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Why Your Move May Be Even Worse Than Usual During This Busy PCS Season

Why Your Move May Be Even Worse Than Usual During This Busy PCS Season
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This article by Karen Jowers originally appeared on Military Times, the nation's largest independent newsroom dedicated to covering the military and veteran community.

As the moving season heats up, some service members are already having problems scheduling their household goods moves. And now a new technology problem has surfaced that’s making things worse.

For two weeks, the computerized system that is the backbone of the entire household goods moving process has been “almost at a dead stop,” causing a traffic jam of sorts for service members who needed to get their moves scheduled, said John Becker, director of military policy for the American Moving and Storage Association, a trade organization representing moving companies, including many that are authorized by the Defense Department to move tens of thousands of military members’ household goods. There were still problems as of June 17, according to Becker.

“The next two weeks could be ugly,” he said.

He described a “major problem” that began June 3, after U.S. Transportation Command officials implemented an upgrade to the technology of the system that awards service members’ shipments to companies. Companies have been unable to see the shipments in the system, so they couldn’t book the shipments. Personal property offices have been trying to get shipments booked, he said. TRANSCOM has oversight and responsibility for household goods shipments.

While this system problem is separate from the ongoing and growing shortage of movers in some areas, the combination is exacerbating problems, Becker said. Over the years, there has been an increasing shortage of commercial trucks and drivers to haul shipments, and a shortage of labor to handle the packing and loading. The shortages are getting worse this year, as workers leave the industry for other jobs in the improving economy.

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Information was not immediately available from TRANSCOM officials about the technological problems, how many shipments were affected, and what effects the outage will have on service members’ moves over the next few weeks.

TRANSCOM and the military services have taken steps to ease requirements for moving companies and to spread out the military moves to ease the crunch of military moves. The busiest period is generally between May 15 and July 10, but about 40 percent of all military moves are made between May 15 and Aug. 31.

While the volume of military moves scheduled as of June 7 – 80,296 — is similar to the three-year average of 75,875 at this point in the peak season, more moves are being scheduled in advance, at least as of June 7, according to Dave Dunn, a spokesman for TRANSCOM. He said there has been success with the services getting orders out sooner to their service members, which takes pressure off scheduling the move. Service members have a better chance of getting the move date they want if they can schedule further ahead of the move.

Military Times learned about the technology problem June 14, and asked TRANSCOM about how it was affecting scheduling of shipments, but TRANSCOM officials had not responded by press time.

The shortages of movers have continued this moving season. An Army staff sergeant at Fort Meade, Md., said he has been waiting for more than a month for confirmation that his family’s household goods will be packed up and moved. He has tried to contact the government regional Joint Personal Property Shipping Office at Fort Belvoir, Va., and the last time was on hold for two hours. “Other families in my neighborhood alone at Fort Meade have had to change to a [Personally Procured, or do-it-yourself] move… they were unable to obtain movers to get them out of their house,” he said.

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Military Times learned about the technology problem June 14, and asked TRANSCOM about how it was affecting scheduling of shipments, but TRANSCOM officials had not responded by press time.

The shortages of movers have continued this moving season. An Army staff sergeant at Fort Meade, Md., said he has been waiting for more than a month for confirmation that his family’s household goods will be packed up and moved. He has tried to contact the government regional Joint Personal Property Shipping Office at Fort Belvoir, Va., and the last time was on hold for two hours. “Other families in my neighborhood alone at Fort Meade have had to change to a [Personally Procured, or do-it-yourself] move… they were unable to obtain movers to get them out of their house,” he said.

“In some areas, there’s nobody to move service members – no trucks or agents [to pack and load],” Becker said. “June has been a complete nightmare for anybody moving from Minot Air Force Base,” he said.

On May 31, two weeks into the peak season and before the problem with the technology began, Army wife Megan Harless said she was surprised that she was hearing from opposite ends of the spectrum – some families who said they’d had really great moves, with no issues, or a minor issue that was quickly resolved; and others who’d had bad experiences, such as three days of packing shoved into two; boxes that weren’t packed properly; movers not showing up with enough people.

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One spouse reported having a crew loading at her house until 11 p.m. May 30, said Harless, a former Army captain who started a petition on Change.org last August calling for the government to hold moving companies accountable for damage to military families’ household goods, after hearing about issues from other military families. Harless is part of a TRANSCOM advisory group providing input to help improve the moving process for military families.

From what she’s seen this year, she said, “There really is no middle ground. It’s either that you have a really great move, or you’re going to have some issues.”

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