In a separate post, “Our excellent experience with ABF,” I have outlined how ABF works and have described our very positive experience with the company on a small interstate move of about 1100 miles. We give ABF our highest recommendation.
In this posting I will offer some practical pointers that may be helpful to others using this service.
1. First of all, finding a legal place to park a 28-foot trailer for two days, or at least overnight, in the city of origin can be a problem. I suggest contacting your local police department for advice. They may help you by setting out cones or you may have to find off-street parking. In some cases you may have to take your things in a van to a local ABF depot to load them there rather than at your residence. Parking the trailer at destination is usually not as much of a problem since you can offload while the driver waits by hiring local movers to stand by (as I did). ABF gave me one hour to offload; after that they said they would have charged me for the driver’s time.
2. Also, the furniture that I moved was not of very high quality. There was a bed and a sofa and lots of books, and the rest (such as an entertainment center) was mostly particle board. I am not sure that I would use a U-Pack service to move more expensive pieces. One reason is that the trailers are not air-ride and the furniture gets bounced around a good deal. For example, I loaded our 19-inch TV on a low shelf in the entertainment center with a lot of padding around it so it couldn’t move, or so I thought. At destination the shelf (which was a fixed shelf, not one supported by pegs) had begun to tear away from the side of the entertainment center. This couldn’t have happened unless the shelf had had a lot of up-and-down force applied to it. (This was the only significant damage that occurred, and it was the result of my improper packing.)
3. The point is that amateurs don’t really know how to pack to prevent such damage. If you want to move expensive things, I suggest having a professional check the way you are loading them. Also, don’t skimp on the moving pads and packing materials. There is a temptation to do so because you are paying by the linear foot, but don’t do it. Make a diagram of the 8-foot-wide 9-foot-high space, measure your larger pieces with a yardstick, and have a plan as to how you are going to load. Put heavy things at the bottom and wedge things in tightly (I used a lot of pillows to do this). In our case what worked best was to stand the sofa on end in one corner to take advantage of the trailer height and also stand the mattress and box spring on end just behind the bulkhead so that they were holding the rest of the shipment in place. One driver told me that a common form of damage is abrasion on the sides of furniture where it rubs against the trailer walls in transit. All such surfaces should be protected with pads—old mattress pads work well.
4. I think it would be risky to move expensive upholstered pieces because the trailers can be dusty. Several people on this site and elsewhere have remarked that there was printer toner dust in their ABF trailers. There was some in ours as well—not much, but enough so that if I dropped a pillow on the floor a faint black mark was left on it. (The dust washed out, but not easily.) The floors of the trailers have metal ridges which are clean but the dust hides in the furrows between the ridges. Also, I noticed that although the trailer was very clean when it was delivered, there was a small amount of “road dust” or “blow dirt” (dirt mixed with dried grass) on the floor near the cab end at the destination city. Mattresses and box springs should definitely be covered. We did not, however, cover the whole shipment with a tarp or put a tarp on the floor as some people have recommended. This was mainly because we visually inspected the trailer and saw that it was clean and there were no tears in the fiberglass roof that could let rain in. If you get a dirty or dilapidated trailer, or one with holes in the roof, call the company immediately and ask for a replacement. We had our trailer dropped off midweek and not in the busy end-of-the-month period, which may have helped us get not only a better rate but also a better trailer.
5. To make it easier to load the trailer, have a 4-foot stepladder available at the city of origin. You are going to be filling a space 9 feet high. If you don’t have a stepladder, you are probably going to end up throwing light things like chairs on top at the very end rather than positioning them carefully. That is how a few of our things got scraped up a bit. At least we didn’t throw a bicycle on top, which one driver told us people sometimes do. He said that the pedals, chain, and brake controls can do a lot of damage to surfaces and that bikes should be very well wrapped.
6. Be sure to look at the excellent videos on the ABF website (www.upack.com) so you’ll know how to set up the ramp and position the bulkhead. You can’t count on the drivers to know these things (although ours were very nice and helped us maneuver the ramp and set up/take down the bulkhead, which I don’t think they are required to do). In our case the ramp was turned the wrong way in the trailer and the driver had no idea how to make it work, so we were glad we did.
7. I bought a “fold-away” (collapsible) aluminum hand truck for use during the move and it was very useful. The local movers really appreciated it when they were moving things into our new residence, and it took them less time so our cost was less. The one I bought (Safco 250 Lb. Capacity Folding Hand Truck, 4061) cost only $40 at Staples. Now, with the moving season upon us, I think they are charging closer to $50. But it’s worth it—much better than renting.
Sorry for the long post but considering the extreme stress surrounding moving, I thought I would try to ease it a little by sharing some experiences and suggestions. Good luck!
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