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Diesel fuel rule ahead

Movers enjoy return of business in and out of California

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Movers in San Diego County are busier than they have been in years, but concerns about new California Air Resources Board emission regulations for diesel fuel — set to take effect next January — are putting a damper on the celebrations.

“It’s probably not been this busy in seven or eight years,” said Linda Oakley, an Atlas Van & Storage vice president who works on behalf of both Allied Van Lines and North American Van Lines. “It seems to be like this across the country. The downturn is over.”

Oakley said her business is up about 22 percent from the spring of last year, “and last year was a good year.”

Mark Keiper, Sullivan Moving & Storage executive vice president, said his business is up about 30 percent over last year and that inbound moves are about equal to those going out of state.

“There have been a lot of local moves," Keiper said. "There is a lot of activity. Maybe not back to where it was, but a lot of people are buying housing."

Bryan Bloom, chief executive officer of Priority Moving — a Wheaton Worldwide Moving agent — said the state still looks like an outbound market to him.

“If you go from San Diego to Florida, it is something like $1,800 one way," Bloom said. "If you go from Florida to San Diego, companies will practically pay you to bring the truck back.”

As for those who plan to rent a truck themselves rather than paying the professional rates, Oakley said that more people are realizing the drawbacks of do-it-yourself moving.

Linda Wells, office manager of Budget Truck Rental of Mission Valley, said she is as busy as she can remember.

She also said many more people in her network seem to be leaving the area than coming.
“We have a lot of Navy and Marines who are relocating,” Wells added.

A United Van Lines migration study for 2012 concluded that California, after years of being an outbound state, is actually more or less in equilibrium.

“This is the first time in years that outbound and inbound traffic have been equal,” Oakley said adding that her June dates are filling up rapidly.

Wells, Oakley and other movers represented here said if people wait until the last moment to reserve the move, they risk not having a truck, or the move being much more expensive than they would have had it been planned in advance.

“It’s like the airlines at peak times. They only have so many seats left,” Oakley said. “If you call just a week in advance you may have to pay more.”

Scott Harvey, Bekins Moving Solutions regional general manager, said people should book at least 30 days in advance during the summer rush.

Keiper said homeowners should give movers as much time as possible during this peak season.

“It should be at least two or three weeks in advance,” Keiper said.

Oakley said she likes having the problem.

“It’s all good, and peers from across the country are telling me that there’s no recession today,” Oakley said. “The trucks are all full.”

Bloom also said activity has been brisk, he added rates haven’t been changed much — while expenses from labor to diesel have continued to climb.

Rates vary according to company, distance, the date and other factors, and are still generally $90-$100 per hour for two people and a truck on a local move.

Some of the movers have bought trucks both due to need and the fact that all who operate in the state, regardless of where they are from, being required to meet more stringent air regulations at the start of next year.

The cost of retrofitting a truck with such an emissions system can be as much as $20,000 or even more in some instances.

“As a result, the industry will have trucks that will only go up to California,” Oakley said adding that this only serves to make the state less competitive.

Keiper said that after not having purchased trucks for four or five years, his company bought five or six trucks within the past few weeks and leased six or seven more.

Sullivan's San Diego offices reserves about 40 trucks for the Interstate and 60 for the local moves — all of which, whether owned or rented, would have to comply with the California Air Resources Board regulations.

Harvey said at a time when there is a driver shortage in the industry, truck owners will steer away from California to avoid paying the $20,000 for the retrofit.

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