Senator Tries to Help Frustrated Military Drivers With #OopsWeLostYourCar
One senator is on a quest to help soldiers find their vehicles, which are being held up as they move overseas.
After hundreds of soldiers have complained of waiting months to get their cars after moving to a new military base, one senator is taking to Twitter to offer help, using the hash tag #oopswelostyourcar.
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner's Twitter outreach follows a letter he wrote last week to Gen. Paul Selva, who oversees U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), the group responsible for overseeing logistics for the Pentagon. TRANSCOM coordinates with contractor International Auto Logistics to help move service members' vehicles when they are relocating overseas.
"While I recognize that the contractor is responsible for these deliveries, I expect TRANSCOM to be actively engaged, as advocates and intermediaries for the service members, until this problem is solved," Warner wrote in the letter.
Warner said TRANSCOM officials told his staffers that the on-time delivery rate for soldiers' cars is supposed to be 98 percent, but it was actually just 20 percent for July.
It's not the first time Warner has asked for information from the military about the delayed cars. The Virginia Democrat also wrote a letter to TRANSCOM in mid-August. And the military has admitted that it has a problem, sending out teams last month to investigate the delays.
"We have service members waiting on delivery of their vehicles past the required delivery dates, and it is unacceptable," Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Guemmer, who oversees the TRANSCOM team looking into the cars, said in a statement last month.
And International Auto Logistics has gotten into legal trouble over the delayed cars, with two Georgia-based law firms suing the company in a class-action lawsuit last month for $5 million, according to a report on Military.com.
How long soldiers are waiting on average for their cars is hard to determine, with TRANSCOM officials restricted from releasing some contract performance data. And though the Pentagon said it hasn't lost the delayed cars, it's also unclear to service members where they are.
In the meantime, soldiers, whether they live in Virginia or not, can fill out a form on the senator's website to try to get help.
Mark Brunner, a Warner staffer, said that if soldiers fill out the online form and a privacy waiver, it "gives us the ability to ask TRANSCOM about these cases and simply lend a hand with these folks."
The case of the missing cars has been a months-long problem for TRANSCOM officials, dating back to May. Since then, soldiers have complained of long waits and a lack of communication from International Auto Logistics. The contractor did not immediately return a request for comment late Tuesday.
"We have people that tell us that they've literally called [International Auto Logistics] 15, 20, 30 times," Brunner said, adding that "... a lot of these people feel that they simply aren't getting customer service."
But TRANCOM officials said last week in a press release that wait time for cars is improving. Guemmer said that 95 percent of vehicles from a 500-car sample taken of vehicles turned in after Aug. 1 were delivered on time.
That sample is hardly representative of the larger problem facing TRANSCOM and International Auto Logistics, however. Approximately 13,760 vehicles out of 31,528 have been delivered since May, with another 2,350 ready to be picked up by soldiers, according to the TRANSCOM statement.
In the meantime, Brunner said that it's still waiting for data from TRANSCOM as they try to figure out if International Auto Logistics is improving its service.
"We're hopeful that at some point TRANSCOM will hand over the data," he said, "but every day that passes we're more concerned with the oversight of this contractor."
This article appears in the September 17, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.