May 2013

Move Magazine catches up with Pat Crahan, a longtime U-Haul employee and beloved member of the AAMVA family.


I understand you recently passed an important milestone.

In March, I celebrated my 50th anniversary with U-Haul. I’m vice president of government relations. My wife also is celebrating her 25th anniversary with U-Haul.

Congratulations. Fifty years is a long time. Looking back, how has business changed the most since you started?

It has certainly changed from a computers and electronics standpoint. When I started out, we would write contracts for the customer using a ballpoint pen and have three or four copies of carbon paper. Now it’s all done by computer. Back then, people would say, “how do you keep track of equipment.” The answer was, “well, we don’t. We don’t know where it is.” Now, with the computer, if you give me a truck number, I can give you the status of the truck in 10 seconds. Technologically, we have a very sophisticated, state-of-the-art company, and the repair and maintenance programs are as up to speed as the other aspects of the business.

And of course the nature of your business is different today.

Yes. Back then we were a truck and trailer rental company. Today, we do many, many things. Besides providing low-cost moving, we provide mini-storage; install hitches; and sell propane. We sell thousands of boxes for people to pack stuff in, and packing tape. We have recently gone into car sharing, where you can rent a car for a matter of hours; and U-Box, where you can have a box delivered to your home, you can pack it up, and we’ll store it or ship it where you want it.

How did you come to work for U-Haul?

I had been working for an oil field supply company. I got laid off, so I applied for a bunch of jobs. L.S. “Sam” Shoen, the founder, was interviewing in Oklahoma City. I went to the hotel room and was given an I-Q test, and he graded it right there. He said, “OK, you’re the one.” I told him I have to think about it and he said he’d give me until over the weekend. I called him a couple of days later and told him, “If you’ll take a chance on me, I’ll take a chance on you.” I was hired as president of the U-Haul Company of Oklahoma. Sam and I just hit it off. He was really the greatest person I ever met. Fifty years later, I’m still working for the company.

What about your wife, Velva Ruth?

She started out helping me on a volunteer basis while we were raising our four children. She’d drop them off at school, come to work and then pick them up. After a couple of years I gave her minimum wage. Then the chairman of the board noticed that she always traveled with me and volunteered to pick up her expenses. One day he put her on the payroll. That was 25 years ago. She is my executive assistant. Most of my children work or have worked for U-Haul.

You and Velva Ruth host the traditional U-Haul past Presidents/Chairman Salty Dog breakfast at AAMVA conferences. You have gained a reputation for a certain line in a speech about her. What is it?

In my speech at the breakfast I say, “My wife is like my American Express card. I don’t dare leave home without her.” She goes to all the AAMVA workshops and conferences with me and has never missed one. We have been to every state in the U.S. and every province and territory but one in Canada. We’ve been married 57 years. I’m 84.

What Salty Dog Breakfast memory sticks out most in your mind?

Many years ago in Wisconsin, Norbert Anderson was president of AAMVA. Since he is from a farm state, he wanted to have the breakfast on a farm. He had buses at the hotel and gave everyone bib overalls. He gave me oranges ones—for U-Haul. Then he took us to a farm for breakfast. In Baltimore another year, we went to the docks and had breakfast on the pier.

What do you like about AAMVA?

AAMVA, which I’ve been a part of since 1972, has helped our business a lot. We have multiyear trailer plates. We couldn’t have done that without AAMVA. We have truck apportioning. We couldn’t have done that without AAMVA, which started the International Registration Plan (IRP). We almost couldn’t exist without the help of AAMVA and IRP.

Also, I’ve met a lot of great people. We have more friends across the U.S. and Canada than we do in Phoenix. It’s been a great, wonderful experience.

What are your plans for the future?

Just to continue working for U-Haul. Unless I develop an illness or I get fired, I’ll keep on working.