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MTMC Alerts POV Shippers to Avoid Old, Bad Advice

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2002 – Something is wrong and all Charlie Helfrich knows is that people are getting bum information about shipping their privately owned vehicles overseas.

It bothers Helfrich. He wants service members and civilian employees to have a "hassle-free movement and a pleasant experience in shipping the vehicle."

"Either the installation isn't counseling people properly or people are saying they're not being counseled," said Helfrich, a traffic management specialist with the Military Traffic Management Command in Alexandria, Va.

Command workers also have mentioned some people whip out their 1994 printed edition of the "Shipping Your POV" pamphlet at vehicle processing centers and start pointing out how they followed instructions. The booklet's obsolete.

"Ancient history," Helfrich said. "Things have changed considerably since then." For example, he said, the 1994 pamphlet says service members can't ship a foreign-made vehicle. Now they can.

While the 1994 edition was the last printed, an online "Shipping Your POV" has been available and continually updated.

The latest version, dated March 28, 2002, can be viewed at www.mtmc.army.mil/CONTENT/599/Povpam.pdf. It also can be downloaded at http://www.mtmc.army.mil/frontDoor/0,1865,OID=4--26-9762--9762,00.html by right-clicking "Shipping Your POV" in the shaded box on the left and choosing "Save Target As."

He said shipping a vehicle today is faster, easier and more efficient than in the past. However, a hassle-free experience at the vehicle processing center depends on having the right information at hand.

"A lot of people are coming home and shipping foreign- manufactured vehicles with them that don't conform to U.S. safety and pollution control standards," Helfrich said.

Foreign-made vehicles must be modified to meet U.S. standards by a company that's licensed by the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency, he said. The modifications can only be done within the 48 contiguous states, not in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam or Alaska.

U.S. Customs will seize and export or destroy any vehicle that owners fail to modify to U.S. standards or that can't be modified, he said. The modification work costs $2,000 to $8,000.

Helfrich showed a picture of a crushed Jeep on his computer screen. He said a couple in Japan had bought the Jeep, which was made in the United States for foreign consumption, and shipped it back to the United States to learn it couldn't be modified. It's the pancake in Helfrich's picture.

Laws governing vehicle imports apply in all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands.

One frequent mistake service members make is trying to drop off a vehicle with a nearly full gas tank. "It can't have more than a quarter of a tank because of safety hazards, according to the Department of Transportation," Helfrich noted.

MTMC workers used to start cars and let them run down to a quarter-tank or siphon the gas out. They're now prohibited from doing either. "We have to send the service member to a gas station to have the fuel drained, and that can cost $20 to $50," he said. That's just an unnecessary, additional expense for the service member, he remarked.

Another problem is eligible shippers showing up without the right paperwork. For one, Helfrich emphasized, spouses must have a power of attorney to turn in a vehicle for shipment.

In the case of a purchased or leased vehicle, members must present a letter from the lien holder or lessor giving permission to export the vehicle. Helfrich said the letter is a U.S. Customs requirement.

If a vehicle is paid for, U.S. Customs won't let it out of the country unless the shipper presents a copy of the title, he said.

Military and civilian personnel, including nonappropriated fund employees and DoD Dependent Schools teachers, are generally eligible to ship one vehicle that doesn't exceed a volume of 20 measurement tons -- 800 cubic feet. A typical compact car is 9 measurement tons and a full-sized car, 15.

Service members shipping anything over that, such as an oversized sports utility vehicle, have to pay the difference in shipping costs. Payment is taken at vehicle turn in or as a payroll deduction, Helfrich said.

MTMC shipped more than 100,000 vehicles overseas in 1997, but military downsizing has dropped that number to about 73,000. The largest vehicle processing center is Honolulu, Hawaii, where more than 20,000 vehicles are shipped in and out every year.

Service members shipping vehicles to Europe no longer have to pick them up in Bremerhaven, Germany. Vehicles are trucked to owners throughout Europe. In Germany, shippers can pick up their vehicle in Baumholder, Boeblingen, Grafenwoehr, Kaiserslautern, Mannheim, Schweinfurt, Spangdahlem and Wiesbaden. There are four centers in Italy, Aviano, Livorno and Vicenza in the north and Naples in the south. There are 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 satellite sites in Madrid and Seville, and Lisbon, Portugal. England has a main center at Lakenheath/Mildenhall and satellites at West Ruislip, St. Mawgan and Menwith Hill. There are also centers in South Korea, Guam and Puerto Rico.

Processing centers are co-located with vehicle registration centers as a customer convenience.

Directions and maps to the processing centers and more detailed, updated information on shipping a vehicle can be found in the online "Shipping Your POV."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDennis Barborak (left) and Charles Helfrich hold a printed copy of the latest online MTMC "Shipping Your POV" pamphlet that's on the Web at www.mtmc.army.mil/CONTENT/599/Povpam.pdf. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA Jeep is crushed after confiscation by U.S. Customs. The Jeep was made in the United States for use in Japan and couldn't be modified to conform to U.S. standards. Photo courtesy MTMC Orlando Vehicle Processing Center.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA Jeep is crushed after confiscation by U.S. Customs. The Jeep was made in the United States for use in Japan and couldn't be modified to conform to U.S. standards. Photo courtesy MTMC Orlando Vehicle Processing Center.  
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