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Military Moves – How the Military Moving Industry Fails Military Members

Staff Sgt. Austin Marshall, 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, his spouse Heather, and 8-month-old son Law pose for a photo in front of their new base housing unit at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Oct. 11, 2017.
Staff Sgt. Austin Marshall, 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, his spouse Heather, and 8-month-old son Law pose for a photo in front of their new base housing unit at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

No driver in the trucking industry is as underpaid as military moving drivers because of the cheating and corruption in the military moving industry.

The Military Household goods moving industry business accounts for 20% of the moving in the U.S. as well as moving military members overseas. The government spends about $2.1 billion a year on this program, called the Defense Personal Property System or DPS. The DPS program has been around about 10 years and cost the government about $300 million to formulate. Maintenance of this program runs about $50 million a year. Since its inception, DPS has failed to meet the quality standards of the program that it replaced, called Transportation Operation Personal Property System (TOPPS)..

The DPS program year after year proved woefully inadequate to give high-quality service to the members of our armed forces. What DPS did do was make millions of dollars for a precious few Move Managers Companies (MMC) at the top. The MMCs went about the country like carpetbaggers and bought up transportation service providers (TSP), or small moving companies. The TSP was typically a small family operation that could no longer compete within the framework of DPS, which was overburdened with regulations. So along came the MMC, the carpetbagger, buying TSP certificates without buying the assets, trucks, warehouses, etc.

The ability to transfer authority belied the meaning of the acronym TSP. So with this specious transfer of assets, of which there was none other than a piece of paper, real moving resources grew less in number with each passing year and the United States Transportation Command (USTC) closed its eyes and approved transfers of TSP authority while the resources each passing year grew less and less.

One might ask why did so many small business TSPs sell their TSP certificate? The answer was quite simple: the MMC grew to unheard-of-size, controlling, in some cases, over 100 paper companies all without assets. As the MMC grew larger and larger and profits also grew larger and larger there was no trickle-down system of economics for those at the bottom of the totem pole who actually provided the moving and so they were forced to sell their TSP approval.

So year after service went down and the USTC swept military members’ dissatisfaction under the carpet. Yes, that was the case until the wife of a service member wrote a petition signed by about 100,000 service members spouses expressing their dissatisfaction with the way the DPS program was being managed and the lack of quality service each member was entitled to. Well, this petition reached the Pentagon and Congress.

The Congress and Pentagon wanted answers. The commander of the USTC testified he had no answers and admitted he could not manage the system. I, at this point, must interject – there were safeguards in the system that could have been used but do to nonfeasance of the USTC no corrective action was ever taken. The four-star general who commands the USTC never explained why the system had been left to deteriorate over a period of about 10 years.

The General sought to escape the heat from Congress and the Pentagon by saying throw out the old system which over the years had cost close to a billion dollars with a new system called Single Sourcing – in which, instead of using multiple service providers there would only by one provider the Single Source.

So I say in return if the USTC could not run the current DPS program, what is the guarantee that Single Sourcing will not be a failure as well? What reason should one believe that in DPS where USTC failed in its duty to police that system would USTC be able to police any new system? What USTC did over 10 years ago was to get rid of a system that did work – the TOPPS system – in favor of a new untried, untested DPS system. So here we go again with a new system, except this system, which revolves about one company controlling all military moving, if it fails will create the biggest disaster of all time in the moving industry.

I want to at this time also explain why besides the system called DPS there are reasons that military moving quality will never reach the level the service member deserves. The reasons are very simple and so for me a member of the moving fraternity very frustrating. Every year there is a period of time known as peak season when the moving system is overloaded. With an overload, everyone should realize breakdowns will occur. Yes, any reasonable person would realize this but not the USTC. Year after year, in peak season with its attendant overloads we see service failures occur. Yes, one would think the USTC would work with the industry to spread out the workload. I must say, in all honesty, that the USTC never has tried to spread out the workload even though they have the statistics to show that when the system is overloaded quality goes down and claims increase.

Now I will touch upon a most crucial point I touched upon previously – the small family moving business. I said in a previous paragraph that the MMC, the carpetbaggers, came and bought military moving certificates. These were the TSPs, so that they, the MMC, represented themselves as 100 viable service providers which indeed they were not. The USTC in their ignorance, or willfulness, accepted this illusion. With this falsity, it meant that drivers, agents and warehouses had left the industry due to being squeezed and robbed by MMCs who used obfuscation of official govt. documents to cheat agents and drivers of large amounts of monies rightfully due agents and drivers.

I, after being in this business for 63 years, can rightfully say that no one in the trucking fraternity works as hard as our drivers in the moving industry. Nor is any driver in the trucking industry as underpaid as our drivers because of the cheating of the drivers by those MMCs who resort to altering Government Bills of Lading which are in truth a license to steal from drivers and agents.

Joel Summer

I am 79 years old or young as the case is. I have been engaged in the moving business for 63 years. In those 63 years, I have devoted myself to serving the military in all aspects of the military moving business. I presently have a blog which has over 2000 readers in the military moving industry and this keeps me young.

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