Revisions to BOL change carrier liability for loss, damage, and delay

Revisions switch burden of proof from carrier to the shipper

Posted August 29, 2016

For almost 100 years, the bill of lading (BOL) has been a part of commerce that has witnessed untold millions of transactions, proved who was liable in transportation disputes, and was often used by both the shipper and the carrier when the need for specified services under specified rates and conditions was required.

This past July, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) published changes to the Uniform Standard Bill of Lading Terms and Conditions in the National Motor Freight Classification (“NMFC”) 100-AP Supplement No. 2 that became effective on August 13, 2016. These changes include:

  • The motor carrier whose name appears on the bill of lading is responsible for any damages or losses of the goods while in transit. In the past, the carrier who was in possession of the goods while in transit was made responsible. Now, regardless of the shipment being interlined to another carrier, or somehow shared in the transportation of the goods to the point of delivery, the carrier originally named on the bill of lading is now responsible for any loss or damages to the shipment.
  • Under the Carmack Amendment, there were five situations for which the carrier could claim to prove itself free from negligence if loss or damage to the shipment occurred:
    1. An act of God;
    2. An inherent nature or vice of the goods;
    3. An act of the shipper;
    4. An act of public enemy; or
    5. The authority of law.

    The recent change adds riots, strikes, and any related causes to the list of these five original exceptions.

    But even more important, the changes move the burden of proof from the carrier to the shipper. This, along with the other alterations made to this document, will no doubt cause much discussion among shipper organizations.
  • Up until these changes were made, claims were to be filed within nine months after the delivery of the cargo, except that claims for failure to make delivery had to be filed within nine months after a reasonable time for delivery has elapsed. The new language simply states the claims must be filed for failure to make delivery within nine months from the date of the bill of lading.
  • New language published in these changes now makes it allowable for a carrier to limit its liability by publishing any limitations they choose in its tariff. This differs from the old language that stated the limitations of liability may apply if the cargo value has been stated by the shipper or has been agreed upon in writing as the released value.

The changes that went into effect on August 13 are not subject to contracts already in place and negotiated with motor carriers.

This article was written by Bob Rose of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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