ALEXANDRIA, Va., Sep. 12, 2000 – It used to be service members who shipped privately owned vehicles to Europe never knew where their wheels were until the freighter arrived at Bremerhaven, Germany. And that could take several weeks.
Then, they had to catch the “duty train” or hitch a ride to Bremerhaven to claim their vehicles and drive them back to their home station.
That’s all passé now.
Nowadays, the Military Traffic Management Command in Alexandria, Va., uses computers and the Internet to ensure customers can locate their vehicles 24 hours a day. And it’s easy. All they have to do is visit the “where is my POV?” Web site at http://www.whereismypov.com and enter their order number and last name. Presto! Their vehicle’s location appears on the computer monitor.
If members prefer, they can obtain the same information by calling the toll-free phone number of their nearest vehicle- processing center. (See related story for an address list.)
That’s just two of several customer-pleasing features in DoD’s Global POV Single Contractor Program implemented on Nov. 1,1998, according to Charles Helfrich, a team leader and traffic management specialist.
The new system has proven to be a customer pleaser because it’s faster, easier to use and more efficient. More than 75,000 vehicles pass through the command’s full-service POV service sites worldwide every year.
“We ship to any country in the world where Americans are stationed, including to countries were we don’t have much presence, like Israel, Ecuador and Russia,” Helfrich noted. “But the main focus is on Europe — Italy, Germany, Turkey, England and Spain.”
In Germany, processing centers are in Baumholder, Boeblingen, Grafenwoehr, Kaiserslautern, Mannheim, Schweinfurt, Spangdahlem and Wiesbaden. Italy has four centers: Aviano, Livorno and Vicenza in the north and Naples in the south, and satellite sites at Sigonella and LaMaddalena in the south.
Vehicle processing centers are also in Schinnen, the Netherlands, and Chievres, Belgium. Spain has a center outside the naval base at Rota and a satellite site in Seville. England has a main center at Lakenheath/Mildenhall and satellites at West Ruislip, St. Mawgan and Menwith Hill.
There are also vehicle-processing sites in South Korea, Guam and Puerto Rico.
Helfrich said nearly 20,000 vehicles are shipped between the continental U.S. and Hawaii each year.
Generally, all vehicles destined for Northern Europe are shipped to Bremerhaven and then trucked to the processing centers or satellites closest to customers’ home stations, he noted.
He said center transportation officers arrange for owners to be present when their vehicles arrive. They conduct a joint inspection with the truck driver. On their return trips, truckers deliver outgoing vehicles to the Bremerhaven docks.
Helfrich said most DoD shipments are full-service movements, meaning one contractor is responsible for the entire movement of the vehicle. Under the old system, up to nine independent contractors might handle a vehicle — so many people that DoD officials often had nightmares trying to determine responsibility in loss and damage cases.
Having one contractor saves money and improves service because the party responsible for loss and damage is clear, Helfrich said. The system’s not seamless from origin to destination, though, because the contractor must use the command’s transoceanic carriers.
Improved services means the days when service members spent long hours trying to process their vehicles are gone forever, Helfrich said.
“When a person enters a full service vehicle processing center, the contractors are required to process them within one hour,” he noted. “We still have some partial service DoD processing sites that are not held to the one-hour requirement in Japan, Okinawa, Greece and Bahrain. Contractors for those facilities are hired locally.”
The new system handles movement of vehicles for military personnel and civilian employees, including nonappropriated fund employees and DoD Dependent Schools system teachers. They are limited to one vehicle that doesn’t exceed a volume of 20 measurement tons. One measurement ton equals 40 cubic feet; a typical compact car is 9 measurement tons; a full-sized car, 15.
Customers pay for each measurement ton over the limit when shipping a vehicle at government expense. Some large pick-up trucks and sport utility vehicles exceed the limit, for instance, he noted.
The extra cost depends on the destination, but exceptions may be granted for medical reasons. For example, he said, “If you’re required to have a high-capacity van, say a 15-passenger van with a wheelchair lift, you would be allowed to ship it at no extra cost.”
Only self-propelled, wheeled motor vehicles can be shipped. This includes automobiles, station wagons, jeeps, motorcycles, motor scooters, vans and pickup trucks.
Customers are getting their vehicles must faster than they used to. “Our contractor has been beating our transit time by as much as 15 to 20 days,” he said. “Loss and damage claims have been cut from about 12 percent to about 8 percent. Contractors are paying more attention because the money is coming right out of their pockets instead of taxpayers’ pockets.”
Helfrich said the incentive for faster service is that the contractor doesn’t get paid until the customer picks up the vehicle.
Customers can make it easier for themselves by removing all personal items, such as tape recorders, radios and other small electronics, before arriving at the processing center, he said. Household items, camping equipment, and flammable and hazardous substances such as waxes, oils, paints, solvents and polishers must be removed before shipping. Propane tanks must be purged and certified before the vehicle is turned in.
Customers may leave behind items they will need when they pick up their vehicle. This includes such things as jacks, tire irons, tire chains, fire extinguishers, nonflammable tire inflators, first aid kits, jumper cables, warning triangle, trouble light and tools valued at less than $200. A spare tire, two snow tires, portable cribs, children’s car seats and luggage racks can be left in the vehicle.
Two-car families are warned that shipping a second vehicle can be expensive, and MTMC doesn’t provide government shipping rates for them, Helfrich noted. Loss and damage reimbursements tend to be much lower than those paid by government contractors, he added.
Whereas DoD must use U.S.-flagged vessels for shipments, people shipping a second vehicle can use a foreign flag vessel. The bill could be as much as $900 one way, depending on the destination, he said, and owners might be liable for an import duty as well.
“You don’t get the same services we provide,” Helfrich said. “I’m told that on the ocean the carrier’s liability is $500 per shipment. Under our contact, the contractor is liable for up to $20,000 per vehicle. If there is minor damage, service members can settle with the contractor on the spot up to $500. A lot of members take advantage of that.”
Directions and maps to the processing centers and more detailed information on shipping a vehicle can be found at MTMC’s vehicle shipment Web site at http://www.whereismypov.com. Also available at the site for more detailed information is the pamphlet “Shipping Your POV.” The booklet is downloadable as a .pdf file and requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader plug-in to view.