Managing PCS Expectations During COVID
by Lizann Lightfoot - April 9th, 2020
How has the pandemic impacted PCS shipments?
It’s a drastic difference. Normally, moving companies are hiring and training additional personnel now for the summer. Now they aren’t hiring. By week 12 in 2019 there were over 5,000 shipments moved. This year we’ve done about 34-36% of the normal shipments. Normally in March and April you’re doing 4,000- 6,000 shipments per week, and it increases until July. This year, we’re seeing a decrease each week. Some companies are still operating, just not at regular capacity. We understand the DoD has to protect service members, but for retirements, separations, and mission essential moves, the moving is still going to happen. We’re seeing a 50% increase in moves in June and July.
What should military families expect about moving after the Stop Order is lifted?
We don’t know what the workup is going to be. There is a review of the Stop Order every 2 weeks, so many companies are planning to hire by June 30th to have enough personnel to be at normal capacity. But if they bring on new people and don’t have any business, that’s a concern. You can’t go from zero to 1,000 overnight. We are working with the industry to figure out the best capacity each week. Usually every week in June is above 10,000 shipments, and July is just under 10,000 shipments weekly. This will all move to the right. July will be increased and August will be close to 10,000 weekly.
Should I expect a delay in Household Goods delivery after a 2020 PCS move?
We want to meet the customer demands, so if we are doing 15,000 shipments a week, it’s going to be a problem. We told that to Transcom services. If we limit how much is moved each week, they will have better options for capacity of drivers, packers, and everything. We will be working on that with the services, because they all extended the delivery times. For every five days of delivery, they are adding one additional day. This will obviously be felt more for overseas moves going through different ports than it will for domestic.
Will military families be forced to move themselves if they don't want to?
In some cases, depending when you want to move, a PPM (Personally-Procured Move) might be a possibility. But as an industry advocate, I would say no, because the government will still pay to move people. So if you are willing to maneuver your dates, we can still move you. We can’t move every family on July 1st, but the Transportation Office can provide options to understand what will be possible and when you can book a shipment. Normally the last week of June is a nightmare for deliveries and packouts. So definitely try to avoid that week. Email your Transportation Office first, because many are working with skeleton crews. Go to Move.mil if you need contact information to call.
How can military families prepare for their PCS move?
Do your normal preparations: purge items, go through old boxes, make sure you unpack every box from former moves. Group certain items together and organize based on where you are going. Set aside anything that will be going into storage. Take pictures off walls, etc.
What advice do you have for military families doing a PPM?
If you are not packing your own things but hiring a moving company on your own, be very cautious. Look at the moving tips on Moving.org so you set up a move with a verified and well-reviewed moving company. You should get an estimate in writing, and it has to be weight-based. Review your rights and responsibilities when you move. In some cases, cheap shipments are held hostage while shady moving companies demand more money. Go through the Transportation Office and get the form that shows you what you get when you are paid “95% of what the DoD would spend on your move.” Get that number so you can plan for your move.
Will there be an increase in PPM reimbursements?
There are additional incentives the services are considering to see what families want while moving themselves. Nothing is finalized, but they are considering it. We have been working on increased incentives for the past year.
What changes can we expect for OCONUS moves?
We haven’t heard that yet because OCONUS have different transit times. Some carriers are reducing and limiting flights, so cargo capacity is in higher demand, so that may impact Express shipments. But Household Goods are going to move on ships, unless a country is completely shut down. There may be a week delay, but there shouldn’t be a long hold. Pay attention to the limitations and delays at each country. If all shipments are going through one port, it will create a backlog. The same issues will apply going to overseas locations or coming back to the States. Some East Coast US ports have more restrictions than others.
We are seeing that the DoD is not doing expedited passports, so be aware that processing a passport to move overseas will take longer than usual.
How will fall and winter PCS moves be affected?
The winter season moves much fewer shipments per week– usually 4,000 to 5,000. There shouldn’t be a major impact to that. There will probably be an increase in December shipments because kids will stay in school and try to move during winter break. We usually see a spike at the end of November and early December, but we expect it to be closer to normal by then.
By the Fall, we should have a handle on things. Based on the demand, crews and different companies are going to respond by hiring more personnel. By then, we will know how many crews to keep on and to train. Instead of the usual decrease in August, as students and teachers return to their other jobs, companies may need to adjust their employees.
Guest: John Becker, American Moving and Storage Association Interim President
He retired after 20 years in the Air Force, worked for TMO for 20, then went to work for DPS and Development. After 4 years there, he joined AMSA, and is now interim President.