E-Communicator Article

The Chairman's Corner

by P.J. Welch

August 2013

Reading the July 23, 2013, edition of AMSA Today, I found myself focused on two topics: containerized shipments and Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s (SDDC) Open Season. I help my father run a moving company in a small town providing origin and destination services to the local Marine Corps base and providing domestic interstate relocations services as a Transportation Service Provider (TSP) to all military services. While I do believe that containerizing shipments will become an industry standard, there are many obstacles that have to be overcome in order to provide consistent and quality service. I also believe that as the economy continues to improve, SDDC should be using its Open Season to welcome new service providers rather than attempt to limit participation or potentially downsize current participants.


If containerizing shipments is to become a viable alternative to traditional van service, then carriers and agents will have to adapt and provide service for these shipments. Ideally, a containerized shipment is a small shipment, 5,000 pounds or less, that could be packed and loaded in one day. These are also the shipments that drivers would prefer to pack and haul during the off season. As a TSP and a local agent, I understand the need for van operators; I understand the need for local crews. TSPs and SDDC need to consider the need for both drivers and local crews, and provide opportunities during the winter months to guarantee capacity during the busy summer season. What about the actual containers? One of the few advantages of operating in a small town is that I have a lot of space and I can store many empty containers during the winter months. I still have to worry about the occasional code enforcement officer and the wind and rain, but I have not had to reject an offer for a crated shipment because I did not have any liftvans. What about liability, compensation and workload? Containerized shipments are expensive to service for both TSPs and local agents. Packing and loading the shipment essentially cuts the capacity of a local crew in half; when warehousing and distribution of the loaded containers is added, a containerized shipment could take two to three times as long to service compared to a shipment loaded by a van operator. I have spoken with many agents who will not service a containerized shipment simply because they have no control for loss or damage once the crates leave their warehouses. So long as the Defense Department is willing to pay for the added costs of containerized shipments, the moving industry will adapt and containers will not be considered a work-around, but will be viewed as a valuable addition to current capacity that can and should be used all year long.


As the industry looks for new ways to transport military shipments, SDDC’s announcement for an Open Season for new participants to provide moving services directly to the Defense


Department is a good sign that additional capacity will be offered and increased service levels will be made to those who serve our country. Unfortunately, I feel that the Open Season is geared more toward limiting the number of new participants and the planned re-qualification of existing carriers will be geared toward eliminating or downsizing the services provided by current participants. As the Defense Department struggles to find capacity, limiting and potentially eliminating TSPs seem to counter the goals of increasing service levels and maintaining costs. Our industry is complex and complicated, but we must not forget that providing quality relocation services to our customers, especially those who serve our country, is our primary goal.


As AMSA President and CEO Linda Bauer Darr states, “it’s important that for all of us to be aware of the rising trends and make strategic calculations – both for our own companies and for the good of our industry.” Containerizing shipments does add flexibility and capacity to our customers, but there are many obstacles that have to be overcome both in the slow and busy seasons before TSPs and local agents are able to provide increased levels of service. So long as containerizing shipments is profitable and adds value to our companies, the industry will adapt and provide this service. If the SDDC’s goal is to provide quality relocation services to military members, then the Open Season must be used to welcome new participants and the services they provide. If the Defense Department wants to guarantee capacity will be available for its shipments during the peak season, then the current program will have to be adjusted to provide fair compensation and even distribution of shipments to all current and new participants.

August 2013 - CMSA Communicator

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