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Changes ahead as PCS 'high season' kicks off

Apr. 25, 2014 - 09:32AM   |  
Expect some changes as moving season kicks off.
Expect some changes as moving season kicks off. (Air Force)
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The rumble of moving trucks is getting closer as military officials and commercial companies gear up for the moving season that is bringing changes — and maybe some challenges — for military families.

For example, a new contractor has taken over the process for moving and storing privately owned vehicles, with some changes taking effect May 1.

And officials are watching some areas where there may be problems in getting military household goods moved — including California and the Dakotas.

With a change in contractors handling POV shipments and storage, some troops may have to drive farther to drop off or pick up their vehicle during their moves, as seven vehicle processing centers will close May 1 when a new contractor, International Auto Logistics of Brunswick, Ga., takes over.

DoD officials analyzed the volume of usage of the VPCs, and had discussions with service officials about troop levels in those areas.

“The sites that remain are ideal sites for families to catch an international flight” after dropping off their vehicles for shipment, said Navy Capt. Aaron Stanley, director of the Personal Property directorate for the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, which manages service members’ household goods moves.

Four of the 13 vehicle processing centers in the continental U.S. will close: Edison, N.J.; Orlando, Fla.; Richmond, Calif. (near Oakland); and New Orleans. Four are closing or have closed in Europe: Mannheim, Germany, RAF Croughton and RAF Menwith Hill, England; and Seville, Spain. The VPC in Mannheim was closed earlier as part of a military reorganization.

The previous contractor, American Auto Logistics, which has handled the moving and storage of POVs for service members since 1998, won’t accept new vehicles at those VPCs after April 30, but the employees will be available at those locations until Aug. 1 to service already processed vehicles until each VPC becomes empty, according to SDDC officials.

With these closures, 35 vehicle processing centers remain; 18 VPC locations have been established in the same cities where VPCs currently operate, but at different locations – nine overseas and all of the remaining nine in the continental U.S.

The other 17 VPC locations that are in the same buildings will be vacated by the previous contractor April 30, then closed for all but emergency drop-offs on May 1 and 2; reopening May 5 for all vehicles.

For detailed information about the locations, see www.militarytimes.com/pov-changes.

As for other household goods being moved by trucks, officials expect roughly the same number of moves of military personnel and families as last year — about 520,000 shipments, Stanley said. Those numbers include multiple shipments for some families, such as express shipments.

But California, North Dakota and South Dakota, and some other areas with large populations, may present some challenges this year, officials said.

In California, newly implemented environmental regulations requiring expensive changes to tractor-trailers’ engines are affecting the number of moving trucks coming into the state, said Scott Michael, vice president of military and government affairs for the American Moving and Storage Association.

Some companies have bought new trucks or made retrofits in anticipation of the change, but “quite a few are choosing to stay out of California,” Michael said, adding that many also are working out different arrangements.

Stanley said SDDC has encouraged the military services to watch the shipments coming out of California, and make use of all options available, such as crating household goods in containers that allow them to be moved without having to use a large truck.

There’s a different problem in the Dakotas, Stanley said: not enough moving companies. Each year, SDDC tries to offer an open season for companies interested in moving military families.

Meanwhile, the military is making changes that will give families more of a voice in determining which companies get PCS moving business — at least for a while. After May 15, the Customer Satisfaction Survey will count for 70 percent of the moving companies’ performance score, up from the current 50 percent.

DoD is increasing the weight of the score because of a related move — officials are taking the claims process module offline later this year, as part of an upgrade to make the process better for military families.

Claims information currently comprises about 20 percent of the score, but for a time, that information won’t be available. “In the meantime, we’ll use the Customer Satisfaction Survey to make up for that,” Stanley said.

Meanwhile, Stanley said, wherever a service member and family are located, they can help make their move smoother by being flexible in their moving dates, planning ahead and making arrangements as soon as possible through www.move.mil or their installation transportation office.

“Provide us your feedback so we can continue to make the experience as good as possible for all military families,” he said.

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