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Major Changes to the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading Effective Aug. 13, 2016

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association has just made substantial changes to the terms and conditions of the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading to be effective on August 13, 2016. On July 14, 2016 the NMFTA issued Supplement 2 to the National Motor Freight Classification NMFC 100-AP.  The key changes directly affect claims against trucking companies for lost or damaged cargo.

The following changes to the Terms and Conditions are particularly significant:

Section 1.(a) – changes the responsibility for cargo loss and damage from the “carrier or party in possession” of the cargo to the “carrier shown as transporting the property.”

Section 1.(b) – changes the burden of proof to require the shipper to prove the carrier or party in possession of the cargo was negligent rather than the carrier being required to prove that it was not negligent.

Section 1.(b) — adds “riots or strikes” to the list of carrier defenses to a cargo claim, and adds “or any related causes” in reference to the entire list of defenses.

Section 2. – eliminates the “reasonable dispatch” standard relating to delay claims against carriers, and simply says the carrier “will transport the shipment in the regular course of its providing transportation services.”

Section 3.(b) – changes the requirement that claims for failure to make delivery (i.e., claims for loss of cargo) must be filed “within nine months after a reasonable time for delivery has elapsed,” and substitutes a shorter time period of “not more than nine (9) months from the date of the bill of lading.”

The impact of these changes will be widespread, because the NMFC Uniform Straight Bill of Lading applies to virtually all shipments transported by all carriers that are participants in the NMFC except shipments that are subject to a prior written contract between the carrier and the shipper. The major less-than-truckload carriers and many truckload carriers are participants in the NMFC. Several hundred smaller carriers are also participants.

At least one shipper group has filed a Petition for Suspension and Investigation of NMFC 100-AP Supplement 2 at the Surface Transportation Board seeking to stop these changes from taking effect.

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