University President Loses Everything in Moving Truck Fire

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As the summer winds down, college students aren’t the only ones scrambling to get ready for the new school year. University professors and administrators have to sweat it out too. And no one, perhaps, has more to do than Timothy Mottet, the new president of Colorado State University in Pueblo.

After moving to southeast Colorado from Kansas City, MO, Mr. Mottet had everything he owned go up in flames on a highway in western Kansas.

Photo by John Jaques

“I’ve got a suit and a pen,” he tells us as he sits in his empty office, managing a smile for the camera.

We are told it is unknown why the truck hauling his and two other families’ goods caught fire in the early morning near Colby, KS, 250 miles from his new home. We do know that he lost pretty much everything. “I’m starting from scratch,” Mottet says. We also don’t know what type of coverage he had on his shipment, if any. But like anyone moving, there is a lot of irreplaceable stuff: photos, framed documents and tragically even a family member’s ashes are among the items he says are gone.

His misfortune has been met with an outpouring of kindness from the community. His new housekeeper, who so far hasn’t had much to clean in his empty house, brought him a load of stuff for his kitchen. He also says he hasn’t had to pay for a meal since arriving in town with his pen. “Everyone has just been incredibly generous,” Mottet says.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all the ups and downs, he still has a job to do, getting to know the ins and outs of his new domain and charting a course for his university’s future. Which is how it is for all our customers. People want to be moved so they can move on with things.

Stay Safe, Know Your Cargo

Movers everywhere: It’s crucial to know the types of things you cannot bring on a moving truck so this type of thing doesn’t happen. But if something does happen along the way, we can only hope that unfortunate customer is as gracious as Mr. Mottet.

Finish the summer up safe, ladies and gents.

Take Two: House Movers Get Stuck in the Middle of the Road AGAIN

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The sequel is rarely as good as the original, but Austin Home Movers are giving it a shot.

Last October they got this house stuck among the trees and branches lining in the middle of a residential street in south Austin. Unable to get a permit to cut the trees, they decided to cut the house instead.

Now they’re back, blocking traffic just north of Austin in an all-new predicament.

Hauling a house around a sharp bend on a quiet two-lane road in the Austin suburb of Leander, the trailer being used apparently suffered a broken axle, causing a couple of wheels to come loose. From there it seems the house slid right off the side of the trailer, coming to rest partway on the grass along the left side of the road.

Let’s survey what they were up against: The home looks about 50 feet long. The tractor’s right tires are on the grass. The rear of the trailer is clear over on the left side of the road, early on along the curve, effectively blocking the entire road, though a look on Google Maps suggests there isn’t much traffic there on Rock Cliff Drive.

Predictably, it didn’t go so well. And it would take a lot of work – and some help from a nearby business with some heavy equipment – to get that damaged house up and moving again.

To add insult to injury, the damage from the incident was not limited to the outside of the house. It seems a certain amount of owner Jesse Husemann’s belonging inside the house was damaged in the mishap as well. This because, as Husemann explains, “everything that was in the center of the house where (the house mover) told me to put it ended up slamming into that wall.”

Wow. Anyone ever hear of loading a moving truck by piling everything up in the middle? 

Neighborhood resident John Sargent says he’s seen a few accidents along that curve and thinks that guard rails need to be installed to prevent more.

Meanwhile, city planners are busy installing guard rails along the entire route of Austin Home Movers’ next job. Probably, anyway.

Atlas Flexes Their Service

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[Synopsis: Atlas promises quicker, easier moves with Atlas Flex®. But how does it actually work?]

Those who do not adapt shall perish, says conventional wisdom, and Atlas Van Lines appears to be heeding the call.

Recently Atlas introduced a program called Altas Flex®, an apparent hybrid of a typical full-service move and a zippy-quick mini-move for those who don’t need and can’t wait for a tractor trailer. According to their media announcement:

“While people are moving more often, they are also moving small loads. To accommodate these consumers, the company has launched Atlas Flex®, a new program offering consumers with smaller shipments (5,000 pounds or less) the same high-quality service Atlas Van Lines is known for with much faster transportation. Atlas Flex provides much more specific transit windows and can move someone in cross country in 12 business days or less during peak moving season.”

Great. How does it work?

“First, household goods are packed at the customer’s residence by an Atlas Agent crew and taken to the agent’s warehouse. Next, a carrier arrives and transports the containerized shipment to the destination Atlas Agency warehouse. Upon arrival at the destination warehouse, delivery is scheduled to residence.”

To us it sounded like a small full-service move with an ABF truck thrown in. But instead of rely on our own potentially inaccurate assessments we contacted Atlas for more specifics.

Finally, this is what they said,

“Your household goods (HHG) would be loaded loose into an Atlas truck at origin residence. From there it would be taken to the Atlas agent’s warehouse and loaded into wooden containers, referred to as lift vans. Once crated, a third-party transportation company would haul your HHG to an Atlas delivery agent. Once a delivery date is confirmed, an Atlas crew will deliver your items to the destination residence.”

Yup. Pretty much what we figured.

They also articulate that Flex is only available in a limited amount of markets and through participating agents. We might read this to mean test markets and trials through a few selected agencies, but the bottom line seems to be this: Atlas recognizes the need to adapt to a customer base that is becoming increasingly mobile, demanding and resourceful.

Of course, we saw that years ago.

UPDATE: After completing our look into Atlas’s new service we found out that Two Men & A Truck are initiating a similar service, involving a 3rd-party transportation provider. That press release can be found here.

A Look at the 2015 FAST Act

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Cities, Towns, Tolls…and Paperwork?

When was the last time you hit a pothole? Drove over a stretch of cracked and crumbling pavement? Had a bridge collapse right under your tires?

