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YEAR IN REVIEW 2014

Vehicle shipping company fails to deliver on time

International Auto Logistics opened new vehicle processing centers like this one in Mildenhall, England, when it took over the contract in May 2014 to ship servicemembers' vehicles.<br>Adam L. Mathis/Stars and Stripes
International Auto Logistics opened new vehicle processing centers like this one in Mildenhall, England, when it took over the contract in May 2014 to ship servicemembers' vehicles.

Before the start of this year’s busy season for change-of-station moves, U.S. Transportation Command announced a few changes of its own.

A new contractor would take over the shipment of personal vehicles, and with the new company would come a few new pick-up/drop-off locations and a new website for tracking shipments. The command expected the transition to go smoothly.

It did not.

Instead, the new company, International Auto Logistics, failed to deliver thousands of vehicles on time during the summer and struggled to provide accurate vehicle-tracking information. The delays were so bad, some began to wonder if their vehicles were lost.

Rondall Rice, a retiring Air Force colonel, shipped his wife’s car from Germany to the United States on May 16 and was supposed to be delivered by the end of June. The car eventually arrived, a month late.

During transit, Rice said he became convinced transportation officials did not know where the car was.

“My car could be lost, it could be at the bottom of the ocean,” Rice wrote to officials involved in vehicle shipping. “It could have been stolen and some Somali pirate might be driving it in Mogadishu.”

Some servicemembers and civilians became so frustrated with the delays and inaccurate information that they filed a class-action lawsuit against the company in August. The original suit seeks more than $5 million in estimated damages and is still pending in Georgia.

How many vehicles were delivered late during the summer is unknown. Transportation Command officials said federal regulations prevent them from releasing the figures, and International declined a request to provide the numbers in October.

But an email from a high-ranking official under Transportation Command, released on Facebook, said that, as of Aug. 19, International had processed “27,358 vehicles: 14,154 vehicles are currently in transit with approximately 70 percent late in meeting the required delivery date.”

Despite the fact that this figure suggests performance far below International’s contractual obligation to deliver 98 percent of vehicles on time, Transportation Command indicated the company had not yet met the threshold needed to revoke the contract.

“The decision to terminate for cause is a subjective decision based on numerous factors involving contract performance,” wrote Maj. Matthew Gregory, a spokesman for Transportation Command, in an October email. “It is generally not made based on a single area of contract performance.”

Transportation Command officials, however, were able to release figures in September that they said showed improvement in the company’s performance. A survey of a random sample of 500 vehicles dropped off in August showed International delivered more than 95 percent on time.

Transportation Command has pointed to legal challenges by the previous contractor as contributing to the shipping problems. American Auto Logistics filed a bid protest after it lost the contract to International. The protest was rejected by the Government Accountability Office, but American appealed to the Court of Federal Claims.

These legal challenges prevented International from taking over the contract until May, the start of the busiest season for vehicle shipping, Transportation Command said in a September statement.

“This peak season was hampered significantly when legal actions interrupted the planned transition between contractors,” said Gail Jorgenson, director of acquisition for U.S. Transportation Command, in the statement.

Delays, however, are expected to continue for people shipping vehicles. International issued a warning in November saying shipments into 2015 could be delayed because of congestion at civilian ports.

mathis.adam@stripes.com
Twitter: @AMathisStripes

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