Pentagon Threatens to Pull Contract after Late Overseas Car Shipments

A service member's privately owned vehicle is processed in the Baltimore Vehicle Processing Center.(DoD photo)
A service member's privately owned vehicle is processed in the Baltimore Vehicle Processing Center.(DoD photo)

A contractor in charge of shipping service members' cars to and from overseas duty stations has until Feb. 1 to show Defense Department officials they are ready to handle next year's busy shipping season – or they could have their contract pulled.

"We have to have a high degree of confidence that the contractor can physically move the cars in order to deliver them on time, and that they can meet the other terms of the contract," Air Force Col. Marty Chapin, who leads a U.S. Transportation Command (TransCom) team tasked with overseeing the contract. "The date in the beginning of February is designed to make sure there's a decision space if necessary. All options are on the table."

International Auto Logistics took over the personal vehicle shipping contract May 1, the start of what Defense Department officials have called the busiest vehicle moving season on record. But service members soon started complaining that their vehicles were months past their delivery dates and seemingly lost in the system.

Officials with IAL have blamed the delays on a variety of factors including the volume of cars placed in their care, US Customs paperwork problems and a system providing faulty tracking information for vehicles in transit on ocean liners.

Chapin said IAL has shown "progress" solving all of those issues, but needs to continue their work to be in compliance with the benchmarks in their contract.

"We require that they keep us informed on what they're doing," he said. "We watch certain things very closely."

IAL is still far away from meeting its contractually required 98 percent on time delivery rate of troops' vehicles, officials said. And while the current "mid 60 percent" rate of on time delivery is a vast improvement from the 30 percent rate found by TransCom in mid-August, Chapin said that level of delay is still unacceptable.

But the on-time delivery rate isn't the only metric his team is looking for and on which TransCom officials will be looking for details by February.  Other benchmarks include customer service response time and responses to reimbursement requests from service members who had to rent a car because their vehicle was late, or whose vehicle was damaged in shipping.

"It's easy to look at one number that's been widely published … but there is a lot of things in the contract that we require," he said.

More than anything, the team will be looking to see how IAL plans to extend their performance improvements into the next peak moving season, which traditionally starts in late Spring.

"We've seen the increase in performance that has happened during a time when the volume has decreased," he said. "Do they continue to improve their performance, or do they struggle again?"

Officials with IAL said they are already in the process of forming that plan.

"IAL has worked tirelessly to clear any backlog, while simultaneously ensuring new vehicles coming into the system are delivered on time. In two month's time, IAL has cleared over 80 percent of outstanding vehicles ,and months ago after continued conversations with TransCom about the unusually high 2014 volume agreed to put together a surge plan for 2015," Amanda Nunez, a spokesman for IAL said in a statement. "Additionally, IAL has requested from TRANSCOM the expected 2015 POV volume to put together the most comprehensive and complete plan possible."

As of Dec. 11 IAL had accepted 47,768 vehicles into their system since May. Of those 39,437 have been delivered to customers, and 2,563 are pending pick-up, Nunez said.

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

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