You’ve received orders to ship out to a new Permanent Change of Station (PCS) outside the contiguous United States (OCONUS). This is part and parcel of military life. Your new assignment allows you to experience a new culture and advance your career.
It also means you have a move to consider.
The military helps you with various aspects of moving your family and household goods by providing reimbursement up to certain points. But what about your privately owned vehicle (POV). How does POV shipping work? This article provides the answer.
Can You Ship POV Transportation as Part of an OCONUS PCS?
You can ship a POV overseas as part of your OCONUS PCS assignment. The United States military even funds the shipping of the vehicle for you. However, you must meet certain conditions to access this benefit:
- The vehicle must be shipped at least 600 miles to count as OCONUS PCS Shipping.
- You have to work with your local transportation office if you want your vehicle to get shipped via the government.
Military POV shipping is intended to provide you with access to a personal vehicle during your overseas tour. The idea is that having this vehicle both improves your quality of life and makes it easier for you to perform your duties. You’re restricted to certain types of vehicles, however, such as automobiles, light trucks, and station wagons. That means you can’t transport any vehicles intended for commercial use. The military doesn’t pay for you to ship trailers or similar vehicle accessories.
There are differences between OCONUS and CONUS military car shipping. CONUS assignments allow you to move to your PCS with two cars. The military pays for the transportation of both POVs to your duty station. Unfortunately, the government only pays for the shipping of a single POV for an OCONUS assignment. You can ship a second POV to your location, though you must do so at a direct cost to yourself. You will likely have to pay import duty if you choose to ship a second POV.
Finally, some countries have restrictions on PCS POV shipping. For example, the military will not pay to ship a POV to Japan because of the country’s costly emissions test policies. Speak to your local transportation office to learn about any specific restrictions that apply to your OCONUS assignment.
The Key Things to Know About Military POV Shipping
There are five key things to keep in mind when arranging POV shipping.
No. 1 – Weight Limits Apply
The military will only pay to ship a vehicle that weighs up to 20 metric tons. This usually isn’t an issue as most standard automobiles fall well below this weight limit. But you may face problems if you want to ship an oversized truck or recreational vehicle.
No. 2 – Time Limits Apply
You have to follow a strict timeline for PCS shipping. POV shipping is no different. Departure and return shipping times are your key concerns when transporting a vehicle overseas. Speak to your local transportation office about the timeline that applies to you because it may vary depending on your service branch.
No. 3 – Be Wary of Modifications
Legality in other countries is the key issue here.
Modifications that are allowed in the United States may not be allowed in the country you’re shipping to. This is particularly the case for non-factory modifications, which often have to meet special standards for shipping. Again, the regulations vary depending on the country you’re assigned to. Your local transportation office can provide more information relevant to your new duty station.
No. 4 – You Have to Register Your Vehicle
You’re subject to your new country’s licensing and registration laws related to your POV shipment. OCONUS assignments require you to register your vehicle in your new country, with strict deadlines often applying. Your Military and Family Support Center can provide more information on the timeline you have for registering.
No. 5 – Shipping Items Inside Your Vehicle
You may be tempted to fill your vehicle with household goods (HHGs) and other personal items, especially if your POV shipment is due to arrive before your HHG shipment. Sadly, you generally can’t do this. Any item left inside the vehicle must serve a purpose related to operating your POV. Examples include tire irons, jumper cables, and jacks. You may also be able to store items relevant to transport, such as children’s car seats and strollers. However, you can’t fill your POV with clothes and electronics in the hope they’ll get shipped to you faster in your car.
The Steps for Preparing Your Vehicle for Shipping
Once you have the approval to ship a POV overseas, you must ensure it’s prepared properly so you don’t have to deal with customs delays. These steps make processing your POV as smooth as possible.
Step No. 1 – Gather Your Documentation
You must provide the following documents when shipping a POV:
- Proof of your entitlement to ship a POV, which you’ll usually find in your official orders.
- Documents demonstrating your ownership of the vehicle. These may include your vehicle registration and title. The vehicle must be in your name.
- A valid government or state-issued form of identification. You can’t use expired IDs to prove who you are.
- A completed copy of your IAL Shipping Instruction Form.
Beyond these standard documents, you may have to provide additional documents related to special shipping circumstances.
- If your vehicle is subject to a lien and you’re transporting it outside of its country of origin, you must provide a lien holder authorization letter. You can obtain this from the lien holder.
- A certified power of attorney is required if anybody other than the service member who owns the vehicle arranges the shipping.
- A letter of authorization from your leaseholder if you’re leasing the vehicle.
Finally, you have to provide your destination address, notification address, emergency contact information, and your email address before shipping.
Step No. 2 – Clean Your Vehicle
You’re required to wash the exterior and remove all personal items from your vehicle prior to POV shipping. This includes any loose items, such as loose navigational equipment and citizen band radios. After removing these items, you must vacuum clean the interior and trunk. If you choose to shampoo the interior, you must do so at least 14 days before shipping. The vehicle has to be dry before it’s shipped.
