SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – Help is available for service members, civilians and their families making a permanent-change-of-station move this summer, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command officials here said.
SDDC, a component of U.S. Transportation Command, provides global deployment and distribution services to meet the nation’s objectives and deploys or sustains about 90 percent of the Defense Department’s equipment and supplies by leveraging the capability of commercial industry and other military services.
The summer months are the busiest time of the year for moving and the volume of household goods moves this summer is extremely high, officials said, noting that only a finite number of Defense Department-approved trucks and service providers are available to do military moves.
“Our support to the warfighter is the most important thing we do,” said Army Brig. Gen. Susan A. Davidson, SDDC’s commanding general. “And that includes doing everything we can to help service members and their families during a PCS move.”
This summer, at some locations, the average wait time for a mover to arrive and pick up a member’s household goods shipment after booking can be as long as 60 days.
SDDC officials recommend giving the installation transportation office or personal property shipping office the first opportunity to assist, as they are equipped to resolve most issues that occur during peak moving season.
SDDC works with the military services and the commercial moving industry to anticipate and circumvent potential problem areas that could arise with personal property moves, especially during the peak moving season. Communications — including conference calls and webinars — are a constant, with more frequent emphasis leading up to and throughout the peak season. The command also produces brochures and information updates for service members with advice for moving during the summer.
“This summer is presenting a little different challenge for us than past summer moving seasons,” said Terry Head, president of the International Association of Movers. “First, we are experiencing a significant rise in corporate moves this year, as opposed to previous [years], which is adding more demand to our current capacity. Secondly, we are also seeing a two-week shift of our normal busiest peak moving time, because many schools have let out later in the year due to the harsh winter we experienced.”
After last year’s peak season, SDDC hosted a “Hotwash” meeting with the services and the moving industry to discuss issues and avoid repeat problems during this year’s summer season. As a result, several changes to the Defense Personal Property Program, or DP3, were made to help increase the quality of service provided by the moving companies this year.
The most prominent change raises the carrier’s performance score target via the customer satisfaction survey from 50 percent to 70 percent. The goal, officials said, is to keep the best carriers in the program by awarding them future business. They encourage customers to complete the survey after their move to help in improving their next move and those of others who move in the meantime.
SDDC also approved requests from the services to expand the “short-fused shipment” window from five to 10 days, decreasing the workload of transportation and personal property shipping offices and allowing transportation service providers more flexibility to accept shipments and meet customer’s needs.
Service members can be better prepared and receive more timely assistance during the busy summer by planning and coordinating their move as soon as they get their orders, paying attention to detail when they complete their forms, and most important, remaining flexible throughout the moving process, officials said.
First, SDDC recommends giving the transportation or personal property shipping office the first opportunity to assist, even if a shipment is booked through the Move.mil website. In most cases, officials emphasized, they can solve many of the problems that might occur.
The majority of issues will be best solved at the local level, officials added, and in many cases, SDDC experts will begin their effort to help by re-engaging with the local office, so it’s best to work the issue the local level first. If issues can’t be solved locally, service members can contact an SDDC representative via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. A personal property expert will respond and provide appropriate help.
Davidson said she’ll ensure her staff stays focused on providing first-class service, but wants to remind service members and their families that there are things they can do to help themselves.
SDDC provides the following tips to help make the moving experience better:
— Once you get orders, immediately start your moving process for a better chance to lock in your preferred pickup and delivery dates;
— Because requested pickup and delivery dates may not be immediately available during this time, flexibility is very important, and building extra time into your schedule for unforeseen circumstances is recommended; and
— Requested pickup and delivery dates are not confirmed until the member and the commercial carrier agree on the actual pack and pick-up dates.