New Brunswick

U-Haul seeing record numbers moving to Atlantic Canada

If you’re looking for more proof of people moving to Atlantic Canada in big numbers look no further than your local U-Haul dealer.

Moving company says most people are moving from Ontario.

Devin Mitchell, logistics manager for U-Haul in Atlantic Canada, says the company has seen a dramatic increase of people moving to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia since COVID-19 hit. (Submitted by Devin Mitchell)

If you want more proof people moving to Atlantic Canada in big numbers, look no further than your local U-Haul dealer. 

At rental locations throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, trucks, vans and trailers are piling up in record numbers. 

According to the company, people are moving here in droves, far outweighing the number of people who are leaving. That means trucks and trailers are piling up. 

"We've had them lined up and down the road," said Keegan Glendenning, a U-Haul employee in Fredericton. 

At Glendenning's location on Hodgson Road, the lot is overflowing. Trucks line one side of the road, trailers line the other.  

It appears the road to Atlantic Canada has nearly become a one-way street. 

And it's all due to COVID-19. 

The U-Haul rental location in Fredericton has trucks and trailers parked on the street as the company records many more people moving into Atlantic Canada in the wake of COVID-19. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"For the first few months of COVID it was very slow, no one was really leaving Atlantic Canada," said Devin Mitchell, logistical manager for U-Haul in Atlantic Canada. "It also seemed like there was a mass exodus leaving Ontario and Quebec, coming back here." 

When the summer months hit, things got crazy. 

"Since July we started blowing it out of the water," said Mitchell. "Huge increases in July, August, and it's probably the busiest September I've ever seen." 

"Many, many, many, more moving in than in previous years," said Mitchell. 

U-Hauls observation of Canadians trending to Atlantic Canada fits with other industries. Realtors have been flat-out selling a record number of houses, often to people who have never stepped inside the building, relying instead on virtual tours. 

In a normal year, Mitchell said the number of Canadians moving tends to drop with the temperatures, but so far he's not seeing a decrease. Mitchell said it's good for Atlantic Canada and it's good for business. 

"It's so much more than we anticipated," said Mitchell. "So I'm hoping that will carry out into October, November and December." 

U-Haul is struggling to get vehicles back to their home locations in Ontario and Quebec. The company has been forced to lower rental fees for people heading to those provinces from New Brunswick. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

According to Mitchell's numbers, most people moving to the Maritimes are mainly from Ontario, but he is also seeing moves from Quebec. He said the number of people moving out hasn't decreased, with numbers comparable to last year. 

But that imbalance has created a bit of a nightmare for a U-Haul logistics manager. Normally there's a steady predictable flow of people moving in and out of the Maritimes. Pair that imbalanced flow of movers with New Brunswick's closed borders and it creates a "Venus fly trap" for moving trucks. 

"We have a record number of equipment in Atlantic Canada," said Mitchell. 

When trucks and trailers start to build up, U-Haul will sometimes hire employees to take vehicles back to other depots across the country to even out the fleet. But the closed border, coupled with the mandatory two-week quarantine, means that's not feasible.  

"I can send a stream of guys driving trucks and trailers out there, but once they fly back, they're out of commission for work for fourteen days," said Mitchell. 

So, the company is offering reduced rates for rentals instead as an incentive to get equipment back to Ontario and Quebec. 

"For the foreseeable future, the rates will probably be pretty low for leaving Atlantic Canada," said Mitchell. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Fowler

Reporter

Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.

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