New process improves household goods shipments
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Dec. 10, 2012 – A system being implemented at U.S. Transportation Command is making permanent-change-of-station moves more convenient, while reducing lost and damaged shipments and saving the government money.
The Defense Personal Property System, introduced in 2009 as a pilot program at 17 installations, now supports 90 percent of all military moves, Jill Smith, personal property division chief at Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, told American Forces Press Service.
The Web-based system automates many of the steps involved in military moves: pre-move counseling, scheduling, tracking, invoicing and claims filing for household goods shipments.
“The beauty of DPS is that customers can do all this from the comfort of their own homes. They can do it early in the morning or at 11 o’clock at night, whatever works best for them,” Smith said. “Plus, all the information they might want – whether it’s about gypsy moths or weight allowances, or just tips about how they can have a smoother move – is right at their fingertips, a click away, and available 24/7.”
DPS also gives customers the opportunity to track their shipments online. If their shipment is lost or damaged, they can file a claim online and settle directly with the moving company.
Moves not yet covered by DPS – generally those involving long-term storage or moves within an overseas theater – will be included as new features are added to make the system fully operational by September 2017, Smith said.
Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, Transcom’s Army component, processes about 600,000 personal property moves each year for soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Defense Department civilian employees and their families, Smith reported. About one-third of these moves take place during the summer, and almost 70,000 include privately owned vehicle shipments.
Collectively, they cost the Defense Department about $2.2 billion a year, Smith said. But with DPS, she projects between $117 million and $136 million in annual savings – while providing customers with better service.
That’s because rather than relying on “low-bid” transportation providers to conduct military moves, DPS provides “best value” services. This, Smith explained, factors in not just cost, but also variables such as timeliness, reliability, the incidence of lost or damaged shipments and ease in providing reimbursement for claims.
“We want to provide carriers that are not only qualified, but fully capable of making sure that they protect the members’ household goods, provide a great quality move and communicate with that customer,” she said. “The bottom line for us is that we want to do business with carriers that pick up the household goods on time and deliver them on time, with no or the least amount of damage – whether [that carrier] happens to be cheaper or a little bit more expensive.”
Those determinations are based directly on customer satisfaction surveys that help ensure the best movers get singled out for DOD business. “We rely on these surveys because [customers] get to evaluate the [transportation service provider’s] performance, and that ties directly into the best-value score,” Smith said. “The higher the customer satisfaction, the higher the score and the more opportunity that [carrier] gets to participate in future traffic.”
As an additional incentive for moving companies to apply extra care while handling DOD shipments, carriers are now required to pay full replacement value for anything lost or broken. Before that change was introduced about five years ago, transportation carriers paid a depreciated value on all claims.
The result has been a dramatic reduction in claims.
“If they break your $500 china, that means they have to replace or repair it. So carriers have a tendency to be more careful,” Smith said. “That is a good thing, because it helps make service members feel a little bit more comfortable about turning over their prized possessions, knowing that the carriers are going to be held responsible for it.”
Smith said she’s looking forward to the complete rollout of DPS and the convenience it will provide DOD customers throughout the move process.
“This will be a brand new era,” she said. “Customers will have a centralized one-stop shop that gives them all the tools they need to plan and manage their moves, that provides them best-value service and uses their feedback to ensure other service members will, too.”