Small SDDC Branch Provides Big Cost Savings for DOD

Mitch Chandran

For DOD shippers who need to move specialized and
large-volume cargo domestically, the Special Requirements Branch (SRB) of Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) is a one-stop shop for finding the right rate and transportation mode.

The branch, part of SDDC’s Strategic Business Directorate, wants DOD shippers with special requirements to know that not all rates are equal and that they will help find cost-efficient transportation solutions. The branch specializes in arranging transportation for oversize, overweight, and high-volume cargo movements.

Dora Elias, SRB Chief, and her team of 11 transportation experts partner with commercial industry’s truck, rail, barge, and pipeline carriers daily on behalf of shippers to secure special rates for an array of agencies including the Defense Contract Management Agency, U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Life Cycle Management Command, Defense Logistics Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and White House Communications Agency.

“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.”

“We make the process really simple for shippers,” said Richard Cody, lead Traffic Management Specialist. “A shipper calls us and gives us their requirements: delivery date, weight, dimensions, volume, etc. 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.”


The SRB helps DOD shippers make special transportation arrangements and find the best rates for high-volume or specialized cargo movements, which has saved shippers millions, said SRB Chief Dora Elias, shown here with Richard Cody (left), lead Traffic Management Specialist for the SRB, and Ed Lilly, Traffic Management Specialist, at Scott Air Force Base, IL. (Photos by Mitch Chandran, SDDC Public Affairs)

Expanding Options
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 came to us for help with their transportation needs, I’m confident we would realize even more cost savings.

“We can help local transportation offices to help themselves in meeting customer requirements. Likewise, we’re challenging some of our industry partners for more competitive rates.”

Commercial freight cars are always an option for moving cargo, but the industry has weight and size limitations. When DOD shipping requirements exceed commercial freight car limits, SDDC has an in-house solution.

The command’s Defense Freight Railway Interchange Fleet comprises more than 2,000 DODX-marked flat and special-purpose railcars of varying lengths and weight capacities to accommodate almost any cargo the department needs to move. The fleet includes chemical tank, refrigerated, and boxcars along with heavy-duty flatcars with a 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 SDDC’s Rail Fleet Management Branch.


SDDC owns more than 2,000 flatcars and special-purpose railcars of varying lengths and weight capacities to accommodate almost any cargo the department needs to move. The DODX-marked railcars make up the command’s Defense Freight Railway Interchange Fleet. Here, military vehicles loaded onto DODX and commercial flatcars await transport from Fort Hood to multiple locations.

A Satisfied Customer
In July, the SRB was involved in arranging transportation for a large volume of oversize vehicles, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and M-1 Abrams tanks from Fort Hood, TX, to multiple locations around the country. SDDC 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 SRB to arrange this movement.

“It makes more sense anytime we can get two huge vehicles onto one railcar,” 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, and they pretty much arrange the rest and make it work. It’s really painless for us.”

Roper added that by using technology to streamline the shipper’s request process, she can 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.”

For more information, contact SRB General Service at 618-220-4513.


  • MITCH CHANDRAN, a DA civilian employee, is a Public Affairs Specialist for Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command. He holds a B.B.A. in business management from the University of Central Oklahoma.