Vehicle delivery delays, other problems plague military's shipping contractor
By ADAM L. MATHIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 11, 2014
RAF MILDENHALL, England — U.S. Air Force Col. Rondall Rice did not expect to finish his military career with a monthlong quest to find his wife’s car, which he turned over to a government contractor for shipping from Germany to the United States on May 16.
At the end of June, he inquired with the company, International Auto Logistics, about the status of the car, but it would be another month before he could pick it up.
Rice is not alone. Hundreds of individuals have reported problems with shipping cars as part of their permanent change of station moves since International Auto Logistics took over the Defense Department contract to ship vehicles worldwide from American Auto in May.
Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, a Defense Department agency that assists with the movement of personal goods, estimates it has received 250 complaints between May and the latter part of July.
“In my opinion, they’ve got to do better,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Aaron Stanley, a director at SDDC. “Our customers deserve the highest level of support and that level of support is not being provided presently and it needs to get there.”
International did not immediately respond to a question about what is causing the delays. However, Amanda Nunez, a spokeswoman for the company, said International has delivered thousands of vehicles on time.
“However the record-setting volume of requests in June and July has caused delays,” Nunez wrote in an e-mail. “On-time delivery will improve going forward.”
Stanley noted that about 40 percent of the year’s vehicle shipments occur between May 15 and August. International also took possession of about 8,000 vehicles in storage when it assumed control of the contract, he said.
“With any company, there are going to be instances where the required delivery isn’t met, but it shouldn’t be to the magnitude that they’re experiencing it now,” Stanley said. “So I completely understand and empathize with the frustrations that they’re encountering,” he added, referring to customers.
The SDDC is directing anyone whose vehicle delivery is late to call International at 1-855-389-9499 or visit the company’s website, pcsmypov.com, according to a press release.
Many angry International customers have banded together online. A Facebook group called, “International Auto Logistics: Reviews, Complaints, and Inconveniences,” has more than 1,700 members. Janelle Robles and her husband lost track of a Ford F-150 for a while in the International system. Robles, who has posted her experiences online and spoke to Stars and Stripes, said her husband was told the truck was ready for pickup on Aug. 3 in Hawaii. When he arrived, officials told him the truck was lost.
International has since located the truck, which is now either en route to, or in, Los Angeles, Robles said Friday. She did credit International with helping them get a rental car and for staying in touch. However, Robles found officials expected them to do a lot of the legwork to get answers about the location of their truck.
“My husband was given very vague answers, a shrug of the shoulders, literally, and telling him they had no idea what they could do for us,” Robles said. “If they could have just given us straight answers, if they did the legwork themselves, it would have made the transition easier and less stressful.”
Rice had delivered his wife’s car in Germany on May 16. Rice said when he inquired with International about the car’s status, he said, he had no confidence that the company even knew were it was.
“My car could be lost, it could be at the bottom of the ocean,” Rice said officials. “It could have been stolen and some Somali pirate might be driving it in Mogadishu.”
International Auto Logistics opened new vehicle processing centers, like this one in Mildenhall, England, when it took over the contract in May to ship servicemembers' vehicles. The company has faced criticism for late deliveries and not being able to provide accurate information about the location of vehicles.
ADAM L. MATHIS/STARS AND STRIPES