A haul new industry

Startup franchisees try to take the hassels out of junk removal

Published: Sunday, Jan. 18 2004 12:38 a.m. MST

"It's a reach niche market," Lyon said. "There is a wide variety of things we can do. That's why the industry even exists. We can do it more efficiently than other alternatives. There's a need out there, and it's not really being filled efficiently."

Sometimes a TurboHaul or 1-800-Got-Junk? simply does the work without the need for roll-off containers, which often are filled quickly by neighbors or are aesthetically unpleasant if left to sit for days on end.

"With us, you only pay for the space the stuff takes up in the truck," Lyon said.

Residential service is $13 per cubic yard, with a dollar less for commercial properties. Folks generating a lot of junk can latch onto a contract for at least once-a-month service for as little as $10 per cubic yard.

TurboHaul does not accept normal raw waste such as food refuse, nor does it accept hazardous materials like wet paint or propane tanks. But dry paint, batteries and tires are accepted and disposed of properly. A typical haul consists of old clothes in beat-up boxes from the basement.

"Our truck was designed and then redesigned over the years to make the most efficient use of the space," he said. "The way it's loaded, we can break down the cubic yardage in the truck. You can look and see how much space it's taking up in the truck. That helps the customer feel they are getting their money's worth and not that we're just throwing out some number and charging them what we feel like."

Gibson charges a minimum $41 and then a volume rate kicks in. The truck's capacity is 15 cubic yards, and it costs $318 to fill it. A one-eighth load is $73.

"We haul just about anything two guys can lift," he said, adding that he too has a hazardous-materials ban.

"I would say probably 65 percent of my customers are residential," he said. "We've seen some trends. We've seen a lot of elderly couples use us. Even with city programs, they can't get stuff out to the curb or some Dumpster a couple of blocks away. We've helped property managers, contractors, Realtors, people moving.

"When people have big life-changing events — like a move, a divorce, a death in the family — that's when it's nice to have stuff moved right away. People can't wait for summer neighborhood cleanups sometimes."

Both companies hail their uniformed employees and clean, shiny trucks. Both get the stuff where it lies. "We've crawled into attics and under porches," Gibson said. Both try to recycle materials and donate usable items to Deseret Industries or the Salvation Army.

For both Gibson and Lyon, the niche-hauling business represented a way to return to Utah. Gibson started his business 11 months ago. After living in several cities, he read about 1-800-Got-Junk? in Fortune magazine, found more information on the Internet, bought the franchise a couple of months later and moved his family from Miami.

Lyon, in business only about three months, had a brother working for the company in franchise development and a brother-in-law working as a driver/laborer. A graduate of Brigham Young University, Lyon was living in the District of Columbia but moved his family back to Utah to start up his company.

Both also are coy about competition. Lyon considers the roll-off-container or waste companies an "apples to oranges" comparison. TurboHaul tries to get in where roll-offs are not efficient or when bulky items won't fit into an on-site Dumpster, or small jobs that don't warrant a large roll-off.

And he considers 1-800-Got-Junk? a competitor with a good system.

"There's room for both, definitely," he said. "There will be some battle for market share, but it's such a new thing in this area, I think both companies will prosper very well."

Gibson believes the industry is fragmented "and each has pros and cons," he said. "The junk removal business has a huge potential for growth."

And both expect more competitors to crop up.

"Salt Lake is pretty self-reliant," Gibson said. "Sometimes people feel a little embarrassed to have someone haul their junk. They feel it's their problem and they need to take care of it."

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