Suit Begun Against Shipping Company for Lost Cars

The Personal Property directorate at Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command manages the Department of Defense's Privately Owned Vehicle shipping program.

An Oklahoma-based law firm is looking for service members who have lost vehicles being shipped to or from overseas duty stations to join a class-action lawsuit against the Defense Department's shipping contractor.

The suit will look to recoup what the law firm said could be millions of dollars of damages suffered by military families who have shipped their cars through DoD contractor International Auto Logistics (IAL). Attorneys Tim Deets and Kayla Dendy said they will file the suit in the U.S. District Court's northern Texas district.

IAL took over the privately owned vehicle (POV) contract in early May, the beginning of peak moving season for military families. Since then, hundreds of service members have complained that their cars are far past their arrival due dates and cannot be located in IAL's shipment tracking system.

"Our primary interest at this point is getting those people taken care of," Deets said. "Our intent is to get something on file as quickly as possible."

This missing car issue is personal to Deets' and Dendy's firm, Midtown Attorneys based in Oklahoma City, because one of the cars that cannot be located belongs to Dendy's spouse, a recently medically retired soldier. The car was shipped from Germany, but now can't be located or tracked, Dendy said.

IAL "has to answer these questions, and they aren't doing that," Deets said. "Right now, our motives are pure and simple -- get them to pay attention to this, get them to take it seriously."

As of midafternoon Aug. 21, about 15 people had contacted Deets and Dendy about joining the suit.

Meanwhile, an email sent Aug. 19 from a top Army official revealed about 70 percent of the vehicles IAL has been tasked with shipping under the DoD contract are considered late.

The email, sent from Command Sgt. Maj. James Sims, Army Material Command's senior enlisted official, to Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler, detailed the current status of an Army and U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM)-led effort to locate the vehicles.

"I want to provide you situational awareness regarding the significant delays we're currently experiencing in DoD POV shipments," the email says. "The transfer from the previous contractor to the new contractor did not go well for a variety of reasons, and the new contractor is experiencing significant challenges in meeting the requirements of the contract, compounded by the sheer volume of POV processing, shipments, and claims. As a result of these POV shipping delays, there is significant public media attention, along with growing congressional interest as complaints are submitted by DoD personnel."

The email goes on to say that of the 27,358 vehicles IAL has accepted since starting the $1 billion, five-year contract, 14,154 vehicles are currently in transit with approximately 70 percent late in meeting the required delivery date; 7,987 vehicles have been delivered to service members; and 2,250 are awaiting customer pick-up. Additionally, there are still vehicles under the previous contract that had been placed in storage, and are required to be delivered by Aug. 23.

Sims said in addition to a set of search teams tasked by TRANSCOM and the Army's Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) with visiting processing centers worldwide to locate missing vehicles, TRANSCOM has issued an official letter of concern to IAL.

Chandler said in a statement that the email is just one way to demonstrate that the Army is working on the vehicle problem.

"This is the type of communication we do to ensure leadership has all the facts in order to keep their soldier informed about what the Army is doing to address their concerns," he said in a statement.

Officials with IAL did not respond before deadline for requests for comment.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at Amy.Bushatz@monster.com.

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