DOD finds problems at root of troops’ delayed vehicle shipments
By TRAVIS J. TRITTEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 13, 2014
WASHINGTON — A team of military transportation experts have pinpointed some of the contractor problems that have led to delays in the shipment of personal vehicles and a lot of grumbling from troops, according to the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command.
The transfer of the POVs from trucks to container ships was not being properly recorded by International Auto Logistics, the new contractor in charge of moving tens of thousands of vehicles to bases around the globe. The inaccurate information on vehicles led to confusion at IAL, SDDC spokesman Mark Diamond told Stars and Stripes.
The SDDC and U.S. Transportation Command signed on with Georgia-based IAL in May, but the switch has triggered a litany of complaints from troops, including claims of delayed shipments, damaged property, lost paperwork and vehicles left unlocked in unsecured lots.
An online petition calling on DOD to fire IAL had 1,119 signatures Wednesday and a Facebook page created to connect members of the military community with bad POV shipment experiences had 2,047 members.
“We’re not here to do IAL’s work. We’re here to look after the best interest of our military customers by highlighting and prioritizing issues that IAL needs to resolve to get this program back on track,” Diamond wrote in an Aug. 8 email statement.
The SDDC last week formed a team of supply chain and contract experts, called POV Fusion, to re-examine the entire vehicle shipping process — including delivery dates and customer service — in the wake of the contractor difficulties, Diamond said.
Some disconnects have already been found.
“There appears to be missing data feeds in IAL’s supply chain … information, to date, points to issues at the containerization points that connect the line-haul truck to the ocean carrier,” he said.
The loss of the transfer information along with other “manual processes that are not being fully captured” by IAL led to a database on vehicles that is “not fully accurate and leads to confusion,” he said.
The team is passing along recommendations to IAL to improve performance as it works through the review. Meanwhile, the SDDC is putting additional representatives at vehicle shipment points in Atlanta, San Diego, Seattle and St. Louis to help customers, oversee the contractor and ensure that every vehicle is being properly tracked, according to Diamond.
About 68,000 POVs are shipped to new duty stations by DOD each year. The SDDC says June and July have been the two busiest months for shipping vehicles in the history of the program and IAL said it was tasked with moving about 34,000 POVs.
“IAL had less than two months to begin their contract that started during the busiest time of the year, leading to unanticipated quantities of vehicle processing requests that tested their new systems,” IAL spokeswoman Amanda Nunez wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes.
The contractor hired additional employees, upgraded its electronic data system, opened a new call center, and is working with the SDDC team to handle the volume, Nunez said.
Sabrina Tunis, a military spouse, administers the Facebook page where members of the military community gather to discuss IAL service.
“From military servicemembers, their families and DOD civilians to laid-off (prior contractor American Auto Logistics) workers, everyone is sharing their frustrations,” Tunis said. “The stories vary from damaged cars, to lost cars, to full mailboxes, to unanswered emails, etc.”
Tunis said her family shipped their vehicle from Germany to St. Louis in May and it arrived five weeks late. But the delay was not the only problem.
Initially, IAL told the family the vehicle was on a truck headed from Houston to St. Louis and would arrive shortly, Tunis wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes.
When the contractor’s online vehicle tracker showed no movement, another call to IAL received a different answer: It was stuck in Houston and had not cleared customs, she said.
Tunis said she called IAL again the day after the vehicle was scheduled to arrive and was told it had mistakenly been routed to Norfolk, Va.
“Long story short, we kept calling every few days since online tracking never changed and kept getting different answers,” she said. “That was only if someone would answer the phone at all.”
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