Submitted by Dawn Wachtel
As we all know, being in the military is a tough job. The discipline, dedication, and responsibility required to serve our great country are widely perceived and known to be a daunting task. One of the special advantages of being in the military is being able to travel and see different parts of the world. However, what many people do not consider, or do not know much about, is how the relocation process works when members get their permanent change of station (PCS) orders. PCS is the official relocation of an active duty service member, including any family members living with them, to a different location or military base. Upon receiving PCS orders, this personnel usually have a one or two month window to plan for their move, either domestically or internationally. The government covers or reimburses a lot of the costs of moving, however, these military families are responsible for the planning, logistics, and up-front costs of relocating. This includes finding new housing and physically getting all of their belongings there, with their cars being no exception. Since these times are especially stressful for everyone involved, one of the options the member can choose when relocating is to have their vehicle(s) transported. This is where the auto transport industry can play an important role, by helping to give back and serve the very members that protect and serve us, as individuals, on a daily basis.
Using an auto transport company to relocate military personnel’s privately-owned vehicles (POVs) can alleviate a large part of the inconvenience when having to relocate. However, there are specific steps that should be taken to ensure the easiest transition and delivery as possible. The first step one should take when receiving orders to relocate is to decide if transporting a vehicle is affordable. Military personnel may be allowed to ship one or more of their vehicles at the government’s expense, however, there are limitations that apply depending on whether or not the vehicle will be shipped inside the continental United States (known as CONUS) or outside the continental United States (known as OCONUS). In order to be covered by the government, the distance shipped must be at least 600 miles and only covers one vehicle for OCONUS shipments and up to two for CONUS shipments. Either way, the military member will need to work with their local transportation office to file the correct forms needed for shipping. If transporting a vehicle when relocating is not covered by the government, comparing pricing when choosing transport companies is important because the cost to transport a vehicle can be a large cost on a military salary. Starting the process of finding a transport company as soon as possible after receiving orders is important, in order to have time to compare multiple companies to find one that can fit into one’s budget.
When choosing the company that will transport the vehicle, starting research on auto transport companies is also important in order to make timely arrangements for pick-up and delivery. Besides affordability, according to A-1 Auto Transport, there are also two other important characteristics to look for when choosing a reliable company, experience, and reputation. When choosing a company, it is important to find a company with experience in military transfers because there are several factors and requirements specifically for military POVs. Therefore, finding a company that is familiar and knowledgeable about these requirements can help. Researching the reputation of auto transport companies is also crucial in the process of selection to prevent putting one’s vehicle(s) in the hands of a company that may not care properly for transporting a vehicle. Utilizing online review websites, the Better Business Bureau, or even asking the transportation department within the military personnel’s current base station are ways to find out how different companies perform when transporting vehicles.
After finding the right company, the next step is to make sure that vehicle(s) being shipping meets the specific qualifications and requirements. The vehicle’s type and weight are limited when the government will be paying the costs of shipping. Oversized vehicles and recreational vehicles are typically not covered, so it is important when relying on the government’s coverage, to make sure that the vehicle meets these requirements. When shipping internationally, any modification made to the vehicle will also need to be researched to make sure that they are legal in the destination country. Non-factory modifications must also meet special requirements to be shipped domestically as well. Therefore, checking with the transportation or relocation office beforehand is crucial for specific information needed in determining these requirements. Another important step to follow is making sure that the time limits are met for shipping the vehicle. Departure and return shipping times can be different depending on the branch of the military one is serving, so it is also essential that these timelines are discussed with the correct office within the branch to meet these requirements.
After making sure the vehicle qualifies to be shipped, there is specific information about the vehicle that will need to be gathered to make the shipping process more efficient. If the vehicle is being leased or has a lienholder, then a letter from the third party will need to be obtained authorizing the exportation of the vehicle. If the vehicle is not leased and does not have a lienholder, then proof of ownership is required in the form of the vehicle’s title and registration. Other items needed are the vehicle identification number (VIN), a valid driver’s license, and another form of photo identification may also be needed. An appropriate form, such as a DD Form 788 (for private vehicle shipment of an automobile) may also be required. Contacting a Vehicle Processing Center (VPC) can help with the appropriate forms needed.
While transporting a vehicle may, at first, seem like an added stress to moving, the process can be simplified by coordinating with the transportation and relocating office at one’s base station. However, choosing a reputable, reliable, and experienced auto transport company is also key in making the transition as easy as possible. Finding the best possible auto transport company can help alleviate at least one of the stresses when having to relocate. Therefore, letting these companies serve military personnel is one of the ways that enables ordinary citizens to give back to those that serve, protect, and defend this country.
Submitted by Dawn Wachtel
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