How Far Can We Drive Each Day of Our PCS?
by AmeriForce Media - July 8th, 2022
Before permanent change of station (PCS) orders even hit your inbox, you’ve likely already mapped out your route to your next duty station, and maybe even planned a detour to see friends or family along the way. But then you read the rules and feel confused: what is this talk about a 350 miles per-day limit?
PCS travel and DoD regulations
The orders probably say something like, “Travel by privately owned vehicle is authorized…..” followed by more details on reimbursement. The orders may or may not have information on them about how many travel days you are allotted. But they will have the report date on them.
How to calculate PCS travel
A quick look at a map will show you how many hours of driving it will take to get there. For example, if you’re traveling from Fort Huachuca, Arizona to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, you’ll be driving 1,573 miles. As you might guess, the military does not want you making this almost 23-hour drive in one go. They also don’t want you to take two months getting there.
That’s why the military created travel rules, with guidelines for how many days — and overnight stops — it should take a service member to get from point A to point B.
Where to find PCS travel regulations
According to the Defense Travel website’s FAQs, “A traveler who is authorized PCS travel by POV is allowed one day of travel for the first 400 miles between authorized points. For any distance greater than 400 miles, the traveler is allowed another day of travel for every additional 350 miles. See the JTR, par. 050205.”
That’s the calculation the military uses for determining how many travel days they’ll pay for. For the 1,573 mile trip, you are authorized to take five travel days (if the remainder of the mileage divided by 350 is more than 51, add a day). But what’s really important is that you arrive and sign-in on your report date. If you take three days to get there or seven days to get there, it doesn’t really matter. You’ll get paid per diem for the five days.
Planning your family's PCS road trip
Seasoned military spouses and service members have figured out that there’s not much benefit to pushing the limits on this. The reason 350 miles is the recommended amount of miles a day is because that is approximately six hours a day at 60 miles-per-hour. That’s not a lot if you are driving on the interstate at a higher speed than that. But it can really add up to long days if you’re driving two vehicles, one of them hauling a trailer and the other with three kids, a dog and a cat.
Six hours of driving a day for eight days is a lot. The military doesn’t want you to push it to the point of exhaustion. They want to give you wiggle room to stop early if you’re tired and to allow for flat tires or vehicle repairs. But that doesn’t mean you can’t manipulate the timeframe a little to your advantage. For example, on that trip from Fort Huachuca to Pensacola, you may be able to plan some longer days, and then take a day in San Antonio and hit up Sea World.
Most importantly, drive carefully, plan your stops ahead of time and make the most of where this journey takes you.