The Illinois-based private military contractor and vehicle supplier agreed to pay $50 million to resolve a claim related to its MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) heavy trucks.
Government prosecutors alleged that the company charged the Marine Corps inflated prices for a specialized suspension system. Several agencies cooperated in the matter, which relied in large part on a whistleblower who received a $161,000 cash payment, under the terms of the False Claims Act. The resolution, which does not include a finding or admission of liability, is one of the largest ones of its kind. “This settlement agreement is another example of our commitment of ensuring that all military contractors comply with the law,” said Frank Robey, director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s (CID) Major Procurement Fraud Unit. “Our organization, and our law enforcement partners, will respond robustly to protect the U.S. government from those who would take advantage of it.”
MRAPs were the go-to armored transportation for American and Allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
About Navistar’s Trucks
Back in the day, trucks basically carried supplies in rear areas which were far away from the actual fighting. But there is no front line and rear area in the Global War on Terror. Everyone is equally at risk. Therefore, today’s military trucks must be large, heavy, and fast. That is a tall order which, in most cases, only a private military contractor can fill.
Once upon a time, long lines of supply trucks could snake across roads with little danger. Today, such convoys make very tempting targets for militants or renegades. So, transportation trucks must be larger than they were before. A single cargo truck must often carry the load that three or four trucks hauled a generation ago. The standard World War II truck weighed two-and-a-half tons (the “deuce and a half”). The new standard is four-and-a-half tons.
The fewer trucks in a line also need to be well-protected. In the early days of the Iraq War, soldiers supposedly welded metal sheets onto the undersides of their Humvees, so these vehicles could withstand the blast of a mine or an IED. When trucks are well-protected when they roll off the assembly line, morale usually improves. Soldiers who are fighting against a hidden enemy thousands of miles from home need all the moral support they can get.
No truck, or any other armored vehicle, is completely impervious to attack. If a convoy is over its head, it needs to get out quickly. A truck which cannot go much faster than a combine is not an option. If the need arises, trucks must be able to move quickly.
All these things work together. Faster trucks can pick up and drop off cargo faster, spend less time on the road, and thus decrease the risk of ambush.
Today, over a half-dozen countries on four continents buy Navistar trucks. The U.S. Army used over 10,000 Navistar 7000-series trucks in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The civilian version of the company’s best selling model, the 6×6 Navistar 7400, is the International Work Star.
Navistar Contractors in the Field
Like most military contractors, Navistar does not just sell equipment; it also provides critical support personnel in several different areas.
Trucks need drivers. Because of the special qualities of modern military trucks, these vehicles need specialized operators. Furthermore, these drivers must have special personal qualities. Not all owner-operators can do this type of work. There is a big difference between a supply run to Kandahar and a supply run to Kansas City. The contractor that designed and built the equipment is in a very good position to identify the most qualified operators.
Trucks need mechanics. The most reliable vehicles break down, especially given the amount of wear-and-tear that goes on in the field. Furthermore, all vehicles run better if you change the oil every 4,000 miles. Maintenance on a large Navistar or other combat cargo truck is a lot more complex than that. Furthermore, trucks also sustain battle or collision damage. Mechanics must often repair these vehicles without the benefit of extravagant stateside repair facilities and body shops.
Finally, trucks need protection. Usually, this protection does not mean someone who can fire a machine gun. Escort troopers must predict danger and redirect the convoy when needed. Private military contractors, many of whom are former police officers, usually have a sixth sense in this area.
Navistar does not only make trucks. It also makes other vehicles and weapons. These things, especially weapons, need highly-skilled people to operate them under difficult conditions.
Injury Compensation Available
In the Global War on Terror, mechanics who turn wrenches face roughly the same injury risks as combat engineers who clear minefields. However, the kinds of injuries are usually different. Some examples include:
- Falls: Garages in the field are not known for their safety or cleanliness. A small oil spill or other hazard could trigger a serious fall. These injuries are especially severe for people with any pre-existing condition.
- Caught Between: Frequently, the drivers who operate large vehicles on base are not the same people who operate them in the field. This lack of experience frequently leads to gruesome caught between injuries. Usually, the victim is “caught between” a moving vehicle and a wall or other solid object.
- Struck By: If a person carrying a hammer drops it on his foot, that’s usually not a big deal. But if a hammer falls from a high vehicle lift onto someone’s head, the injury could be fatal, especially if the victim was not wearing protective headgear.
Mechanics also frequently develop occupational diseases, such as hearing loss. Long-term exposure to sounds as low as 35 decibels, which is basically a subway station, could cause permanent hearing loss. Most military bases are a lot louder than that, especially if they also have airstrips.
The Defense Base Act pays medical bills and replaces lost wages in these situations. Usually, the insurance company pays medical bills directly, and victims are not responsible for any unpaid charges. As for wage replacement, most victims receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of a temporary disability. Permanently disabled victims might be eligible for a lump-sum payment.
For more information about DBA eligibility, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.