It’s often best to have a professional cleaning service give your POV a full sweep about half a month before shipping. This ensures the vehicle is as clean as possible, which reduces the possibility of having to deal with regulations related to contamination when your POV arrives at your OCONUS location.
Step No. 3 – Double-Check That You Provide the “Musts”
The “musts” are the things that your shipping company needs to have before it can transport your vehicle.
- A quarter tank of gas so your shipping company can drive the vehicle on and off any ships or containers.
- The vehicle must have a fully functioning parking brake and no leaks or cracks. Non-functional vehicles can only be shipped through a private company.
- A complete set of keys for all locks, including ignition, doors, trunk, wheel lock, and gas cap. Customs officers require full access to your POV when running their checks. Plus, your shipping company uses the door and ignition keys when transporting the vehicle.
It’s also worth confirming that your vehicle is under the 20 metric ton weight limit. You can find your vehicle’s weight in the owner’s manual. Some POVs have a plate installed that displays their weight. You have to pay the additional cost of shipping any vehicle that weighs over 20 metric tons.
When Should You Ship Your POV?
Each branch of the military has different regulations in place for POV shipping.
For Air Force and Army personnel, your POV shipment must be delivered no more than 90 days after you depart for your OCONUS tour, assuming the tour lasts at least a year. If your tour lasts less than a year, you have 30 days to ship your vehicle.
The guidelines change for Marine Corp and Navy shipping. POV shipments are only accepted if you have at least 12 months left to serve at your current duty station on the date the vehicle arrives at the loading port.
How Does PCS Vehicle Shipping OCONUS to CONUS Work?
Once your OCONUS tour ends, you’ll likely want to ship your vehicle back to the United States. That comes with some complications because several departments have regulations in place to ensure the vehicle is safe for re-entry. These include the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
DOT and EPA Stickers
Assuming the vehicle originated in the United States, it should have DOT and EPA stickers.
The DOT sticker contains your vehicle’s VIN and is usually located on the driver’s side door edge or door jamb. If your sticker is missing, you must provide a title, registration, or CARFAX report that originates in the United States.
Your EPA sticker is usually on the hood or in your POVs motor compartment. It has the word “CATALYST” or “Vehicle Emissions Control” on it. This sticker confirms that your vehicle conformed with EPA regulations at the time of its manufacture. If your vehicle doesn’t have this sticker, you must provide a stateside registration, title, or CARFAX report to the EPA. It will then issue a compliance letter you can use when shipping your vehicle back into the country.
Meeting USDA Requirements
Cleanliness is key when meeting USDA requirements. The organization has specific rules in place to prevent the entry of foreign soil, dirt, plant, and animal life. It offers no leeway on these rules. If your POV fails to meet the USDA’s standards for re-entry, you’ll receive an “Agricultural Reject Sheet”. This highlights the problem areas so you know where additional cleaning is needed. This process creates a delay in shipping your vehicle back home. As such, it’s better to follow these tips to ensure the vehicle is clean and ready for the USDA inspection:
- Vacuum the interior, including floor mats, between the seats, and under the seat rails. You also need to vacuum the trunk, which includes cleaning any spare tires and the spare tire well. A flashlight can help you locate specks of dirt and mud that the naked eye might miss.
- Wash your vehicle’s exterior, with a particular focus on its undercarriage. Soil and dirt can accumulate underneath your vehicle without you realizing it. Furthermore, wipe or spray your fuel intake area and wheel wells.
- Vacuum all corners of your motor compartment, paying special attention to built-up dirt and foliage. Again, a flashlight helps here. After vacuuming, wipe the compartment down, along with the engine and hood.
- Wipe all door jambs down.
It’s a good idea to pay for a professional cleaning service to handle this job for you. Inspect the vehicle after cleaning to ensure there are no small dirt or soil build-ups.
Picking Up Your Vehicle
Assuming your vehicle passes the USDA, EPA, and DOT requirements, you’re ready to pick your vehicle up. Bring a valid government or state-issued form of identification along with your vehicle shipping and inspection forms.
After your documents are confirmed, you’ll complete an inspection of your POV with a customer service representative. On-site personnel are usually available to help if you have to claim damages.
Get POV Shipping Right
Having your POV available when you’re stationed overseas is a huge bonus. It allows you to get around easily so you’re in a better position to take care of your family and complete your assignments. Shipping a vehicle to an OCONUS location can seem complicated. But with the right guidance, you can complete the process quickly and have your vehicle available in no time.
Your biggest challenge may lie in finding a shipping company that can do the job well.
At Military Car Shipping, we specialize in transporting vehicles for military personnel. We offer CONUS and OCONUS shipping services, which include packing, transportation, and unpacking your vehicle. If you’d like to learn more, or want to get a free quote, call us at 910-889-1993 or contact us online.