All the right moves

July 1, 2008
As a specialty market of ABF Freight System, Ft. Smith, AR, U-Pack Moving doesn't require a great deal of overhead or additional manpower to run its fleet. Being encompassed within the whole ABF family is, in fact, one of the reasons for the self-pack residential household moving service's huge success. Kay Lynn Clay, U-Pack business development manager, says, We have done a good job incorporating

As a specialty market of ABF Freight System, Ft. Smith, AR, U-Pack Moving doesn't require a great deal of overhead or additional manpower to run its fleet. Being encompassed within the whole ABF family is, in fact, one of the reasons for the self-pack residential household moving service's huge success.

Kay Lynn Clay, U-Pack business development manager, says, “We have done a good job incorporating U-Pack into the ABF system, so it's not a spin-off company out there all on its own. Customers' belongings are moved on ABF Freight equipment and driven by one of 7,000 ABF-employed drivers.”

ABF Freight System, in operation since 1923, made the decision to develop the U-Pack Moving specialty market in 1997. The goal, according to Clay, was to enable customers to deal directly with the service provider, thereby avoiding price markups by middlemen.

U-Pack operates throughout North America. Unlike many other household moving providers, it also offers service to customers in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. “Those offshore markets are growing. People there don't have a lot of options for moving, at least not at reasonable prices,” notes Clay.


“U-Pack is for customers making long-distance moves. We do not offer local or intrastate service,” she points out. “Customers basically have two choices: we can bring them an empty 28-ft. trailer that they fill at their house and we move to its final destination, or we can bring them what we call a ReloCube, which is a 6×7×8-ft. metal container that holds about one room's worth of furnishings or 320 cu. ft. These are ideal for smaller moves or customers moving into or out of apartment complexes where there may not be parking space for a 28-ft. trailer. Customers can also use them for moving things like motorcycles to rallies around the country. Two good-sized motorcycles plus gear will easily fit in a ReloCube.”

Customers using the trailer option are given three days to load it up. Once loaded, they install a bulkhead, which is provided by ABF to partition off the customer's belongings. ABF drivers then pick up the trailer and return to the terminal where commercial freight is loaded behind the customer's household furnishings. “Household goods are always nose-loaded and kept completely separate from commercial freight,” Clay reports. “Also, we never mix two U-Pack moves on a single trailer.”

The bulkheads, Clay says, are put up with hydraulic load bars that secure it to the trailer walls. “We are also currently exploring the use of locking bulkheads to further assure the safety of our customers' belongings.”

Gary Hunt, vp-equipment and maintenance, says ABF Freight System currently has 4,100 tractors in its combined fleet. “This includes both Class 7 and 8 tractors in our road fleet as well as pickup and delivery fleet. Both fleets are utilized in our U-Pack Moving product. While we have dedicated trailers for U-Pack pickup and delivery, we are also able to utilize the over 16,000 28-ft. pups in the ABF fleet to facilitate our U-Pack customers' needs.”


According to Hunt, the dedicated U-Pack trailers are of various configurations, the majority being flatbeds specifically built to the company's specifications so they can carry the ReloCubes. U-Pack Moving also operates a variety of 6,000-lb. capacity forklifts and 7,000-lb. capacity trailer-mounted forklifts for pickup and delivery of customers' U-Pack goods.

The custom-spec'd ReloCubes, which can be used in multiples for larger household moves, “are durable containers our customers can load at ground level. They make for convenient moves for all types of U-Pack customers, both large and small,” says Hunt. “They also allow us to utilize our own transportation network, giving our customers assurance that their goods never leave the ABF system.”

ABF fleet equipment is maintained at any number of ABF local shops and distribution centers, as well as by outside service providers that meet ABF equipment maintenance standards. Preventive maintenance on all ABF equipment is accomplished according to an established timetable depending on the equipment type and service mode.


“We spec our equipment to the component level based on full life-cycle cost,” Hunt explains. “Something that makes us somewhat unique is that our equipment and maintenance department is responsible for the entire life cycle of the equipment, including acquisition and disposal, which affords our company the opportunity to spec equipment for durability and total life-cycle cost rather than pure acquisition cost. It also allows us to maintain a smaller parts inventory by keeping component specs consistent regardless of the original equipment manufacturers.”

Clay says customers for U-Pack Moving range in age from their 20s to 60s and beyond. “Typically, they are relocating for a job or for family reasons. They're the kind of people who don't mind doing a bit of the work themselves to save money. A typical 2,500-mi. cross-country move for a large three-bedroom house in one of our trucks costs about $3,000.

What's unique about U-Pack trailer moves is customers are charged by space, not weight. The company will adjust by a per-foot rate up or down based on final footage when loading is complete, ensuring customers pay only for actual space used in the trailer.

U-Pack, Clay notes, also offers customers storage opportunities in the ReloCubes and, more recently, inside the trailers as well. Customers can store their household goods with U-Pack for 30, 60 or even 90 days if needed, until their new house is ready.

“We can also assist customers in finding temporary labor on both ends of their moves to help with packing and unpacking,” Clay states. “We have a network that can help find those labor providers.”

Although U-Pack Moving is a household goods moving business targeted toward residential customers, Clay says it does have a corporate relocations division. Here, sales people for U-Pack call on large corporations that may need to move non-executive level employees around the country, from one branch office to another, but offer them just smaller lump-sum packages rather than full-service moves.


Other customers for U-Pack are college students, as well as military personnel. “We have become somewhat of an expert on military relocations,” says Clay. “The need for our services by the military was brought to our attention over the years. Servicemen and women who don't rank high enough to merit a full government-paid move are allowed to be reimbursed for DITY (do-it-yourself) moves. U-Pack Moving service provides them with the certified weight tickets the government requires.”

Saving money is what the U-Pack Moving service is all about. So in addition to door-to-door delivery in the company's trailers or ReloCubes, U-Pack also offers terminal-to-terminal moves. With this option, customers can save, on average, an additional $200 on either end of the move by bringing their household goods directly to the terminal dock for loading or picking it up on the other end themselves. With U-Pack, customers basically customize their entire move.

About the Author

Deborah McGuffie-Schyhol

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