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The moving industry is facing mammoth labor and truck driver shortages during the peak military moving season and an explosion of moving demands in the commercial market, possibly delaying unscheduled summer moves until August or September, according to American Trucking Associations’ Moving and Storage Conference.
“The first big thing that we’re struggling with this year is available labor,” said Katie McMichael, director of the ATA conference. “What we’re seeing on the carrier side is there is a reduction of 20-30% of the labor that industry normally uses. That’s a really big hit during peak season, when about half of the military moves occur.
“Then we have the normal driver shortage problem as well. Movers already are booked up for June and July.”
Scott Ross, a spokesman for the U.S. Transportation Command, told Transport Topics that military delays will likely last for months past July, but “we’re not aware of any locations backed up for over a year.”
“The Military areas with the tightest reported capacity include Washington State, North and South Dakota, California, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico,” Ross said.
Steven McKenna, vice president of military for Sirva Worldwide Relocation and Moving, the parent corporation for North American Moving Services and Allied, said company agents are reporting that securing quality labor has been a significant challenge.
COVID-19 has turned labor acquisition activity “on its head,” he said.
“I think people are looking for opportunities to better meet their needs,” McKenna said. “Our agents are competing with Amazon, Costco and big warehouse operators providing a good wage and perhaps offering a little easier jobs.
“Some folks are looking at these moving jobs and saying, ‘It’s 110 degrees out, putting stuff in a trailer, and wearing a mask, that’s just not a job I want to do right now.’ ”
Our agents are competing with Amazon, Costco and big warehouse operators.
Steve Mckenna, vice president of military for Sirva Worldwide Relocation and Moving
Company agents are trying various approaches to try to attract that labor, in part due to upward pressure on wages, McKenna said.
“They’re even offering singing bonuses of up to $3,000 if you stay with us for 90 days,” McKenna said. “We’ve had to throttle back our willingness to take on more work because we don’t want to take on work that we can’t do in a quality way.”
His companies are booked through mid-July, McKenna said.
However, the company has been staying busy, a benefit of a robust consumer market.
“But the cost of doing that has been escalating in terms of labor costs and purchasing new trucks and trailers,” McKenna said.
ATA’s McMichael said the Department of Defense has been alerted to the problems and has been cooperating with movers, attempting to be as flexible as possible in moving troops across the U.S. and abroad.
“During COVID, corporate and residential clients tended to put off moving for a year,” she said. “So what we’re seeing is that the post-pandemic migration move has exploded, and the consumer market it very robust.”
“The third prong of this problem is were seeing very limited nonconventional service options,” McMichael said. “Transportation service providers who do work generally have third-party freight providers that aid in transporting shipments across the country. But on the freight side, they’re also getting busy. So, now we’re also seeing that third-party providers in the freight market have become limited. They’re diminishing.”
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Military families receiving permanent change-of-station orders should expect 30-plus days and 20% increased prices for moving their automobiles, Dimitre Kirilov, president of Montway Auto Transport, said in a statement.
“The driver shortage is having a very real effect on people moving across the country post-pandemic,” Kirilov said. “We started breaking booking records in March 2021, and we’ve been breaking records each month since. The problem is there simply are not enough drivers to pick up and deliver cars when people are looking to move across the country for various reasons.”
McMichael said, “The commercial market has not only come back strong, but it’s coming back more strong than we anticipated.
“It’s a good problem for providers to have so much work for everybody. But it does become a challenge balancing all of the work. There’s no silver-bullet solution that’s going to solve this.”
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