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Need to Know: Shipping a Car for a PCS

Are you PCSing overseas or to Alaska or Hawaii this year? Then there is a pretty good chance you are going to let the Defense Department ship one of your vehicles there for you. And why not? It’s part of the whole PCS-across-an-ocean experience.

But after a whole summer (and parts of the fall) full of DoD personal car shipping drama, we want to give you some background – and a little update about what to expect going into this year’s summer PCS season.

First, here’s what happened: cars got lost.

Ok, not really. I mean, they were out there somewhere. The company who had them just couldn’t tell you where that somewhere was.

Last year the DoD decided to award the contract for shipping personal vehicles to a new company after they bid lower than the one that had been doing it for a long time. That sparked a pretty heated series of protetests between the old company, American Auto Logisitics (AAL), and the new company, International Auto Logistics (IAL).

AAL filed a bunch of contract disputes and, when they still didn’t win, launched an aggressive PR campaign against IAL. In the meantime IAL attempted to get ready to take over the contract, but didn’t quite get their ducks in a row in time for the contract to start in May, 2014. (They would tell you it was because AAL wouldn’t cooperate for handover or a variety of other reasons. AAL would tell you that is because they were incompetent. In hindsight, It doesn’t really matter).

And then the perfect storm of problems hit. In addition to really being unprepared and having a lot of kinks to work out in their shipping, storage and tracking systems, IAL was hit with what the DoD has called the busiest car shipping season in a very long time. When the systems they relied on to track vehicles didn’t work, cars started appearing lost in the system. Delivery dates were missed by months.

And all of that time troops and their families were trying to figure out how to live without that car they thought would be there by now. IAL had to foot the bill for their rental car costs, but getting reimbursed proved tricky for some people. Plus really, who needs the extra stress of all of this during an international move?

To help fix the problem, DoD started babysitting the process closely, making sure they had watchdogs from Transportation Command (TransCom) overseeing the process. Eventually cars were delivered and everything caught up. And TransCom decided to let IAL keep their contract after they demonstrated that they would not mess it up that badly this year.

(Feeling nervous yet?)

So what’s the deal now?

The folks at TransCom say they are confident things are going to be much, MUCH better this year. They still have their team doing “contract oversight” to make sure IAL keeps the wheels moving and is not causing panic like they had before. But peak moving season always comes with some challenges, so TransCom is planning to be in contact with officials on the ground to make sure things are running smoothly,

“Beginning April 16 and continuing until late August, Defense Personal Property Program officials will be conducting weekly engagement sessions with military service representatives and industry representatives,” said Sarah Garner, a spokesman for TransCom’s Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC).

So let’s say you do have problems, because problems happen, especially during a PCS. What do you do? TransCom created this little flow chart  (probably in PowerPoint …  because … military) as a way to help you figure out how things work.

POV-graphic

If you’re dropping off your car you should be able to track its progress in the system via the PCS My POV website. https://www.pcsmypov.com/ And if you don’t have the tracking number you need for that system, you can call IAL at at 1-855-389-9499, option 2, or via e-mail at customerservice@ial.pov.us.

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