Fleet Management

Shippers Challenge Liability Changes in Uniform Bill of Lading

August 24, 2016

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Some shippers are unhappy about changes to the standard bill of lading used by less-than-truckload carriers.

As the Journal of Commerce reports, the Transportation and Logistics Council and NASSTRAC say changes to the National Motor Freight Traffic Association uniform bill of lading, which went into effect August 13, are unfair to smaller shippers that rely on the BOL as their contract.

The NMFTA, which represents more than 600 less-than-truckload trucking companies, says the changes simply update and clarify provisions of the bill of lading, which was last revised in 1997.

The shippers’ biggest problem with the revised agreement is language related to proving carrier negligence.

Section 1(b) states that “the burden to prove carrier negligence is on the shipper.” The previous UBOL stated “the burden to prove freedom from negligence is on the carrier.”

The shipper groups contend that this is in violation of the Carmack Amendment, the 1906 law that established uniform cargo liability standards.

NMFTA lawyers, however, told JOC that they’re not changing the law. “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.”

The Surface Transportation Board has denied a petition by the supper groups asking it to suspend the controversial UBOL provisions and questioned whether it even had the authority to investigate.

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