On the move
He’s been lucky to enjoy good health, but many longtime movers say there’s no way around back and joint injuries. Degenerative discs and pulled muscles are common complaints. “It’s somewhat of a young man’s job, but there are not a lot of young men coming into the business,” Tuck says.
More attention to ergonomic lifting and the use of helpers cuts back on injuries. Cordiero stretches every day and engages in physical activity – such as biking and walking his traveling partner, a German shepherd named Pound – to stay fit for the job.
Along with the good money comes high job satisfaction, thanks in part to the bonds that develop between movers and their clients. Garlick has enjoyed getting to know many of his repeat customers. “There’s such a high level of interaction that you develop relationships not often seen in other segments of the trucking industry,” he says.
HELPING HANDS MAKE IT HAPPEN
Most owner-operators have to hire their own helpers. Because sloppy assistance in packing and loading can lead to a claim that the owner-operator has to pay, this is one of the challenging parts of household moving.
There’s also the matter of good workers being hard to come by. Owner-operator Joe Garlick travels with his longtime employee, Tim Worth. He’d rather pay Worth for his time throughout the drive than try to do it without him. “We’ve worked together for so long, it’s one less detail I have to worry about,” Garlick says. If the job is too big for the two of them, then he dips into his “little black book” of local names and numbers.
Owner-operator Bob Cordiero hires local helpers from a carefully guarded list he’s continually updating. The workers make an average of $12 to $15 per hour and can make or break a job. “I have to pay for any damages, so believe me, I’ll fire a guy in a minute if he doesn’t do the job to my expectations,” Cordiero says.
Most household movers say the quality of temporary helpers has decreased over the years. Larry Park, owner of Park Transfer and Storage in Tuscaloosa, Ala., an agent for North American Van Lines, says helpers tend to be more transient and less dependable than when he started out 30 years ago. “However, when you get good, hard workers, you keep up with them and treat them well,” he says. Competitive hourly wages, meal and travel expenses and a general attitude of respect toward helpers goes a long way toward keeping the job moving smoothly.
Owner-operator Mike Stinelli says he runs his crew like a drill sergeant. “I’m tough but fair,” he says. “You have to earn their respect and keep them motivated to do a good job. Unfortunately, your helpers reflect on you.”
UNPACKING THE NUMBERS
A year in household moving:
$10 BILLION in revenue
1.8 MILLION HOUSEHOLDS moved by professionals
17 MILLION HOUSEHOLDS change homes each year
Average cargo in a commercial move:
Weighs 8,000 POUNDS
Travels about 1,200 MILES