3 Ways the Truck Driver and Labor Shortage Will Impact Your PCS Move

A man drives a truck and talks on the radio.

We've all heard about the truck driver and manual labor shortage caused at least in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. But military members and their families may be especially aware of the problem as they get ready to load their items for a military permanent change of station (PCS) move.

Katie McMichael, an executive director with the American Trucking Association's Moving and Storage Conference, which represents the moving industry, joined PCS with Military.com for a recent episode on what the moving industry wants military members to know about their PCS process. She offered an inside view on how the national shortages might impact military moves. Here are some of her insights.

Your move might take longer than it has before. Thanks to high demand and driver shortages, the move calendar fills up fast for companies doing the work. Getting your move scheduled as soon as possible while staying flexible will help make sure you can start your PCS when you need to, she said. And knowing that the whole process is likely to take longer than it has in the past will keep frustration at bay, she said.

Listen now: What a Moving Industry Insider Wants You to Know for Your PCS (with Katie McMichael)

"The biggest thing that we are trying to do right now is set proper expectations with TRANSCOM and with the customer. It's not probably going to be feasible to move on the exact day that you want, especially when you look at May, June, July. So setting the proper expectations of this whole process door to door is going to take longer." she said. "The best thing we can do in the immediate future, especially for this peak season, is set proper expectations that we just don't have the capacity to move everybody in, in that squeezed, compressed time frame."

It only takes one problem to delay everything. You might only see the pieces of your own military move process, but it's just one step in a long chain of events and other moves, McMichael said. When there isn't a labor shortage, a sick truck driver, late moving team or broken truck engine is covered by another set of people. But with fewer backup workers, any problem can create delays for everyone, she said.

"When a moving company accepts this job, it's not that they don't necessarily have a driver or an agent ready to come out there, but it's these last-minute challenges where, say, John Smith calls moving company A and says, 'OK, I'm going to be late.' In a normal scenario where you don't have a driver and labor challenges, you probably have a list of five or six other people you can call to fill in for him. And that's what we're lacking now is, we don't have the bench of backup people to be able to call to, to step in and fill that, because we have such a driver and labor challenge," she said. ""It only really takes one unforeseen problem."

You might have to explore other moving options. While McMichael said she would never recommend military members just default to moving themselves through a Personally Procured Move (PPM), she said shortages and delays might mean they need to think through their moving options a little more than in the past.

"I think the best thing is just going into the move process just with an understanding that there's a lot of challenges this year," she said."If something happens to impact your move, just communicate with your mover as much as you can. They can walk you through options, and every moving company that I work with will find some solution to help you out."

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