Idea #20: Use U-Haul trucks as a “human migration indicator”Posted: December 14, 2010
First, I’d like to apologize to any regular readers for my absence. It’s my senior year of high school, and when I’m not busy with clubs, college applications, or studying, I’m usually flat-out tired. I know that’s hardly an excuse, but it’s something.
Call me Captain Obvious, but when people in America move, they tend to bring their belongings with them. Though the amount of stuff they bring depends on how much they own or are willing to leave behind, most families can’t fit two closets, a kitchen, three bedrooms, and Fido into the Honda, so they turn to moving companies. U-Haul is one of those companies, and it’s unique in that it’s more or less a self-service system, meaning that customers do what they desire with the product. That’s what gives its network so much potential as an indicator.
This idea writeup is short and simple. People in different professions often wonder where the population moves. U-Haul vehicles are already location-tracked, and customers pick up and deposit them at their own start and finish points. By taking the start data and the finish data and putting them on a map, analysts can see trends in movement across North America. During the upcoming winter holidays, will more New Englanders travel South than West? During which month do the most people depart from Vancouver? Data from the trucks can give views that answer questions like these and allow for market research that is nothing if not interesting.
One limitation to this idea is the budget factor. U-Haul only caters to one segment of a broad market, and more expensive companies that include labor in their services quickly snap up other potential clients. As a result, the market’s “migration patterns” that come from analysis like this probably won’t be entirely accurate.