Webinar: 2022 Updates from U.S. TRANSCOM
by Lizann Lightfoot - June 16th, 2022
Last year, the PCS season was complicated with labor shortages and supply chain issues. Do you have updates on how those issues will affect this 2022 moving season?
Melissa: While we are seeing relaxed masks and COVID measures in some places, the supply chain issues persist. We are seeing this everywhere: the Commissary, the grocery store, and even on Amazon--there are delays nationwide. The same is true for our industry partners. We have approached mitigating the impact to customers in three ways. First, we are talking to our partners about labor shortages, encouraging them to remain in touch with customers, and then also asking them only to accept shipments they can handle. We don’t want our industry partners to accept shipments over their capacity so they won’t disappoint customers.
Next, we are extending the expected transit times for peak season. We work with DoD services, and we know how important it is for orders to be cut earlier. We have been working with the services and asked them to be as proactive as possible in cutting orders to their service members. They have also set goals on how many service members should be moved each week, so they don’t overload the industry during peak season. We have also seen all the branches being more lenient in allowing flexibility with dates. Most services have put a little flex on either side of your report-no-later-than date, so you can typically slide it 15-30 days if needed.
Finally, the most important contact we have is with our customers. We’re encouraging everyone to get in line right away, as soon as you get orders. If you have your orders in hand more than three days, you are probably behind the curve. Reach out to your Transportation Office immediately to schedule your moving counseling. Talk to your local chain of command for flexibility and to increase your options. We are doing our best to make sure everyone stays in contact. Stay in touch with all your main contact points!
Are OCONUS moves also affected by labor shortages?
Melissa: Yes, they are. We see a lot of issues like fuel costs and host nation labor force that are impacting the international shipments too. We are working to ensure that the international shipment times are accurate. If dates are not met, you do have the option to file an Inconvenience Claim to make up some of the cost of items that you need while you are waiting for your goods to be delivered.
There are always small changes to PCS rules and policies each year. What changes do you want military families to be aware of this year?
Jason: We have made several impactful policy changes that are in effect this season.
Electronic Inventories Great news, you’ll be seeing more companies using electronic inventories that are easier to read, and can often be saved to your phone. While they aren’t mandated this year, they are strongly encouraged and will be a requirement for the Global Household Goods Contract, which could take place as early as 2023.
Automatic Re-weighs If your pre-move survey estimates that your shipment will be close to 90% of your allotted weight, then you will automatically receive an email from the Defense Personal Property System (DPS) that they should automatically re-weigh your shipment before they conduct the delivery. This should ensure that the shipment weight is accurate before anyone gets charged. We are especially sensitive to our junior service members to make sure they don’t go overweight. So for E-1 to E-5, and shipment more than 4,000 pounds will be automatically re-weighed. For E-6 and above, shipments over 7,000 pounds will be automatically reweighed.
Moving Company Origin Agent Contact Info Our customers get so many emails they don’t know who is the primary point of contact for their PCS move. So our customers will now receive an automatic email from DPS, and it will be listed in the computer system, so you will automatically have all those contacts in one place for the packing and the delivery companies.
Reduced Personally Identifiable Information Risk We have partnered with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to reduce and in some cases eliminate the presence of PII from moving documents and from industry-facing screens. We remove Social Security numbers from those documents, so no one can see this PII within the moving industry. There are still places where you may need to provide a Social Security number, such as when you are shipping alcohol from Germany to the States.
Seven-Day Scheduling Window This refers to the Seven-Day Spread, which is a Seven-day window entered in DPS during which you want your goods to be picked up. We have changed the way you enter this in DPS. You enter the latest desired date, and then DPS will count back seven days to automatically calculate that window. If you wanted the latest pickup date to be Wednesday, April 20, then the seven-day window is from Thursday 14 April to 20 April. DPS will also ask you for your desired pickup date, which can be any date within that window. However, they cannot choose a weekend (like 16 or 17 April) without your approval because companies cannot always support your move with a QA inspector on a weekend or holiday. This gives you a better chance of securing a date close to or on the date you desire.
What if you have to move yourself, but the Government Travel Card (GTC) doesn’t cover the costs of moving?
Melissa: Many people are being encouraged to move themselves in a PPM or Do-it-Yourself move. That is now reimbursable through Government Travel Cards. There is a way to request an Advance payment through your Transportation Office so that you receive those funds in advance of your move. Then you don’t have to rely solely on the card to fund your move.
Customer Satisfaction Surveys are important for moving companies and military customers. But historically, the industry has been frustrated by low numbers of responses. What will be different about those surveys this year?
Daniel: This is a significant change we made in this program starting eight years ago. The survey in the Defense Personal Property Program makes up about 70% of the ranking of each of the providers, so it really makes a difference. The feedback we get on these surveys is used directly to determine revenue and how much each provider receives.
We looked at the commercial best process for collecting surveys and have launched a new process that is a new electronic process. You no longer have to log back into the system to complete one long survey. Instead, at different times throughout the process, we will send you short electronic surveys by email or text. This process began recently, with shipments picked up April 30 or later this year. We call these “mini-surveys,” so right after you complete your initial counseling, you’ll receive a text or email with 5 questions or less that you can respond to and provide feedback on a mobile device, PC, or tablet. These questions use emojis and smiley faces with color coding so you can respond quickly. The rest are sent after your shipment picks up, when it is delivered, and about 75 days after a claim is submitted. We leave these survey links open for 90 days, and you’ll get reminders to tell us about your experience. You can answer via text.
