Guest: Rick Marsh, Director of the Personal Property Program at TRANSCOM
What is PCS season looking like this year?
It’s challenging for sure. The volume is lining up with typical levels. We saw some early peaks in April and May, and we are already seeing more loads scheduled for August. Right now, the challenge is about availability–getting movers to show up. Like many industries, movers are seeing labor shortages and also in the commercial non-DoD market. This means a lot of frustrations for customers with moving companies not keeping appointments, and with deliveries getting delayed. As things go into storage, we will have challenges in July and August getting things delivered.
If a family’s shipment is turned back just before the date, what should they do?
To date, we have picked up about 160,000 shipments. This is slightly above where we were in 2019. They should first call the Transportation Office to see if another TSP is available. Then they should call the chain of command to let them know you may need relief of report dates, relief with the housing office, or other entitlements that fall outside the transportation realm.
If a TSP is assigned, and the local agent cancels the moving date, what should the family do?
Do those same two phone calls, but you can also call your moving company. Any moving company worth their salt should be able to walk you through the schedule and what they will do to make it right.
If everything is packed up and shipments aren’t picked up, what can families do when there is no driver?
Make those phone calls, you don’t need to solve this alone. Send it to a local agent or TSP to take it to a storage facility. If folks are comfortable camping out in the house for a while, contract the company for an Inconvenience Claim so you don’t come out of pocket for those immediate expenses.
If families want to secure their own storage unit, definitely talk to your transportation office first to make sure you can get reimbursed for that expense.
If no TSP is assigned, when does a family need to make other plans?
If you are a short fuse shipment, getting picked up within 10 days, then give it 2-3 days for the office to figure it out. All other requests take about 10 days to get TSPs scheduled throughout the installation processing office and return the TSP to the customer. This is from the time you request shipment until your requested pick-up date.
How does an Inconvenience Claim work on the front end of the move?
There are some nuances here, but if your shipment has been turned back and can’t be booked by another TSP on the original timeline, there can be an Inconvenience Claim. It may include extended rent, home cleaning fees, and other charges within reason. This is specific to a TSP who has committed to handling a shipment and then doesn’t handle it. The customer shouldn’t be bearing the cost.
Moving companies are supposed to initiate the conversation about Inconvenience Claims, but not all will do that. If you think you are owed one, then bring it up. They should know the rules of when it is required. Use the chain of command and transportation office to highlight it if needed.
It’s worth highlighting the right answers and wrong answers. You can’t immediately go out and spend your own money, or choose to do a PPM. You need to first exhaust other options with the chain of command.
July and August moves should still expect customer service, timely communication, phone calls and emails. You shouldn’t have to guess if or when a company is coming to your house. You should expect your home and belongings to be treated with respect. On the health protocols front, you can expect slight modifications. Masks are still required indoors, but fully vaccinated personnel no longer need to wear a mask outdoors.
If you are trying to schedule a move originating in the US, most are already booked through July, and some are booked into August, so you can expect some delays. Overseas moves are at usual capacity for peak season moves and timelines.
What solutions are coming from TRANSCOM and the moving industry?
The DoD is paying competitive rates to help get past some of the challenges. Increasing funds helps increase the labor. No one in leadership thinks that service members should be forced to handle a PPM or start spending money out of pocket. We need to exhaust all possible options first.
Where can families find resources for moving?
Move.mil has most of our resources, all the official content. There is also good information coming from Facebook pages and groups like yours.
Are there any policy updates affecting families?
Anything the department put in place last year is still available. There haven’t been major policy changes this summer, but the resources are still available through the transportation offices.
Why can’t everything going into storage be crated?
There is a major lumber storage. There is also a shortage of lift vans, which are needed for unloading international shipments. There has been a push to broaden the crating options for domestic moves, to prevent things from getting separated in storage. But many moving companies wouldn’t accept any crated shipments this year because there were limited numbers of lift vans and they all needed to be used for overseas shipments.
Moving trucks are more expensive now. What if the rental price is higher than our weight allotment?
Go back to the Transportation Office and request actual cost reimbursement. In a typical PPM, your reimbursement is tied to what we would have paid the industry. An Actual Cost Reimbursement is used in limited scenarios, but it is situations like this where you had to spend above the industry average because you were forced into a PPM.
This year, there are some additional fees that will be covered with a PPM. The services have identified things that need to get rolled into the cost: bulky items, pick-up from extra locations, and fuel surcharges. These can be added to a PPM voucher to make sure a customer is properly compensated.
Do Inconvenience Claims cover extended hotel stays for missed dates?
It depends on your scenario, but yes, if you are forced into a hotel because the moving company changed the timeline, then you should not pay out of pocket. The inconvenience starts on the day after expected delivery. If it isn’t covered by the Inconvenience Claim, then you should check other reimbursement options and PCS entitlements to see if it can be covered.
Who should military families reach out to with moving issues?
Each of the services has new help desks that are available for transportation-type issues. TRANSCOM has a 24-hour help desk. If you have broader relocation issues like report date issues, start with your chain of command. We don’t always have Relocation experts with DoD. Families have been voicing these concerns for a few years now, and we are still working on it. We can work closely with the moving industry to improve capacity, adjust some rules.
Any messages for our military families?
I have heard reports of moving companies encouraging families to cancel their shipment so the transportation office can find someone else to cover it. Don’t do that! It’s highly unethical. Don’t go into DPS and cancel a shipment. Instead, talk to your transportation office and report the moving company. They may be trying to avoid Inconvenience Claims. We want to hear about any misinformation like this.
If you are absolutely stuck and have exhausted other channels, you may email Mr. Marsh directly: [email protected]