FORT KNOX, Ky. — Transportation officials are busy preparing for the deluge of PCS moves that Department of Defense officials recently announced will begin at the end of June.
As stop movement orders are lifted, the changes taking place to prepare for the adjusted PCS season are designed to protect not only Soldiers and their families, say officials, but also household goods packing and shipping workers.
“DoD instituted some health protection measures as part of the personal property shipping and receiving process,” said Horace Bowden, installation transportation officer at Fort Knox. “That’s directly in response to COVID.”
The measures include increases in the number of inspectors as well as the amount of inspections that will occur throughout the moving process. Fort Knox currently has two inspectors and is hiring two more to handle the added responsibilities. They also have two Soldiers on loan from U.S. Army Garrison to help.
“They say it’s going to be busy, so we have to try and ramp it up a little bit,” said Jay Glover, a quality control inspector from the installation Transportation office.
In response to COVID-19, DoD has produced two forms that each party must fill out and which will be maintained by the Transportation office: a “DoD Customer Reasonable Assurance Agreement” for Families, and a “Transportation Service Provider Certification of Health Protection” agreement for shipping companies.
The TSP agreement states shipping companies will be responsible for ensuring their employees have been screened for COVID-19 consistent with CDC guidelines, that all surfaces touched in the household are thoroughly cleaned, good hygiene is practiced and the smallest crew needed to successfully complete the shipping on time is used.
Soldiers and Families have the authority to halt a movement process if they feel the U.S. Transportation Command safety standards are not being followed satisfactorily.
“TRANSCOM and the industry partners all agreed on these standards,” said Bowden. “As a matter of fact, the moving companies themselves are invested in protecting their workforce. They can’t make money if their workers are sick.”
Glover said despite the changes brought on by the pandemic the intent of quality control inspections will remain the same: to ensure household goods are packed carefully, correctly and courteously.
“Movers are still going to be moving household goods,” said Glover. “They still have to do the quality work that’s expected of them, only now with the masks, social distancing and understanding that they have to be more cognizant of people around them.”
There are times when inspectors encounter shippers or Soldiers who insist families and transportation movers don’t need to wear masks or practice social distancing while the households are getting packed and loaded, said Glover. In those cases, inspectors then must become the enforcers of the rules for both parties.
“Everybody must wear a mask because you’re not just protecting that family, you’re also trying to take care of the movers that are servicing them,” said Glover. “It’s to protect everybody.”
Because of added safety concerns, DoD officials have also increased the number of inspections that take place during each moving process. Inspections must now occur at every home every day that shippers are in the home packing and loading the family’s belongings.
Before the peak season hits, the focus for Transportation officials is getting personnel moved who are either leaving the service prior to or due to retirement or arriving on exception to policy orders.
Angie Parker and her husband are moving to Nevada next. Earlier this week, she said the added safety protocols have not been taxing on the family.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever actually been home before when inspectors have come, so that’s a little bit new for me,” Parker said. “Otherwise, everything has been running smooth; it’s been going well.”
Both Bowden and Glover noted that the stop movement has also moved the traditional end of the PCS season; it’s expected to extend into November. The length of this year’s PCS season will remain the same. However, the number of those arriving will be different.