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DIY Moving: Load for Safety
Follow the 60/40 Rule for Trailer/Truck Loading

Sometimes and for any number of reasons, it just makes sense to move yourself instead of hiring a mover. Should you decide to do it yourself, here are some tips to packing that trailer or truck you rent correctly to minimize damage to your household goods, your vehicle, and others.

Before You Start

It’s tempting to get a bunch of random, empty boxes from the grocery store and from behind your local home goods store. But there’s a good reason to get boxes from a moving company (or consider asking on your local Next Door, Craigslist, or Freecycle sites): they’re sturdy and they’re uniform for easy stacking. United Van Lines has put together a wonderful collection of videos showing you how to best pack every item in your home. Don’t forget that we can provide you with all the packing supplies you need.

Assuming you’ve got everything well-packed and you’re now ready to load, you’re going to need a few supplies:

  • Furniture and box dollies
  • Moving blankets
  • Furniture pads
  • Tape
  • Moving straps, ropes, bungee cords or other types of tie-downs
  • Work gloves
  • Small step-stool or ladder
  • Plastic bags for filler items such as couch cushions, pillows, rugs

Load It Up

Ideally, you’ll have a few friends who can help you load up. If you do, put one or two in the truck/trailer and get the rest to help you move appliances and boxes to the trailer. Those in the truck/trailer should be prepared to use the furniture pads and blankets between the wall of the vehicle and your household goods, and between items so they don’t rub. Remind them to put heavier items on the bottom and lighter, odd-shaped, and fragile items on the top. They should also be ready to tie off each floor-to-ceiling tier of furniture or boxes before starting the next.

When loading a truck or trailer, remember the 60/40 rule. Put 60% of your heaviest stuff in the front of the truck; and 40% in the back. (Here’s a great video that shows you what happens when you don’t load properly.) That translates into:

  • Appliances up front, closest to the trailer hitch/truck cab
    • Put blankets between so they don’t rub
    • Use LIFO boxes and fillers for any empty spaces
    • Heavier boxes can go on top of appliances
  • Tables and desks in the center
    • If the table has thin legs, consider putting it on its top with its legs up so the legs don’t get damaged from weight or movement
    • Heavy boxes with workout weights and textbooks can be placed beneath
    • Increasingly lighter boxes can go on top of table surfaces
  • Mattresses and couches on the sides of center, on end if possible
    • Place wrapped, framed artwork, mirrors, head/footboards upright between mattresses
    • Point furniture legs toward walls and use the space for filler items such as couch cushions
  • Heavy boxes in the back with toolboxes, step stools, and other small filler items last

With everything properly padded and tied off, you’re ready to hit the road. You’re going to need a good padlock to keep your stuff secured on your trip. And when possible, keep your more expensive items with you—such a jewelry and laptops. Be sure to mind the maximum advised speed limits for your truck/trailer. Heavily loaded vehicles take longer to brake, can more easily tip on curves, and are not as aerodynamic as cars. Safe travels!