AutoMatters: Rent a Truck & Move It Yourself

By Jan Wagner

A few weeks ago my daughter asked me for a favor: would I move some very nice furniture that she had been given by her aunt and uncle from their house in San Diego to her new home in LA? She even offered to make the arrangements and pay for a van.

I have many years of road and track experience behind the wheels of cars but I have rarely driven trucks, so this would be a learning opportunity. I decided to seek professional advice.

The Penske name has long been associated with the best and most successful teams in professional racing, which I cover in AutoMatters. I often see their bright yellow rental trucks on the road. That is why I contacted Penske Truck Rental.

I told them what I needed and added that I was considering writing an AutoMatters column about my experiences. I asked if that was of interest to them. They said yes and arranged to provide me with a complimentary truck rental, as well as everything else that I needed, except the gas.

The first important step was determining what size truck I would need. For personal rentals such as mine they rent 12-, 16-, 22- and 26-foot trucks. I gave them the overall measurements of the furniture and asked what size they would recommend. They told me that a 12-foot box truck should do the job nicely.

They asked me questions about important aspects of my move that I had not considered. For example, would I need furniture pads and a dolly, along with rope to secure everything to the sides of the box so that it would not move around? Various kinds of insurance is available. They even sell padlocks to lock the loading door – useful for when the loaded trucks are parked and unattended.

Even though I did not need them they also sell small, medium, large and wardrobe-sized boxes, which you can order online (shipping is free on orders over $25). If you need help with your move, their website explains that they have teamed up with companies that can provide labor for packing, loading, unloading and even driving the rental truck.

That brings up an important point. Driving a moving truck safely is more difficult than driving a car. Even though the truck that I had was well equipped with an automatic transmission and air conditioning, and in excellent condition, I had very little experience driving trucks. Unlike cars, which are quite aerodynamic, box trucks get buffeted by the wind. At freeway speeds this can be quiet noticeable. Consequently I frequently needed to make small but necessary steering corrections to stay in the middle of my lane.

There is no interior rearview mirror on a box truck, since there is nothing to see, and shoulder checking will only show the driver what is directly beside the cab’s doors, since there are no other side windows. I needed to rely completely on what I could see in the large side-view mirrors.

As I drove on the freeways, I tried to keep to the right and stay out of the way of cars and other vehicles. When conditions allowed, I drove at the posted speed limits, but the vast majority of cars were moving much more quickly. That speed differential made it even more important for drivers to give me a break when I occasionally needed to change lanes, like when my lane became an exit-only lane. Unfortunately they rarely slowed down and sometimes they even sped up. Please be courteous to truck drivers and let them in when they signal.

I delivered my daughter’s furniture and helped her set it up. She was thrilled. Then I returned the truck.

In closing, I’d like to pass along some important truck driving safety advice. Carefully adjust your mirrors before you leave the rental site. Pre-determine the distance behind your truck of something that you see in the mirrors, so you’ll know how far back the traffic is before you try to change lanes. Be aware that you will not be able to see a car if it is directly behind your truck. When driving look ahead, maintain plenty of distance behind vehicles and slow down gently. Be aware of your truck’s height and watch for overhead clearance signs. Obey truck weigh stations’ signs.

For more information visit Penske Truck Rental at or phone 1-800-GO-PENSKE.

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Copyright © 2014 by Jan Wagner –

AutoMatters #337