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When Nothing is Really Something

Posted By Gail Rutkowski, Friday, October 7, 2016

Recently, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) proposed changes to the bill of lading that governs motor carriers and shippers.  NMFTA proposed the update July 14 with an effective date of August 13.  While the NMFTA says “there was no attempt to burden shippers or diminish their rights and remedies,” I wonder if many shippers are even aware of the changes to their shipping operations.


Both NASSTRAC and TLC (Transportation and Logistics Council) have petitioned the STB to block the implementation.  They are concerned that the language will make it harder for shippers to hold carriers liable for damage during transport.  NMFTA claims that the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading has not kept up with the substantial changes to laws governing motor carrier transportation.


Regardless of where you come down on either side of this issue, I have to ask…how many shippers out there are even aware that this is going on?  Also, have you ever read the terms and conditions of the long form Uniform Bill of Lading?  According to John Cutler, NASSTRAC’s general counsel, “In limiting liability to the carrier on the bill of lading, NMFTA is rewriting decades of precedent supporting shippers’ right to file claims with any participating carrier.”


There are other changes as part of this proposal that alters the window for when a party can begin to file claim moving from the date of delivery to the date on the bill of lading.  There is also a clause on calculating financial caps to recover money for damage or loss, otherwise known as release value.


Now I will leave it to you to research and understand all the details involving this issue (John Cutler’s comments are located on the NASSTRAC website).  My concern is how are shippers supposed to know when what may appear to be nothing but a “small revision” is actually a big deal?  What impact does this have on your shipping operations?  Do you have transportation contracts that could override these bill of lading changes or are you at the mercy of whatever bill of lading is provided you?  What level of protection does you company need to operate in its best interest?


Since 1952, NASSTRAC has been watching out for shippers and working with carriers to ensure fairness on both sides of the shipping transaction.  If you are not a NASSTRAC member you could be opening your company up to much more liability by not knowing and understanding issues like this.  Come and join shippers who are “in the know.” 


Join NASSTRAC now.

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Terri Reid says...
Posted Monday, October 10, 2016
If it wasn't for my NASSTRAC membership, I would not have known about this. While I do have contracts in place that override this change, we're still not covered 100% of the time. Information like this helps me to protect my company. To me, it's well worth the price of a NASSTRAC membership. If you're not a NASSTRAC member, I would recommend that you join!
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