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Surface Carrier Liability

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  • Surface Carrier Liability

    When dealing with a freight loss or damage question, a determination must be made at the very outset as to what laws, administrative regulations, treaties and/or contracts govern the transaction between the shipper and carrier.

    In view of the fact that a great volume of freight generally moves in common carrier service, claimants often presume that principles of common carrier liability govern claims, and later discover that some movements are not subject to these principles. The consequences often are expensive and embarrassing to the claimant.

    Therefore, the first step in processing a freight claim is to establish the legal classification of the movement, i.e.,:
    • Interstate and foreign common carriage (formerly regulated by the I.C.C., now the Surface Transportation Board (S.T.B.) for rail movements or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for motor carrier, water carrier and freight forwarder movements);
    • Intrastate common carriage (formerly regulated by a state P.S.C., P.U.C., D.O.T., etc.);
    • “Exempt” common carriage (governed only by the common law);
    • Contract carriage (formerly regulated by the I.C.C. or state regulatory agency); or
    • Private carriage (shipper’s vehicle).