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Vehicles Gone Missing? The Shipping Problem

Officials with a company newly responsible for shipping service member's personal operated vehicles (POVs) too and from overseas locations say they have absolutely not lost any vehicles in the process.

"Unequivocally we have not lost any vehicles," the CEO told me July 28. "They are in the system somewhere."

But service members and their families worry otherwise. They say the information they have to go on -- available on the company's website by typing in one of two identification numbers -- is inaccurate, says their cars are places they are not, missing, or conflicts with information given to them by company representatives.

You can read all about the nitty-gritty of this over in my Military.com news story. 

The company, International Auto Logistics, took over the contract for POV shipments on May 1, at the cusp of the peak moving season. Doug Tipton, the company's president and CEO, has worked in auto transport for  many years, including as a top official at the company who previously held the contract, American Auto Logistics (AAL).

The problems started for IAL when plans to take over the contract, which they won late last year, were delayed due to a contract dispute, he said. That put the company starting their work at the busiest time of the year instead of the slowest time of the year.

The rest appears to have been a snowball of problems. Their online tracking systems don't work well, in part because they are not automatically receiving tracking data from the ship lines they are using to move the cars across oceans. That information instead has to be manually entered for each car in transit, which means that there is room for delay and error.

A higher-than-historical volume of cars over the month of June (highest since the 1980s, according to IAL),  created a backlog of cars waiting to be shipped.

And the combination of the tracking issue and the delay meant that suddenly their phone lines and voice mail boxes were flooded with people looking for information about the location of their vehicles.

"Apparently people want to keep up with their vehicle's progress," he said.

The company is working hard to add staff and meet customer needs, he said. But the more people hear about potential problems, and the more the tracking data is wrong, the more calls they get and the harder it is to answer or return them.

The biggest problem I have heard about while reporting this story is family after family worrying about the cost of a rental. While the government is supposed to reimburse a set per diem amount (about $30 a day) for a short period of time, IAL is covering the cost for anything over or beyond that. Kate has all the details on the reimbursement process over at Paycheck Chronicles.

The biggest problem people seem to be having is connecting with company officials. Once they manage to do that, the reimbursement process seems to be fairly easy, with the company booking cars on the behalf of service members and their families so that they are paying nothing out of pocket.

Have you been having trouble with your POV shipment? Tell us your story in the comment section.

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