COVID could affect military moves well into the new year, but U.S. Transportation Command reports that backlogs are clear, and the move situation in 2021 should be consistent with previous years.

The pandemic stopped most military moves in March. Moves resumed in the middle of the year, continuing well toward the end of the year.

By November, the services had reported that their household goods backlogs were clear, and their shipment volumes have return to typical levels for this point in the calendar year, said Andre Kok, spokesman for U.S. Transportation Command. As of Dec. 15, commercial movers had moved 321,000 household goods and unaccompanied baggage shipments and 57,000 vehicles, representing 85 percent of the volume in 2019.

Officials expect the PCS household goods demand in 2021 to be consistent with previous years, Kok said. From the moving industry perspective, capacity for moves hasn’t seen significant changes, said Dan Bradley, director of government and military relations for the International Association of Movers.

Leaders across DoD have been working since June to prepare for the 2021 moving season, Kok said, working on changes to help families, such as improving communication from moving companies; establishing residential property protections, and refining claims processes.

Among the new TRANSCOM requirements for 2021 are floor coverings in high traffic areas and other precautions to protect floors and doorways as crews are moving furniture — which a number of moving companies already do, Bradley said. TRANSCOM will also require a customer service contact on Saturdays during the peak season, to answer questions and concerns from service members and families, Bradley said. This has always been a requirement for week days.

The current COVID surge also brings uncertainty, as it can affect moves to and from individual bases and regions.

Movers and military families will continue to follow the required safety protocols, as the 2021 moving season will heat up in the spring, likely before vaccines have been widely provided. Some of those COVID protocols might be carried over as life returns to normal, said Bradley. For example, the moving company is required to provide written verification that anyone coming into a service member’s home has been screened for illness. It may make sense to continue that practice, he said, to avoid having sick workers come into a family’s home.

“Enormous credit is due to the moving crews and drivers who serve DoD families during such uncertain times, all while being just as concerned for the welfare of their own families,” Kok said.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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