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Drum It Up! Steel Drum Industry News, Trends, and Issues

Bill of Lading Claims Toughen Up

November 22nd, 2016 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: Industry News, Skolnik Newsletter

For years, claims for in-transit damage were easily filed based on the expectation that a Bill of Lading satisfied a carrier’s need to determine damage. Providing a B/L was all that was needed to demonstrate that goods were shipped as packaged, but then arrived damaged. However, as of August 13, 2016, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) has introduced a new law in which shippers will now have to prove that the carrier was negligent. Proof will require more than a signed Bill of Lading and might include photographs, employee statements and tracking data. The shipper groups including the Transportation and Logistics Council, are disputing this change and claim changes to NMFTA’s uniform bill of lading would affect millions of shipments and place an unfair onus on smaller businesses that ship goods without motor carrier agreements, relying on the bill of lading as the contract. The shipper has the burden of proof to show a shipment was tendered in good condition, delivered in damaged condition, and then the burden shifts to the carrier, to prove it was not negligent. If the trucking company does prove it wasn’t negligent, citing exculpatory force majeure causes such as impassable highways or by offering evidence the shipper was responsible for the damage, then “the shipper then has the burden of proving the carrier was wrong,”
The dispute contains echoes of shipper-carrier regulatory battles of past decades, before the Surface Transportation Board terminated antitrust immunity for motor carrier rate bureaus in 2007 and the Interstate Commerce Commission was closed in 1996. The current dispute, however, may not find a ready arbitrator in Washington. Read the full story here.

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