What a difference six months can make.
Last autumn military car shipper International Auto Logistics LLC, of Brunswick, Ga., was besieged with nationwide complaints alleging the firm was losing track of servicemen’s vehicles or delivering them late and in bad shape.
IAL’s woes reached the point that the U.S. Transportation Command, based at Scott, took a series of steps to help IAL get on track and locate cars that had missed their promised delivery dates by weeks and even months, as spelled out in the nearly $1 billion, five-year contract with Transcom, a pact known as the Global Privately Owned Vehicle Contract, or GPC III.
But since January, IAL’s delivery performance has improved dramatically. Points of an improvement plan that IAL submitted in October “have significantly increased their performance and the company is currently delivering vehicles according to the standards of the GPC III contract,” wrote Commander David Nunnally, a Transcom spokesman.
On Friday, IAL began the second year of the five-year Transcom contract. Friday also marked the start of the peak moving season, when military families make their moves to overseas duty stations and back.
And while hundreds of complaints against IAL were filed with U.S. Transcom in 2014, as well as two federal class-action lawsuits in Georgia, so far in 2015 there have been no complaints filed, Nunnally wrote in an email to the News-Democrat.
IAL is delivering customer vehicles by their Required Delivery Date, or RDD, at a rate of 98 percent, wrote Amanda Nunez, an IAL spokeswoman.
“To improve performance, IAL worked out an efficient custom strategy, improved timing and booking of (privately owned vehicles) through container freight stuffing stations, conducted company-wide staff trainings, opened a customer service center, improved storage transitions and increased data visibility for every leg of an RDD journey,” Nunez wrote.
As a result of these improvements, “IAL feels confident and ready to handle the upcoming busy season. IAL's goal always has and continues to be to deliver every vehicle on time and without issue,” she wrote.
The rate of vehicle delivery in August was nearly three times higher than the rate of delivery in previous months, according to Transcom.
IAL’s current on-time delivery rate contrasts sharply with IAL’s on-time delivery rate in in July, when only about 20 percent of the troops’ vehicles arrived on time, according to a Sept. 10 letter from U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., to Transcom, posted on the lawmaker's Senate website.
By August, however, IAL’s on-time rate had increased to 60 percent, an improvement attributable to Transcom’s formation of a special “fusion team” of supply chain and logistics experts to correct IAL’s delivery problems.
Despite these improvements, many IAL customers remain unhappy with the company. They point out that under an agreement that Transcom approved in December, IAL was given an average of 19 more days to ship a car from Germany to the continental United States, and 16 more days from Great Britain.
“It should be said also that they aren't just lengthening the RDD to improve how good they look,” wrote IAL customer Angela Jackson on a Facebook page devoted to complaints about IAL. “It's also a way to get more time before they have to pay for (customer rental cars).”
Jean Griep, another IAL customer, wrote that IAL denied claims or offered below-repair cost amounts when vehicles cars were damaged, claiming the damage was mechanical or not proven to be IAL’s fault.
“This issue is a huge injustice for the service member and their family,” Griep wrote on the same Facebook page. “The additional transit time is also placing an undue burden on the service member and their family. TRANSCOM has changed the rules to allow a positive light to shine on IAL with disregard to the hardship service members will experience.”
In addition, the new required delivery dates hinge on which duty stations customer vehicles are transported to in the United States. IAL has an average of about 60 days to ship to continental U.S. locations from origin points in Europe, according to a February article in Stars and Stripes, an independent publication that covers the U.S. military.
Both IAL and Transcom have blamed the shipper’s previous problems on the fact that IAL got a late start last year on its contract.
Transcom awarded IAL the car-shipping contract in September 2013. But injunctions by the company that held the old contract for 12 years, American Auto Logistics, kept IAL from getting started on the project until May 1, 2014, the peak shipping season.
IAL eventually won appeals before the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, but lost six months of valuable preparation time, according to Nunez, the IAL spokeswoman.
In recent months, IAL has faced some big challenges as it seeks to deal with the problems that have led to missing promised delivery dates for its customers and reports of damaged vehicles.
IAL has parted ways with two of its key subcontractors — North Carolina-based Fayetteville Vehicle Processing Center & Storage and ocean-freight company Liberty Global Logistics LLC, of Lake Success, N.Y. — as a result of payment disputes.
Gen. Paul Selva, Transcom’s commander, announced in August that he had directed site survey teams to visit vehicle-processing centers around the globe to look for missing cars entrusted to IAL.
Transcom reported four weeks later that the on-time delivery of military members’ privately-owned cars had improved dramatically. Nonetheless, many military members continued to complain, especially those who had entrusted their cars to IAL before Aug. 1 and were still waiting to see them two months later.
In mid-December, the Department of Defense Inspector General's office announced it would be sending an audit team to Scott by the end of that month to look at performance complaints concerning IAL and its adherence to GPC III.
The auditors will look at multiple vehicle-processing centers, according to a project announcement letter issued by Michael J. Roark, the department's assistant inspector general.
Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2533.