.
25. How easy is it to load my stuff into the truck? Do they provide ramps or something?
The BE trucks are equipped with 16-foot long, 5,000-pound capacity walkboards. The ABF trucks come with metal ramps if you pay $50 extra at each end (and you get them free if you have a large load). It's easy to walk up the walkboards or ramps--at least the first dozen times. After that, I jokingly refer to it as the "dread ramp walk."
Here are some photos I took of walkboards in use on a BE trailer. Note that they are split lengthwise to allow cars to be loaded (the left tires are placed on the left half of the walkboard and the right tires on the right half). The first photo shows a walkboard in the process of being assembled and positioned on grass by the BE driver (Mike Smith), the second shows a walkboard going from the trailer floor to a mini-storage facility, and the third shows a walkboard going from the trailer to the street so a dolly can be rolled down it (by a Labor Ready worker in this case).
See the question below for what an ABF ramp looks like.
26. I'm considering using ABF for my move but I'm concerned about their ramps. According to the ABF website their ramps, which must be rented separately, are 14' long and 2' wide. Have any of you unloaded a trailer with a 2' wide ramp? Is this safe? It seems really narrow to me.
If you take a look at this illustration of an ABF ramp from the ABF website I think you will be reassured:
Note that there is a "lip" and a non-slip, heavily gridded metal mesh surface to prevent people from falling off, although you should be careful, of course. I myself loaded and unloaded an ABF trailer and never felt unsafe on the ramp . . . only extremely tired!
27. What about parking for BE’s truck and ABF’s trailer? I’m moving to a congested area.
Parking in cities like Seattle, Chicago, New York, and Boston is likely to be a problem. The drivers will probably have to wait while you unload. Sometimes they can double-park. A person named "Seth" who moved with BE had to use a shuttle in Chicago because the truck couldn’t get in. He is one of only a few people who have had to use a shuttle with BE so far, because the BE drivers try their best not to use a shuttle.
If you do have to use a shuttle with BE, you can either arrange it yourself or BE will arrange it for you. In either case you will have to pay for it. I have never heard of a shuttle being needed with ABF, probably because their trucks (tractor-trailers) are much smaller. The total length of a BE truck is about 70 feet and the total length of an ABF truck is about 35 feet.
If you live in a congested area, you should discuss it with the dispatcher at BE or the sales representative at ABF. When I moved with ABF, I remember that I was very concerned about possible parking problems when unloading, and the ABF driver told me, "Look . . . people have to move! The police have to let people move!" My particular situation worked out because there was a parking space available, but it can be hairy. Talk to the BE dispatcher, and if you decide to go with ABF, talk to the apartment manager (if there is one) where you're moving and maybe to the police as well.
28. How can I find a good company to transport my car?
Start by reading the "Auto Transporters" thread started by "jrebeiro" on this website - http://www.movingscam.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1470 - The companies with the best comments on this website are Tn'T and Dependable Auto Shippers (DAS), although the BBB reports on DAS are not the greatest and someone recently reported that DAS was unresponsive to his attempt to contact them. Intercity, which uses enclosed carriers, is also praised on other websites.
The cheapest price I have ever seen for transport of a car cross-country by a reputable company is $674, which is what “jrebeiro” paid to ship his car with DAS using a terminal-to-terminal option and eliminating the deductible on his auto insurance for 6 months. There are many dubious companies in the auto transport business, and under the best of circumstances, pickup and delivery delays are common.
29. Is there any company that can transport my car on the same trailer with my household goods?
Broadway Express can ship your car(s) and your household goods in the same trailer, which will look something like this:
They can build a deck so you will be able to use not only the extra feet left in the trailer, but also the space above the car or cars, as shown in this picture from the BE website (note also the thick moving blankets and tie-down straps):
The 8-foot-long aluminum cargo beams shown in the above photo are inserted into something called e-track, which is a metal strip embedded in the trailer walls as pictured below. (The holes in this photo happen to be horizontal rather than vertical and clips with rings rather than cargo beams are attached to them but the principle is the same.)
The photo at left below shows vertical e-track. The middle photo shows a tie-down strap similar to those provided by BE and the photo at right is a closeup of how the strap clicks securely into the e-track using what's called an e-clip on each end of the strap. (The e-track in the photo has round as well as rectangular holes in it but the BE e-track has only rectangular holes.) After the e-clips are clicked into the e-track on the walls on each side of the trailer, the strap is tightened to secure the load.
. . . -> . . . ->
The cargo beams can be used as supports for plywood decking 8 feet wide and the length of the car, allowing you to make use of the approximately 4-foot-high, 8-foot-wide space above the car. Someone posted that this is a good place to load lightweight items like bicycles, chairs, and garden tools. After the items are wrapped in moving blankets, straps can be used to secure them on the decking.
To keep the cars themselves from moving, a cargo beam wrapped in a moving blanket is placed in front of the front tires and behind the rear ones. (Some drivers put it behind the front tires and thread a strap around the rear tires. This makes sense because objects tend to migrate toward the rear of the trailer when it is moving.) The beam or strap clicks into the holes in the e-track and prevents the car from moving backward or forward in the trailer.
Rolled-up moving blankets are then placed between the car tires and the trailer walls to prevent side-to-side movement of the tires. Since the car body could still sway from side to side even if the tires don't move, padding is often placed between the car body and the trailer walls as well. One person posted that if you're shipping a mattress, that would be a good place for it.
Note that if a plywood platform is used, it must be placed at least 8 inches above the car because the car body can bounce up and down in transit as well as sway side to side. If the car body hits the cargo beams or plywood, damage could occur.
Judging from quotes that BE has given to people, I think they usually charge around $2,000 to transport a 17-foot-long car cross-country, which is several hundred dollars more than you would pay with the average auto transporter. The advantage is that your car(s) will arrive at the same time as your things, whereas auto transporters are notorious for long delays in delivery and that can get expensive if you have to rent a car. And with BE, you can load things not only above the car on decking as described above, but in the car.