Watchdog: Contractor's handling of military families' missing vehicles is costing you money

International Auto Logistics' logo. (WJLA)

CHANTILLY, Va. (WJLA) – For weeks, the ABC 7 Watchdog team has been seeking answers for hundreds of military families who have been wondering what a transport company did with their missing vehicles. Our investigation has uncovered that more of your money is being spent to solve the problems.

Not only is the U.S. Army going to have to reimburse military families for rental cars as they wait for the vehicles they shipped to show up, it is now stepping in to do the job it paid another company hundreds of millions to handle.

A military transfer brought Jen Bales and her family back to the United States; a military contractor was supposed to bring their car.

“It just seems like a gamble; you might hear tomorrow that it’s here. You might not hear for a month,” she said.

A company called International Auto Logistics holds all the cards, while families are kept in the dark. The Bales’ car was supposed to join them in Virginia four weeks ago, and they still have no idea where it is.

“It’s very frustrating. You want your car; because you want to make sure your car’s OK, and not damaged,” Bales said.

But the Bales keep waiting. A Facebook page with 3,000 members shows they’ve got plenty of company. Now, an internal Army email confirms how much the delays have grown. A message obtained by the ABC 7 Watchdog team shows IAL—which started moving vehicles for the feds in May—has more than 14,000 cars in transit. Approximately 70 percent of them are already past their required delivery dates.

Bales says IAL should “absolutely not” be allowed to continue doing its job.

Because the Army is now picking up the contractor’s slack, after awarding IAL—the lowest bidder—a $300 million contract, that memo says a team of military experts is essentially going to do the company’s work—on your dime.

U.S. Transportation Command tells ABC 7 News it is being sent to vehicle processing lots, and to container freight stations near the ports, to physically find the missing cars, log them into a database, and track down the cause of IAL’s delays.

“I think it won’t be sorted out for quite some time,” Bales said. “I don’t anticipate any day getting a call or email that my car is here. So, I think we’re kind of in for the long haul.”

IAL says it has been working tirelessly and making significant progress, with 90 percent of the cars dropped off after Aug. 1 being delivered on or on track for on-time delivery. As for the cars that were shipped months before, IAL says this weekend’s inventory will help the company update customers and move along their cars.

IAL sent the following statement to ABC 7 News on Friday:

"IAL has made significant progress in the POV delivery process, as 90% of vehicles dropped off after August 1st are being delivered or tracking to be delivered on time. Due to the difficult transition between IAL and the previous contractor and the historic summer volume, IAL unfortunately had to make many process changes on the job, causing many vehicles to be delayed. To remedy this, IAL is conducting a physical inventory of all back logged vehicles this weekend at their VPC and CFS locations and with this information will not only be able to move these cars to their final destinations but provide service members with updated delivery dates.

IAL is highly concerned for each member's vehicle, and they are compassionate toward member's inconvenience and are tirelessly working day, night and weekends toward its mission of delivering every POV to our heroes."