Heavy summer surge pushes industry capacity. (Personal property moves).
By 11:30, another truck was rolling toward Califano's new Alexandria, Va., address.
Movers from Executive Moving Systems, Inc., of Woodbridge, Va., hustled to meet the second truck. The crew set aside bags of McDonald's burgers that Karen Califano, the Navy officer's wife, had picked up for them during the break between loads.
Crowbars and claw hammers pried at the crates. A rhythm of efficiency beat through the air. Boxes came off the truck and found their way on to the lawn.
At the foot of the loading ramp, a matter-of-fact Califano scratched through the item numbers on his inventory list. His wife directed the movers to spots in the house where the boxes could rest until unpacked. In no time, the two trucks pulled away from the curb and left the family to settle in with their belongings.
The Califanos arrived in Alexandria from the Naval War College, Newport, R.I. There, shippers came and packed out their household goods for the move. With 15 years of service under his belt, Califano figures he and his family have been through this drill half a dozen times.
This scene plays out time and time again between May and August every year. Personnel planners try to schedule change-of-station moves to coincide with the summer months in order to lessen the impact on military families.
This practice allows a smooth transition for school-aged children of service members. On the other hand, it coincides with what is known in the personal property industry as the "Summer Surge."
More than half of the 600,000 personal property moves managed by the Military Traffic Management Command each year take place in this four-month period.
As in every year, personal property moves for service members are at full peak now.
Three installations are at a saturation point already, said Cullen Hutchinson, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Passenger & Personal Property. Movers are fully booked at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.; Fort Lee, Va.; and Fort Benning, Ga.
Other military installations may follow.
Col. Tom E. Thompson, Chief of Staff, has directed MTMC managers to handle the problem in a proactive manner to lessen the impact on families.
Military families are not the only ones moving during this surge. Their civilian counterparts take advantage of summer vacations, too. Scott Michael, Assistant to the President, American Moving and Storage Association, says summer break is "when families find it preferable to move."
Military households account for roughly 10 percent of the moves performed by professional moving companies each year, he said. The industry generates about $7 billion dollars a year--with about half of that revenue comes from this surge period. To cope, movers try to increase their capacity.
Michael explains the difficulty the industry faces in hiring additional crews.
"When the economy is strong, as it has been the last few years, it's difficult to find qualified people who want to enter the moving business," he said.
Michael brightens as he reflects on the current economy.
"Maybe it won't be as hard to find workers this summer."
Even as movers flex to meet the surge, resources are scarce. Capacity can only expand so far. Michael said there is little else industry can do to alleviate the strain.
That sentiment was echoed by Terry Head, President, Household Goods Forwarders Association of America, Inc.
Head asserted that "the single most productive change the Department of Defense could make would be to move more people in the off-season."
Head added that shuffling some moves to other time periods would also save money in the long run.
"You can't hire enough people," said Head. "The employable people aren't there."
This adds another degree of difficulty. Head explained that there is a "specific, negative effect" on an increased frequency of claims during the surge.
Movers do what they can to minimize the impact of the surge on customers, he said.
"It's like `preventive medicine'--to treat someone before they get too sick to cure," said Head.
"Industry emphasizes proper training and customer service."
Head suggested that a lot of claims and delays arise from poor communication between the carrier and the customer.
Califano agrees with Head's assessment.
Over the years that he, his wife, and three boys have been moving around the globe, Califano said, the industry has become more tuned in to customers.
Summer heat swelters across much of the country, and--as every year--the surge continues. School systems, employers and families all continue to choose these months to move. Head and Michael both stated that industry has done what it can to meet demand.
"You can't expect an industry to turn itself inside-out for a client that is cyclical," said Head.
Still, in small ways, customers can do things to help. Michael suggested acting as early as possible. Service members know to visit their transportation office as soon as they have orders in hand.
"Get the shipment booked immediately," said Head.
That, he said, is the best way to allow for flexibility on the part of the shipper to get the job done.
Head's organizational Web site offers great advice for anyone planning a move. The most applicable tips are what movers want customers to know before they show up at the home:
* From the very beginning, establish a file for all moving papers and receipts. Several weeks before the shipping date, sell, donate or discard superfluous items.
* At a month out, sort through vital documents and plan to hand-carry them on the move. As shipping day draws nearer, consider day-care arrangements for young children. Apartment dwellers should coordinate for truck parking and elevator usage.
* Pets and houseplants require additional coordination. Some movers will not carry plants. Several firms specialize in pet transport. Booking a few weeks ahead of time assures pets arrive with the family.
* Shippers won't handle hazardous materials. Around two weeks from moving day, begin to dispose of flammables, toxic solvents, and other dangerous household items.
* A couple of days ahead of moving day, defrost and clean out refrigerators and freezers. Identify and set aside items to hand-carry.
* On moving day, before the truck rolls away, take a good survey to make sure the shippers packed everything.
The full list is on the web at http://www.hhgfaa.org.
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|Title Annotation:||moving industry serves military households|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2001|
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