Rick Marsh is the Director of the Personal Property Program with TRANSCOM (Transportation Command). I’m a career civilian and have been with TRANSCOM for 3 years now, working with a talented team in the headquarters and throughout the network.
There are several new PCS business rules this year. What are the major changes?
We did make some changes this year based on what families say are important to them. Most of these rules go into effect this Saturday, May 15th. There are different types of shipments, so some of these rules may not apply to all shipments depending on the exact scenario.
The first change is communication: we have added Saturdays as a requirement for moving companies to have live help answering phone calls.
We added residential properties protections, to protect doorways and high-traffic areas. Many companies were doing it already, but we recognized it was a best practice and it is now required for all companies.
We have made changes to the Personal Property Claims process. Last year, we extended the time to 180 days after a move to report loss or damage. Some families reported that their transportation office told them that was a temporary change due to COVID. That is false. You now have 180 days to report any damage or loss moving forward.
Once you have filed a claim, any claim under $1,000 has to be settled within 30 days, anything over that has to be settled within 60 days. You have the ability to counter-offer a settlement, and moving companies now must respond to your counter offer within 7 days.
Another change is that if something is destroyed beyond repair, it is now the customer’s choice whether they would rather receive the money for the replacement value, or whether they prefer to receive a replacement item.
There is a new rule called the 7-Day Spread. We are trying to give more certainty to scheduling. Previously, when a customer entered a preferred date in DPS, there was no rule about how close a moving company had to be to honor it. Now, for shipments picked up on or after May 15, the moving company must schedule the pickup date to be within 7 calendar days on or after the customer’s preferred pickup date.
Tell us more details about the 7-Day Spread rule.
It’s calculated from the date you enter into DPS as your pick-up date. If you choose May 17 as your DPS pickup date, the moving company has to schedule your pickup date within 7 calendar days, meaning by May 23. Once you make your request, the moving company has 3 days to send you a scheduled date in writing. Remember that a pickup date is different from a packing date. The pickup date is when they load the truck and drive away with your things. A packing date will be a few days ahead of that date, so remember that when entering your preferred pickup date. Because it is 7 calendar days, there will always be a weekend that falls in your 7-day spread, but you do not have to accept a pickup or pack out on a weekend or holiday if you don’t want to, since some government offices will not be open to support you.
What are the changes in the claims process?
When it comes to the salvage rule, that is the rule that moving companies have the right to salvage anything they have paid a claim on. If they pay you for damaged furniture, they have the right to pick up the original item for salvage. Previously, they could pick up that item indefinitely. Now there is an inspector process, they have 45 days to send an inspector to my site, and then 20 days after the inspector’s visit to pick up the item. After that, you are allowed to throw it away. There is a common sense process: you don’t need to hold onto broken glass or mold.
The replacement value option is now a choice for customers instead of being selected by the moving company. You can decide whether you want the money to shop for a new item, or whether you want the moving company to provide a replacement item.
What are the rules about crating and shipment seals?
Years ago, this was written out of the rules, and now it is being reinstated. Companies must use tamper-evidence seals for international HHG shipments, or domestic crated shipments. The sticker seals should be applied in front of you at your home, and you sign them. If they are delivered and the seals are not intact, you can call and report that. If a company needs to open the crate during shipment, they should call the DoD and make sure a quality control inspector is there for the process.
Many families were delayed last year during the pandemic. Is there a backlog of moves?
There is no backlog from 2020. All the services have said they moved who they needed to last year. But there are concerns throughout the global supply chain, and demand for transportation remains high. There are still delays through West Coast ports that are delaying shipments. Last year, we had extended transit times for international shipments, and those continue to be in the program this year, so delays are already accounted for and built into the paperwork.
A lot of moving companies have reported shortages with labor. Some are staffed at 50% capacity. Some agents are already booked through July. The price and availability of lumber to build crates for international shipments means we are reducing the amount of containerized shipments domestically. As soon as you get your orders, go to your transportation office to schedule your shipment.
What are the incentives for Personally Procured Moves (PPM) this year?
We are still reimbursing at 100% for a PPM, so you will receive 100% of what the DoD would have paid a moving company to handle your move. If there were large items, multiple stops, and fuel surcharges, those are all now available to the PPM customer, and they were not previously included in reimbursements. Moving counselors are being trained in these new bonus incentives, so they can help you decide if a PPM is the right choice for you.
PPM reimbursements are calculated by weight and mileage, but remember it is your shipment’s final weight, not the maximum weight allowance. You can use your last move as an estimate, or use the Move.mil calculator to estimate how many goods you will actually transport, which will impact your final PPM reimbursement.
Will the gas shortages and high prices affect moves?
In the short term, if it is resolved in a week, it should not be a concern. We already account for fuel costs in the negotiated price.
What is TRANSCOM’s focus this moving season?
It really boils down to four things: 1. Protecting the force by following COVID protocols. Local rules don’t matter, moving companies are expected to follow last year’s rules to demonstrate screening, wipe down surfaces, etc. 2. Respecting the customers. At the curb, we want a professional experience. Phone calls and emails should be returned in a timely manner. 3. Respecting homes. We included the residential property protections, and expect crews to leave a house just as well as they found it. 4. Respecting belongings. We pay people professional rates and expect them to handle household goods in a professional manner.
Background checks were new last year. How can a crew be verified?
That rule applies whether you were on or off an installation, the moving crew should pass a background check. If you are concerned about anything, call your transportation office immediately. They or your move coordinator can help handle any problems.
What is the Customer Satisfaction Survey?
People have up to a year to submit their Customer Satisfaction survey. Senior level leadership looks at these. It does three things for us. It gives a macro-level look at how the program is doing. It also gives us input to solve problems for people. If we get surveys early, it lets us get involved and solve a reported problem. The surveys directly impact how much business moving companies get. We have more than 900 entities registered to do business in our program. A moving company’s place on that list is determined by their best value score. This is a combination of their customer satisfaction score (70%) and their cost (30%). This determines how many shipments they will get each year.
We have made a few survey changes this year. Moving companies can’t do their own surveys, because this confused people. Our current survey response rate is only 20% so we want people to focus on our survey.
If you had a great moving company who unpacked you, you can request that same company for your next move. It may not be guaranteed, but DPS will try to honor that request. Save the paperwork with your local agent’s name, because that will be the important factor, more so than the name of the larger moving company.
What can families do when they disagree with moving company answers?
Start with the transportation office. You can always contact TRANSCOM and we will help you. We want the service to have the first chance to resolve something, but we also don’t want to wait. There is a TRANSCOM number to call, listed on Move.mil as the TRANSCOM number for non-technical issues. You can contact Mr. Marsh directly via email at [email protected]
Where is crating supposed to occur?
If it is international or a domestic container shipment, it should happen at your home. Non-temp storage shipments will pack at your site, then crate at the warehouse. If it is an international move and they show up without crates, call your quality assurance evaluator. You should be able to see things crated and sealed in front of you. This is listed in the new business rules.
If firearms are part of the shipment, it will not be marked as “firearm.” There are specific requirements for shipping a firearm in your household goods, and there are rules about what can be written on the box or crate containing a firearm.
Is there a secret to logging into DPS at home?
Unfortunately no, we know there are constant IT issues, but we have a very good support team working on them. The Help Desk is available to walk you through any problems you have.