FURTHER UPDATE: Major Changes to the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading under the NMFC
As we noted in our Transportation Law News Alerts on August 1 and 2, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) made major changes to the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading (USBOL) terms and conditions as published in the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) and the related rules in NMFC Item 360-B. The changes are contained in Supplement 2 to NMFC 100-AP effective August 13, 2016.
Both the Transportation and Logistics Council, Inc. (TLC) and NASSTRAC, Inc. (NASSTRAC) [also known as the National Shippers Transportation Council] requested the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to suspend and investigate the changes. TLC and NASSTRAC challenge the changes to the terms, conditions, and rules of the USBOL on several grounds, including:
1. NMFTA provided no advance notice to the public and no opportunity for shippers or other interested parties to comment on or object to the changes.
2. They violate long-standing laws and court decisions governing carrier defenses and burden of proof relating to motor carrier liability for cargo loss and damage.
3. They violate long-standing laws and court decisions governing the establishment and enforceability of released rates.
4. They shorten the time limit for filing claims for undelivered (i.e., lost) cargo.
5. They eliminate the “reasonable dispatch” standard for delay in delivery of cargo.
On August 5, 2016, the NMFTA filed a response to the TLC and NASSTRAC requests for suspension and investigation. That response is based on 2 basic arguments:
1. The STB does not have jurisdiction or power to suspend and investigate this matter, because it does not involve an agreement among carriers that has been approved by the Board.
2. The USBOL changes are consistent with applicable law.
On August 12, 2016, the STB denied the request to suspend the effectiveness of the changes to the USBOL and Item 360-B based on the current record. That allowed the changes to take effect on August 13. However, the STB deferred ruling on the request to investigate. The Board requested the parties to file supplemental pleadings to address:
1. Whether the STB has authority to investigate this matter.
2. What, if any, effect or impact the Board’s decision in 2007 terminating approval of all rate bureau agreements has on whether the Board should investigate the changes made to the USBOL.
The parties must supplement their pleadings by September 12, 2016. Replies may be filed by October 3, 2016. In the meantime, the new USBOL terms, conditions, and rules are in effect. Contact Ken Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-931-2700 for more information.