The military rolled out a new website service this week for military families on permanent change of station, or PCS, orders that shows whether moving companies are regularly on time or have been suspended at some point.
Troops and their families can use the site's public data on the moving company performance, as well as new statistics on the website showing the average number of moves for any given time of year to better plan PCS moves, according to U.S. Transportation Command, which created and is hosting the service.
"That allows customers to understand what they're getting into based on the time of year that they plan on moving, and they can work with their local units to adjust that accordingly to what best fits them," Col. Joel Safranek, director of the command's Defense Personal Property Program, said in an interview.
The service is part of an effort by Transportation Command to modernize its approach to dealing with troops, treating them as customers. The goal is to ease the military moving headaches exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic, which has caused a shortage of workers, backed-up ports, and delays.
"If you want to go to dinner and you go to Google Reviews or something, right, you will be able to see reviews on that restaurant, to include things like, 'Hey, Friday night at 6 o'clock is probably busy,'" said Safranek.
The new "customer-facing dashboard" is aimed at providing a similar service to families.
"They can also click a transportation service provider, a TSP, and they can start to see data on each and every TSP," Safranek said.
That data includes on-time rates and any letters of warning or suspension.
However, families who find they’ve been assigned moving companies with red flags in their history may face new hurdles to doing anything about it.
Transportation Command said Thursday there is a process for troops to request a specific moving company through their local transportation office when household goods shipments are being arranged, but the change could require shifting the dates of their PCS move set by issued orders.
Troops can also choose a personally procured move, meaning they would arrange and organize their own move and seek reimbursement through the military. But those moves are only available inside the U.S. and reimbursement is capped, meaning troops may be stuck paying some out-of-pocket expenses.
The Senate confirmed a new head of Transportation Command this month, Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, who said improving the quality of PCS moves is a priority. The command is also on the cusp of signing a $19 billion contract with a private company to manage its global system of household goods shipments -- a move it says will ease years of troop discontent over the quality of moves.
That contract is expected to be signed in early November, but will not be in full effect until 2023 at the earliest.
In the meantime, the data on PCS volume could help families steer clear of particularly busy times of the year, though the bulk of moves have always occurred during the summer months when children are out of school.
"You can clearly see that you are doing 8,000-9,000 moves a week in June and July, and you're doing maybe 4,000-6,000 moves during the non-peak season," Safranek said.
-- Travis Tritten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten.