Portal - March/April 2021

Vaccinate Yourself Against a Poor DoD Moving Season

 

By Daniel J. Bradley, Director, Government & Military Relations

GOVERNMENT & MILITARY

It’s time to vaccinate yourself in preparation for the summer move season. Not against COVID-19 (although that might be helpful), but in preparation for the outbreak of crazy that comes with the annual peak season. Let’s explore what that vaccination might look like using inputs from DoD household goods staffs about what will make for a successful peak season.

With challenges and delays throughout the moving enterprise still hampering the efficient movement of household goods, now over a year since we all became familiar with COVID-19, we should understand what our primary shipper (DoD) thinks about the delays and challenges brought about by the pandemic; and how they expect industry to react to it now that we’re all familiar with it.

Certainly, one of the first things on the list, and this is a consistent theme regardless of the year or pandemic we are facing, is communication. Over and over in various forums and meetings, DoD representatives stress that communicating with the customer and the personal property shipping office (PPSO) is a top priority. Especially as congestion issues and other factors hinder the movement of shipments, keeping the customer informed and aware of their shipment status is key.

I recently reviewed some of the courses included in IAM Learning’s Military Move Coordination training. One of them, “The Customer’s Perspective,” hits the customer communication theme very well. In creating this course, IAM reached out to a military family/military spouse advocate for their insights: communicating with the member and their family, before the move, during packing/pickup, and while the shipment was in transit, was a key area noted. As one of the quotes referenced, and as your grandpa probably told you, bad news doesn’t get better with age. The best practice is to keep the customer up to date on what is happening, good or bad, and engage them in the process. 

Related to customer communication, timely updating of the Defense Personal Property System (DPS) is another requirement the DoD continues to stress. While the system is cumbersome and all the requirements are difficult to manage, DoD representatives’ feedback on this topic suggests it will continue to rise on their lists of priorities. Getting information into DPS—within the timelines stipulated in the business rules—could very well become one of the hottest topics for the 2021 season. There are a number of reasons for this focus, but one we hear about over and over is having timely and accurate information on pickups and deliveries, so the Personal Property Shipping Offices can ensure their Quality Assurance (QA) inspectors are on site to provide customer support for any issues, questions, or concerns. The QA visit can also help industry when a customer is being unreasonable.

Another item which continues to rise on the DoD priority list is shipment reweighs. When you look at data presented by USTRANSCOM’s Personal Property staff on the top 10 performance issues resulting in letters of warning or suspense, failure to reweigh and failure to pay the missed reweigh fee combine as the number one issue—outpacing the other nine top items combined! This will surely continue to be an area of focus. 

Finally, I’ve received industry feedback that some Transportation Service Providers (TSPs) have been placed in 30-day worldwide non-use for failure to have their insurance coverage properly updated in DPS. And even though there was no lapse in coverage, just a failure by the insurance company to properly update DPS, USTRANSCOM chose to sustain the 30-day suspension. It therefore appears that USTRANSCOM may be focusing on more of these kinds of administrative requirements, and holding TSPs accountable for an entire 30-day worldwide suspension if a TSP fails to properly update their data as required by the rules. I don’t know that the punishment fits the crime, but I offer it as a cautionary tale.

Work is still being done to reduce that suspension, but the outcome is unknown at the time of this writing.

We could discuss a number of other potential focus areas, and certainly, based on what happens between my writing of this column and when it’s published, the landscape could change a bit. However, early indications in 2021 suggest these items are near the top of the list for DoD compliance. 

One other item that is gaining traction, which we don’t have details on yet, is an update by the USTRANSCOM Storage Management Office (SMO) to the Non-Temporary Storage (NTS) Tender of Service (TOS). Draft rules are coming out in early March; and NTS TSPs will be invited to a USTRANSCOM review of the rules. Early comments by the SMO, however, indicate they didn’t want to debate the changes with industry, just present them and be able to answer any questions for clarity. The key areas of change are apparently updates to the NTS TOS that would be consistent with recent updates to the Household Goods TOS, with a focus on the customer’s experience. As of now, the SMO intends to draft and implement a new NTS TOS not later than June 1, 2021.

 

And, finally, news broke in February that the award of the Global Household Goods Contract (GHC) was pushed back from June of 2021 to “not earlier than” September. USTRANSCOM has stated the delay has “no juicy backstory,” but is just a result of the contract source selection team needing additional time to ensure their selection properly addresses the findings by the Government Accountability Office from the last award of the GHC. While not certain, this delay would appear to suggest that the first shipments under the GHC wouldn’t likely start until after the 2022 peak season, at the earliest.

As I stated in last year’s March/April issue of the Portal magazine, Spring is a time for change in many areas of our lives, and the DoD’s Personal Property Program is no different. Now is the time to vaccinate yourself for a successful 2021 Peak Season.