Loading your truck is like getting ready for prom. You want everything to be perfect.
Unloading, on the other hand, is kind of the same way; take everything off, drop it on the floor and go jump in the pool with your friends, right?
Yes and no. Unloading a moving truck is definitely easier than loading one, but like jumping in the pool, there are good ways and bad ways to do it.
Below are some tips for safety and speed so you can not only do the job right but have plenty of time for the post-party. (And this all applies for moving containers too!)
How to Prepare Your Unload
Park on a flat, level surface
If you are renting a portable container like a PODS, you can expect it will be set on even ground. The same thing goes for a rental truck.
You’ll want to park in a similar level place, to make unloading both safer and easier. If you simply have to park on a sloped surface, point the front of your truck downhill. (You can imagine why.)
Apply the emergency brake
This applies even if you park on a level surface. It also doesn’t hurt to put chocks – or rocks or blocks of wood – under one or more of the wheels.
Open the back of the truck slowly
Your stuff will have shifted around in transit, and the possibility of something tumbling out onto the ground, or on you, is very real.
If something is about to come tumbling out, you may feel and/or hear it pushing against the door as you open it. But not always.
Keep your eyes open and have an extra set of hands ready.
Ramps slide out quickly, be careful
Rental trucks generally come equipped with a loading ramp that slides right out from under the rear door. Unlatching it, sliding it out and locking it in place is simple. So is hurting yourself if you aren’t careful.
That ramp is heavy! And pulling it too hard can turn it into a battering ram with you being the one getting battered. Ease it out all the way and set it down on something not your toes. And remember to set those hooks at the top of the ramp securely in place!
How to Unload Safely and Quickly
Get off to a pretty slow start
That’s right! Even if nothing looks about to topple over, you still want to take it easy when you begin unloading your stuff.
Your stuff will shift and resettle in transit
This goes triple if you have a freight trailer!
The pedal of the bicycle you so carefully placed on top of all those boxes might now be stuck in between two of those cartons, and pulling too hard trying to free your bike can send a whole stack of stuff cascading down on top of you.
Remember, if your truck was packed to the gills, you won’t have much room back there for your feet. Take your time. Watch your step. Ease those first items off the truck, always aware of how close your Nikes are to the edge of that deck. One misstep and there goes your stuff (and you).
Assign a ramp person
If you have someone (or a few people) helping you, assign one person to stay on the truck to break down the load and put everything at the edge of the deck where the others can grab it without having to climb into the truck.
Not only does this save time, it also eliminates a ton of bending over.
Working like this, it’s never long before the person on the truck gets ahead of the others. This is a good time for that person to nominate someone to help carry that sofa or dresser off the truck and into the house. In addition, jumping off the truck and helping get all the stuff they’ve set on the deck into the house is the obvious way to keep the process rolling.
Tackling the unload all by yourself? Try working in a similar fashion. As you break down your load, position as many boxes and other items as possible along the edge of the deck. Then you’ll be able to make a bunch of trips back and forth without having to walk up and down that ramp every time, saving both your legs and your back.
Form a box brigade
Building on above, if you are lucky enough to have two or more people helping you unload:
- Keep one person working on the truck
- One person carrying stuff from the truck to a staging area (usually the garage or the front door)
- One person working inside carrying everything from the staging area to where it all belongs
Naturally, the person on the truck will start getting ahead of the person carrying stuff to the staging area, who will in turn probably get ahead of the person running back and forth inside the house. Periodically jumping off the truck or stepping inside to help your buddy catch up keeps everyone moving – and quickens the process of emptying out that truck or portable container.
Which, of course, leaves more time to enjoy the pool.
Use a dolly
When you are unloading your moving truck, a hand truck (also known as a dolly) is your best non-human friend.
Rolling heavy stuff means you don’t have to carry it. Rolling a stack of boxes means making one trip instead of three or four! The bigger your load and the heavier your stuff, the more you will thank yourself for having that hand truck around. It’s an essential item to rent of your moving truck doesn’t come with one, or if you don’t hire moving labor.
Make sure, by the way, to use that hand truck correctly. You should always be higher than the dolly when rolling stuff down that ramp. If you are hand-trucking something large and/or heavy, have an extra set of hands at the lower end to keep that thing moving steadily—and slowly!
Want to really learn how to use a dolly? Check out this post.
Center everything before it goes off the truck
It goes without saying that when you’re unloading major appliances and large pieces of furniture – or anything for that matter – you want to be doubly certain neither your feet nor the wheels of your hand truck miss that ramp.
But you also want your hand truck to hit the ramp squarely; if one wheel starts going downhill before the other your hand truck will start to tip to one side. Your buddy on the bottom end will naturally try to steady it, which can send one of his feet off the side of the ramp, and things will just keep going downhill from there.
Whether you are rolling or carrying that big heavy appliance or piece of furniture, you want to get centered on the back of the truck before you head for that ramp.
Again, when using a dolly, those wheels go down before you do. If you and a buddy are carrying that item, whoever is holding the bottom end needs to travel down first. In either case, the person on the lower end is responsible for maintaining a straight line of forward progress.
Ready to unpack?
That’s a whole other thing, so make sure to read our unpacking guide too!
Protip: If you have to walk up a slope or up any stairs, it’s good practice to turn yourselves around so the person holding the top of that big bulky piece is again in a higher position.
Going upslope, however, the person on top takes over steering duty. The person on the bottom then will have the responsibility of providing most of the upward momentum. (This is especially true when going up a staircase.)
In other words, the person on bottom pushes while the person on top does their best to avoid banging into the walls and tripping up the steps.
Get Some Quick Help
And if all else fails (or you realize you have more stuff than you thought you did after loading your truck), do yourself a favor and double-check unloading help prices.
Get Help Unloading Your Rental Truck
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From my decades of experience moving people, an unbooked mover is pretty motivated to come out, as opposed to sitting around doing nothing. Do a quick fly by on HireAHelper and see if there are any local movers available to lend you and your friends a hand.
I’ve saved plenty of people’s moving day who thought to check, even last second.