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03.05.2008

U-HAUL CEO TELLS INSIDE EDITION TO PUBLISH HIS PERSONAL CELL PHONE NUMBER AFTER SHOW INVESTIGATES TRAILER SAFETY

"You go ahead and publish that...People can't get this organization to behave, I can." - Joe Shoen, CEO U-Haul

Airdate: Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

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New York, NY - February 26th, 2007 - U-Haul is the largest do-it-yourself moving company in the world.  Whether you're moving across town or cross country you've probably used one of their vehicles.  But numerous rollover accidents involving some of their 78,000 U-Haul trailers call their safety into question.  A special report by INSIDE EDITION's Investigative unit, airing February 27th, 2008, investigates the safety of U-Haul trailers and whether employees are giving out vital safety information to customers.

Joe Shoen, the CEO of U-Haul, insists the company's trailers are safe.  He says most accidents are the result of driver error often due to their improper loading.  He also says it is very important for customers to read and follow the procedures contained in its user instruction booklet, which is supposed to be given with each trailer rental.  The booklet contains vital safety information including instructions on how to load the trailer for safety, which Shoen says is critical.  "It's in our user guide... They need to get it," Shoen tells INSIDE EDITION's Senior Investigative Correspondent, Matt Meagher.

However, when INSIDE EDITION rented fourteen trailers in five states with hidden cameras they found vital safety information is rarely given to customers.  For one rental, after leaving the office with our trailer, INSIDE EDITION found some photocopied safety instructions had been tucked into the rental contract. Only once did INSIDE EDITION receive the full instruction booklet they were suppose to receive. 

INSIDE EDITION also took some of the trailers to the Traffic Safety Unit at the Bergen County, New Jersey Police Department, where officers checked the vehicles for maintenance problems.

On one of the rented trailers a clamp that is part of the system that supports the rear axle was found by the officers to be flimsy and fell off.   

Four of the trailers had directional or hazard lights that didn't work.  INSIDE EDITION also found trailers with rusted chains and frayed wires hanging from the side.  One trailer the show rented even had no brake fluid in it.

INSIDE EDITION spoke with Dan Catalini, who spent four years as a manager with U-Haul. Catalini says he was fired from U-Haul after his sales decreased. He sued the company and lost.  He believes that U-Haul prioritizes safety "below sales...below customer service... and probably somewhere after that."

Joe Shoen, the CEO of U-Haul, disputes Catalini's claims stating, "That simply is not true."

U-Haul says that as long as consumers load trailers correctly and watch their speed, they will be safe. Otherwise, the trailer can fishtail, causing it and the vehicle towing it to flip.

INSIDE EDITION spoke with Devin Letzer, who was helping his father Mark relocate from Los Angeles to New Orleans in 2003.  He says the trailer began to whip violently behind them.

"Before I could really even attempt to get it under control, to do something about the sway, it had already taken over," Devin Letzer tells INSIDE EDITION.

The trailer jackknifed, overturning it and the SUV. Devin's father Mark, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the car and killed instantly. 

The Letzer family sued U-Haul, claiming the trailer had bad brakes and other maintenance problems. U-Haul settled the lawsuit with out admitting liability and blamed Devin for the accident, claiming he was going faster than U-Haul's recommended speed of 45mph, and that the trailer was loaded improperly.

U-Haul CEO Shoen took INSIDE EDITION's Meagher on a test drive to prove that U-Haul trailers are safe when loaded properly.  During the interview, Shoen offered a solution to U-Haul customers.  Shoen says that the next time anyone feels unsafe when renting a U-Haul trailer to call his cell phone, which INSIDE EDITION will broadcast on Wednesday's show. "I answer that thing pretty much any time I'm not in church.  You go ahead and publish that," Shoen continues, "People can't get this organization to behave, I can."

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Contact:           Jessica Fielder, Inside Edition

                        (o): 212-817-5664

                        (c): 646-306-1943

                        jfielder@kingworld.com

 

                        Irene Rogers, Inside Edition

                        (o): 212-817-5426

                        irogers22@kingworld.com