As we muddle through the continued drama over vehicles shipped to and from overseas military bases by a Defense Department contractor, I've had the honor of listening to or reading the complaints and issues of at least hundreds of service members or their families. Many of these people shipped their cars through International Auto Logistics (IAL) what seems like months ago. Their car's delivery date has come and gone. They are dealing with rental car issues, unforeseen costs and all the headaches that come with a PCS that did not go as planned.
I've lost count of how many news stories I've written about this issue since July. But when readers send me specific issues and questions, I do my best to get them direct answers.
In late September readers contacted me with an ongoing frustration over car delivery. They said vehicles shipped after theirs were getting delivered first, while they waited in what seemed like a never ending spiral of uncertainty over whether or not they would ever actually see their car again.
The answer from IAL seems straight forward, but is packed with complicated details and unknowns the way so many things in the military are.
Why do some cars shipped later get delivered first?What they said: IAL operates on a first in, first out basis -- if they can. That means a car put in the system in May is going to be delivered before a car put in the system in August IF the car is ready for delivery. And that's the catch. "Ready for delivery." Without knowing specifics of any given case, Quinn said the Customs process is likely the culprit for any instances of this that customers have noticed. For a variety of reasons -- some in IAL's control to an extent, and some far beyond it -- containers take a variety of time frames to work through the Customs process.
Here's one example: cars are tallied on cargo ships and then processed by Customs on what is called a "bill of lading." If that bill contains one problematic vehicle, the entire list is delayed until that vehicle is cleared. When they first started operating, IAL was listing 200 vehicles per bill. Now they are listing eight to 10, and putting cars they know will be problems on their own bills.
What makes a car problematic? Year and potentially make. Cars that are more than 25 years old are required to go through inspections. And any Rover car (Land Rover, Ranger Rover) is required extra inspection as well, Quinn said.
Another example of Customs problems: paperwork. IAL wasn't getting their paperwork to Customs in the time it was supposed to. That created a huge backlog of cars, he said. They've since solved that problem, and the backlog is almost worked out, he said.
My Customs paperwork was missing when I picked-up my car. Now I can't register it.And you thought you had escaped the maze of crazy, didn't you? Wrong! You may have your car, but you can't get plates for it because the paperwork documenting its entrance into the country is missing. Awesome.
What they said: Quinn said this problem has a lot to do with the speed at which vehicles are moved and the time it takes to process the paperwork. The issue, he said, has often popped up for vehicles whose pick-up locations were fairly close to the port of entry. The cars are trucked to the location and ready for delivery in a matter of hours, long before the paperwork has caught up to them.
To fix this problem they are now doing what they can to make sure the paperwork is there BEFORE the car.
So what should you do if you get your car and there is no paperwork? Ask them to overnight it to you when it arrives, Quinn said.
Photo courtesy U.S. Government.