The changes, which will go into effect May 15, the traditional official start of peak moving season, address a variety of problems flagged by military community members in 2018. Over 40% of household goods shipments were late that year, while more than 20% sparked a damage claim, according to a January Inspector General report.
"In response to feedback from our customers, we've made several changes in the tender of service agreement that will take effect on May 15, 2020," said Dave Dunn, a spokesman for U.S. Transportation Command, which oversees the moving process. "Changes are focused on addressing the most common pain points we heard from personnel and their families, namely improving communication and the claims process."
What's changing? Here's an update.
1. Movers must now pass employer-provided background checks.
In the past, some military families complained that their packers and movers had criminal records or felony convictions, which were flagged only because they failed the background checks required to access on-base housing areas.
The new rule requires transportation providers or packers to run background checks on all company employees, including day laborers or short-term hires, and employ only those who can meet local base access requirements. Most bases block access to those with felony convictions or active arrest warrants. And since additional access barriers can vary base-by-base, transportation providers will need to know and keep track of local rules.
"The focus is on anyone who shows up 'at the curb,' e.g. those who will enter the customer's home," Dunn said in an email. "All persons interacting with DoD customers on and off base must meet the specific requirements for local installation."
2. A choice between the mover providing a repair or the dollar amount of the estimated cost.
Right now, it's up to the transportation provider whether it will repair an item that is broken or damaged during a move or give the military member the dollar amount of the estimated repair cost. Starting in May, however, the military member will choose which of those two options is right for them.
3. Clearer communication. Currently, the transportation providers are required to give only a two-hour warning for household-goods deliveries stateside and three hours for those overseas. The new rules stretch the warning period to 24 hours, easing the burden on military members and families who may not be immediately ready to receive their shipments. And before sending a shipment to storage instead of making the delivery, the mover must attempt to contact the owner at least twice over four hours.
4. Longer claims window and faster process. Right now, military members have only 75 days to notify the transportation provider that they experienced loss or damage. Those providers have a 60-day window to directly respond to claims, including settling or denying them.
Starting May 15, military members and families will have 180 days to make that loss or damage notification after delivery, while transportation providers will be required to respond to claims under $1,000 in 30 days.
5. Easier inconvenience claims. Right now, if a household-goods shipment is late, a military member can submit an inconvenience claim to the transportation provider to cover things such as lodging, food and appliance rentals up to the amount of their daily meal and lodging per diem rate.
Going forward, submitted inconvenience claims will instead be automatically tied to the per diem rate for the service member for up to seven days -- no receipts needed. After that seven-day window or if their expenses exceed per diem, users will need to submit a claim and receipts under the old process.
6. Faster contact. Right now, it can be difficult for military members and families to find a point of contact for their transportation provider, or to get someone to call them back. Starting May 15, movers must not only have a single point of contact available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but also must return within 30 minutes messages left during that window.
7. In-transit alerts. While some military movers provide regular updates on where household goods are in the shipment process, others do not. The new rules will require all movers to email the military member with their shipment status and estimated arrival date step-by-step over the shipment process, with new notifications within one business day of arrival and departure from any transportation point or storage location.
Dunn said any military member whose mover is not abiding by the new rules after May 15 should contact their local transportation office.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was updated March 10 to clarify the loss and damage notification window.