Maybe those first two have happened in the recent past. And that last one? We hope it never has and never will happen to any of us. But there’s something all these things have in common.

They are all potential targets of the five-year, $305-billion Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act signed into law on December 4th. This bill is described in a piece offered by AJOT, the American Journal of Transportation, as a bipartisan, long-term transportation funding bill that will provide much-needed investments in our nation’s roads.

Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association, summarizes the bill this way:

“Our bridges and highways urgently need a serious upgrade that will help strengthen America’s economy. This bill makes sure that both moving company drivers and everyday Americans can have access to a more modern transportation system.”

This all sounds well and good. But as we all know, federal money comes with federal rules. And Rule One is: not everybody wins.

Where are all the dollars being driven?

Eric Jaffe at Citylab points out one interesting aspect of the bill: “In the past, metro area planners had to follow the design standards used by state planners…Moving forward, (city) planners will be able to use a street manual that differs from the state’s official road design publication.”

In other words, local officials will have a freer hand in deciding how best to serve their own areas, right?

Not so fast, small-town transportation industry guy.

As Transportation 4 America puts it: “Though (FAST) does slightly increase funding directly to metropolitan areas, it failed to give smaller communities any more control over federal funding.” Why? Because this increase in funding and autonomous spending only applies to metropolitan areas with a population over 200,000.

The little guys lose again.

But wait! There’s another way to get a sliver of this $305 billion dollar pie.

A second change in how transportation funding will be allocated involves a federal road works financing program called TIFIA. In the past, qualifying for a low-interest loan through this program required a minimum project cost of $50 million. “The FAST act reduces that threshold to $10 million,” Jaffe tells us, “bringing projects from smaller cities into play.”

Sounds like some of that money will make it out to some of our suburban neighborhoods after all. But on their blog T4A reminds us that, for those of us in smaller municipalities, the FAST Act “(leaves) decisions about which projects to build in the hands of the state DOT, which often ignores local wishes.” Eric Jaffe adds the idea that since the money allocated to TIFIA has been cut from $1 billion down to about one-fourth that amount, FAST “is likely to remain biased toward larger metros that can get applications in more quickly” to grab more of that money.

Picture these smaller towns fighting for the funding they need in the face of the larger cities’ power and pull. It’s like a fiscal David and Goliath story. (Maybe we could call it Dodge and Gotham?)

But who can say with any certainty how this new bill will play out in real life? The safe money says that those of us in our country’s larger cities will have the pleasure of navigating a few more road construction sites in the next few years. The rest of us will have to be content with the usual traffic on the same old roads we’re used to.

Less Free-dom on the Highway?

The good folks at Future Structure point out one part of the FAST Act that has the potential to affect everyone – on the highways in three states anyway. All you guys and girls in Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia may not be too excited to hear that FAST contains allowances for these three states to institute new tolls on existing highways. You can, however, take heart in Future Structure’s assertion that none of these states have any plans to do this.

That’s the good news. The bad news is, that opens up the rest of us to the possibility of new tollways since, if these three states don’t use their authority to establish new tolls, that authority could be given to another state.

So keep some spare change handy, wherever you are.

As far as our industry is concerned

There are both pros (huge funding for our nation’s highways) and cons (little if any chance of seeing any of that $305 billion go to the local roads we use every day) to the FAST Act. But somewhere in the middle of this 1300-page bill we see something intriguing.

Section 5503(c)(1)(a) puts forth the recommendation of “condensing publication ESA 03005 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (aka the ‘Rights & Responsibilities’ pamphlet we give to our customers) into a format that is more easily used by consumers.” The working group charged with developing such recommendations is to be comprised of, in part, “representatives of the household goods moving industry”.

Anyone out there want to apply?

Meanwhile, Section 5503(c)(1)(c) sets forth the idea of “reducing and simplifying the paperwork required of motor carriers and shippers in interstate transportation.”

While the federal government is not exactly known for its operational simplicity we will keep our hopes up and look forward to some positive developments on this. If we don’t see smoother roads in town maybe we’ll at least see a smoother, easier ride down the paperwork trail.

Summing Up

However this $305 billion is spent, it’s going to continue to be business as usual for us. That means watching for potholes, taking it easy over those stretches of sketchy pavement and just watching out for each other out there.

All while hoping no bridges fall out from under us.

Move That House!

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Desperate Moment Calls for Measures

We’ve heard of movers abandoning people’s property. We’ve heard of houses being moved. Now we have someone moving a house onto someone’s property and then abandoning it.

Mark Holmes of Fort Collins, Colorado recently received a letter from the city telling him to move the house that is parked on his property – or be fined $1,000 a day. Hardly sounds fair since he didn’t even put it there.

Back in August the Dejohn House Moving Company apparently decided to park their truck, along with the house they were moving, on Holmes’s vacant lot. After months of requests, they have yet to move it – which shouldn’t be too hard since the house is still on the trailer which is still hooked up to the truck.

Holmes says as far as getting the house off his land he is running out of ideas – so we thought we would give him some.

Mark, we respectfully submit the following ideas for your unwanted intruder.

Burn it.

  • Turn it into the animal hospital you wanted.
  • Rent it out to Colorado State University students for a rave.
  • Open up one side of the house, let a few starving artists in to do their thing and call it art.
  • Open up one side of the house, let a few aspiring actors and actresses live there and call it reality TV.
  • Donate it to the FCPD for one of those ‘smash it with a sledgehammer for a dollar’ fundraisers.
  • Attract prospective buyers with a special ‘free house with every land purchase’ offer.
  • It’s sitting on a trailer, hooked up to the truck, there’s got to be a YouTube video on how to hotwire an engine.
  • Call the Duck Commander, he’ll know what to do.

Of course, we’d all rather just see the guys at Dejohn get their butts and their wheels moving instead.

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