The surveys that involve your pick-up and delivery are used directly to rate your Transportation Service Provider, and this will impact their future ability to do business with us. We like to hear directly from customers, so we have team members who review the comments looking for potential changes based on your feedback. We hope this initiative will help double our response rates!
If you have immediate issues, make sure you take those up with your local Transportation Office for immediate action.
Who do the Customer Satisfaction Survey questions go to?
Danny: Right now, we are using the email contacts listed in DPS as an official record, so in many cases, the spouse and service member are both listed there. You can add a spouse’s email contact there by logging into DPS or asking your Transportation Office, to designate another specific person to receive the survey for a part of the move. We do want to respect the integrity of those records, but if it is entered in DPS, then that email can receive the surveys.
Will you receive different surveys if you have two or move moving companies handling your PCS shipments?
Danny: Yes, the survey is a 6-question survey and calls out either service at the origin or service at the destination. There is a single provider responsible for the entire move, even if they sub out the experience on either end. The survey is written the way it is so the provider can see if there was a better experience at origin or at destination. So when they review the survey feedback, they can choose who to subcontract to and continue working with.
There is a LOT more information available about PCS moves than there used to be! Tell us about the new websites you have launched with moving resources for military families.
Melissa: A few years ago, there was a huge effort to communicate better with stakeholders--our customers. We partner with the Transportation experts on staff to create a huge amount of collaborative support to better communicate with customers.
Kristen: We are now housed over on Military OneSource, since November 2021, instead of being on Move.mil. We did this because Military OneSource already had a lot of information about moving and housing, and we wanted there to be a one-stop-shop for moving. It’s a rather large site, so you can find us under the Moving and Housing tab. Our new landing page is called “Moving Your Personal Property.” It has all kinds of information about shipping your stuff. We have two main pages off of there: our Customer Service page, where you can learn who to contact for support throughout your move. The other is our Resources page, which has a ton of information like FAQs, videos, Moving Guide articles, so you can learn about your move from beginning to end.
We have added a lot of Fact Sheets, which are one-page handouts you can print out or view which give you a snapshot of things like the 7-Day Spread, How to File a Damage Claim, and Inconvenience Claim, dealing with mold, etc. We also discuss Personally-Procured or DitY moves. We continually upload new content here as things evolve.
RAPID FIRE ROUND: Pack and Load Days! (with Jason)
Top things military families should do BEFORE movers arrive on site?
Update your contact information in DPS--cell phones, address, etc. Make sure movers and offices have a way to contact you.
Clean and organize your home: Set aside anything you do not want packed, and lock the door so the packers stay out! Disassemble and clean all outdoor items, and remove picture frames from walls. Move items out of attics or crawlspaces. Drain motorcycles of gasoline and disconnect batteries. Prepare drawers by placing small items together in bags so parts won’t get lost.
Take photos and video of the entire home so you have evidence of inventory before the move. Obtain estimates for Antiques or Collectables, and do not pack that paperwork. Read more in the “It’s Your Move” pamphlet: https://www.ustranscom.mil/dtr/part-iv/dtr_part_iv_app_k_1.pdf
Most important items to list on your personal inventory? List those high-value items, electronics, and sentimental items. Anything that won’t go in a box, you want to create your own individual inventory. Photo and video inventory is also important: just open up cabinets and closets because when it comes time for Claims, a picture is worth 1,000 words!
Preferred method for arranging a DO NOT PACK area that movers won’t actually pack? Place items in a location away from the packers, like in a locked room or closet, or in your vehicle. Put a sign on the area, make sure your family and your movers are all aware of that area. You want to keep important paperwork, car keys, cell phones and chargers all in the same area.
What should you do or inspect BEFORE signing paperwork on pack-out day? The movers will identify any pre-existing damage like dings or dents on furniture during pack-out day. Ensure their descriptions are accurate! On high-value items, ensure their descriptions on inventory are accurate. It should specify the make, model, and serial number of items. It should not have a generic label like “stuff” on the high-value sheet. If you have professional gaming equipment in your PC, like a video card, make sure it is identified. If they missed something, you can ask them to go back, unpack, and look at items to add them to the inventory. Don’t be afraid to call your Transportation Office and ask for a QA Inspector. Do not sign until you have noted that you disagree with anything listed. You can add your own comments and disagree. You can annotate documents for any items you disagree with. Also, examine your residence for any property damage that is visible on moving day, and annotate the documents appropriately. We have now required movers to lay down floor covering in high-traffic areas, so make sure they are doing that.
Melissa Jordan, Division Chief, Strategic Engagements, Defense Personal Property Management Office. My team engages in communication strategy, and training our transportation professionals throughout the DoD. I was in the Air Force for 24 years, and also worked 12 years in the civil side before coming here.
Kristen Johnson Barnat, Public Affairs Specialist, Strategic Engagements, Defense Personal Property Management Office. I’m a military spouse and have worked on the team for about a year, managing public relation materials and anything you see on the website!
Jason Middleton, Chief of the Personal Property Office-Europe (USEUCOM/USAFRICOM/USCENTCOM), Defense Personal Property Management Office. I’ve been with TRANSCOM for over 5 years. I’m a 23-year Air Force retiree, all those years in the TMO career field. We are the TRANSCOM link for any issue in Europe, Africa, or Southwest Asia. So if you’re heading that way, reach out please!
Daniel Martinez, Division Chief, Systems, Defense Personal Property Management Office. I’ve been part of the program for 15 years, and a career civil servant for 19 years. I’m responsible for developing and improving programs, such as our Customer Service Satisfaction Survey initiative.