Blame shifts in auto delays

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Hun­dreds of U.S. troops and ci­vil­ian de­fense work­ers com­plain that the com­pany hired to ship their per­sonal ve­hi­cles af­ter they re­lo­cate is de­liv­er­ing them weeks, even months late.

The mil­i­tary blames lit­i­ga­tion filed by the firm that for­merly did the work for the gov­ern­ment as the cause of the pro­gram’s ills. That de­layed the start of the new com­pany’s work from Decem­ber to the height of the mov­ing sea­son May 1, trig­ger­ing ship­ping prob­lems, says the U.S. Trans­por­ta­tion Com­mand.

But a con­tract no­tice filed Oct. 23 by TransCom shows the mil­i­tary an­tic­i­pated that they might have to de­lay the start date to May 1 if the com­mand de­cided to hire a new com­pany to ship the ve­hi­cles. This was filed be­fore any lit­i­ga­tion was ini­ti­ated.

The ex­tra time might be nec­es­sary for an ade­quate tran­si­tion to a new firm, the doc­u­ment says.

The doc­u­ment ap­pears to un­der­mine TransCom’s as­ser­tion that Amer­i­can Auto Lo­gis­tics of New Jer­sey is to blame for prob­lems in the ship­ping pro­gram.

“While time for con­trac­tor tran­si­tion was orig­i­nally con­tem­plated in plan­ning,” TransCom said in the doc­u­ment, “changes in con­tract re­quire­ments have over­taken the orig­i­nally sched­uled tran­si­tion time.”

The day af­ter this doc­u­ment was filed, TransCom hired In­ter­na­tional Auto Lo­gis­tics of Bruns­wick, Ga., which won a con­tract po­ten­tially worth $919 mil­lion with a bid that was $38 mil­lion lower than AAL’s.

A TransCom spokes­man said the doc­u­ment, de­scribed as a rou­tine fil­ing, does not con­tra­dict its as­sess­ment of blame.

The doc­u­ment “does not ex­tend the con­tract but gives us the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and ap­proval to do so if nec­es­sary,” said Army Maj. Mat­thew Gre­gory, a TransCom spokes­man.

The mil­i­tary notes it did not ac­tu­ally ex­tend AAL’s con­tract to May 1 un­til af­ter lit­i­ga­tion was ini­ti­ated.

TransCom in­di­cated that ex­tra vol­ume of cars at the height of the mov­ing sea­son in­creased the dif­fi­cul­ties faced by a new com­pany tak­ing over the busi­ness.

“It was never the in­tent of TransCom to tran­si­tion this size of a con­tract dur­ing the bus­i­est mov­ing sea­son,” the com­mand said.

TransCom said it asked AAL to con­tinue work­ing be­yond May 1 “to mit­i­gate the dif­fi­cul­ties caused by its lit­i­ga­tion and avoid a po­ten­tial break in ser­vice” af­ter it was clear IAL would not be ready to take over.

AAL, how­ever, was not con­trac­tu­ally ob­li­gated to ship cars be­yond May 1, and TransCom said the com­pany re­fused the re­quest.

The con­tro­versy over the ship­ping con­tract ap­pears to have caught the mil­i­tary flat-footed. Two days be­fore IAL took over the con­tract on May 1, TransCom of­fi­cials pro­vided re­as­sur­ance that the tran­si­tion to a new firm would go smoothly.

“We do not an­tic­i­pate any di­min­ished ser­vice dur­ing the tran­si­tion,” the U.S. Trans­por­ta­tion Com­mand said April 28 in a re­sponse to an in­quiry by a New York con­gress­man.

The com­mand said it was meet­ing daily with In­ter­na­tional Auto Lo­gis­tics, and “is con­fi­dent IAL will be able to per­form con­tract re­quire­ments when it as­sumes re­spon­si­bil­ity” for the work.

The pre­dic­tion proved wildly off mark as com­plaints be­gan flood­ing in dur­ing the months that fol­lowed.

The com­mand said IAL took over the busi­ness ear­lier than it was re­quired to do so. “This is cer­tainly not how TransCom planned the tran­si­tion, but it was the only solu­tion,” the com­mand said.

United States - North America

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