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Branch Helps DOD Shippers Get Best Rates

By Mitch Chandran
Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Sept. 7, 2012 – Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command’s special requirements branch here is a one-stop shop for finding the right rate and transportation mode for Defense Department shippers who need to move specialized and large volume cargo domestically.

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Military vehicles at Fort Hood, Texas are loaded onto DODX and commercial flat cars for transport to locations within the United States. DOD photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The branch -- part of the command’s strategic business directorate -- can help DOD shippers with special shipping requirements to find cost-efficient transportation solutions.

It specializes in arranging transportation for oversized, overweight and volume cargo movements.

Dora Elias and her team of 11 transportation experts partner with commercial truck, rail, barge and pipeline carriers daily on behalf of shippers to secure special rates for agencies such as Defense Contract Management Agency, Tank-automotive and Armaments Command and Defense Logistics Agency, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House Communications Agency, among others.

“As an example,” Elias said, “Defense Contract Management Agency would come to us with a volume move of a few dozen mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles. We, in turn, have the avenues and would find the best domestic rates to accommodate their move, which in the long run helps them save money.”

Richard Cody, the branch’s lead traffic management specialist, said the process for shippers is simple. “A shipper calls us and gives us their requirements – delivery date, weight, dimensions, volume, etc.,” he explained. “We’ll draw up the request letters and send them to various carriers, detailing a shipper’s requirements, to obtain their rates. Once we get responses back, we’ll offer our recommendations back to the shippers and go from there.”

Elias said the branch is exploring more commercial rail options to offer shippers.

“So far, within the last five months, our branch has helped DOD shippers save $4.6 million by using rail for a majority of domestic movements,” she said. “We deal with a lot of the volume move requests, and across the board savings really add up quick. If more organizations come to us for help with their transportation needs, I’m confident we would realize even more cost-savings.”

The branch also can help local transportation offices to help themselves in meeting customer requirements, Elias said, and is challenging some industry partners to set more competitive rates.

Though commercial freight cars are always an option to consider in moving cargo, branch officials said, the industry does have weight and size limitations. When DOD shipping requirements exceed commercial freight car limits, they added, Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command has an in-house solution.

The command’s Defense Freight Railway Interchange Fleet comprises of more than 2,000 DODX-marked flat and special purpose railcars of varying length and weight capacities to accommodate most cargo the department needs to move. The fleet is made up of chemical tank, refrigerated and box cars, along with heavy duty flat cars boasting a weight capacity of up to 300 tons.

“Owning this rail fleet provides DOD with immediate accessibility for moving volume and overweight cargo,” said George Gounley, chief of the command’s rail fleet management branch.

In July, the special requirements branch was involved in arranging transportation for a large volume of oversized cargo: Bradley fighting vehicles and M1 Abrams tanks, shipped from Fort Hood, Texas, to multiple locations around the country.

For this mission, the command used both commercial and DODX rail cars to move all the vehicles. Renee Roper, transportation assistant for the Fort Hood transportation office, worked through the special requirements branch to arrange this movement.

“It makes more sense any time we can get two huge vehicles onto one railcar versus one vehicle per truck,” Roper said. “Arranging the transportation for all these vehicles is very easy for us. We simply fill out the paperwork with the details, send it to SDDC, then they pretty much arrange the rest and make it work. It’s really painless for us.”

The streamlined shipper’s request process, she added, allows her to devote more time to other aspects of her job.

“As long as we can find out our shipper’s requirements a little in advance, then we can start scheduling transportation to meet their needs,” Elias said. “Also, we can set up long-term options and provide consistent rates to our customers.”

Defense Department shippers can reach the special requirements branch at 618-220-4513.


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