Here's a news flash: As a motor carrier, you're entitled to establish the terms and conditions under which your company does business with other companies. In the past, these terms and conditions were also a published document, a service conditions and rules circular which spelled out:
Governing publications (mileage guides and tariffs)
Scope of operations
Statement of services (territorial area serviced, interstate versus intrastate, dry van, temperature-controlled, intermodal, hazmat, etc.)
Accessorial services and charges (detention, lumpers, expedited or exclusive use services, etc.)
Claims liabilities and limits
Claims processing and salvage
Credit and collection provisions and fuel surcharges
Relax, it's no longer required. But there's a very good reason why your motor carrier should maintain a service conditions and rules circular.
While it's no longer necessary to file rates or tariffs with any federal agency, a trucking company is required, upon request, to provide a shipper a copy of the rate, classification, rules and practices which apply to its shipment or which were agreed to between shipper and carrier (49U.S.C. 13710). A service conditions and rules circular meets this requirement. More importantly, if there's no other written agreement between your carrier and the shipper, terms and conditions published in your service conditions and rules circular apply.
Therefore, if a carrier properly published in its rules circular detention and free time (time a shipper or receiver has to begin loading or unloading a trailer before detention time begins) under accessorial charges, customers may be held accountable. Minimally, if a shipper/receiver doesn't begin loading/unloading within the time period specified, the carrier can demand full payment as a condition of delivery with a promissory lien, as long as there isn't a bilateral agreement between the shipper and carrier to the contrary. (‘Bilateral’ meaning signed, agreed to and executed by both parties.) However, specified detention time, free time and the promissory lien must be published as part of the carrier's rules circular and be available by request to the shipper.
Why bring this up now? There has been an argument for many years concerning charging for detention time when loading or unloading of carrier equipment is delayed. Many truckers have complained something needs to be done to stop these delays by shippers and receivers. It's become an even larger issue with the proposed hours-of-service rules and the proposed rule placing electronic onboard recorders on most OTR trucks by 2015.
In February, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a bill requiring the DOT to study industry detention practices and establish a maximum number of hours that drivers may be detained without being paid.
Stop and think. Do you really want DOT deciding when and how much you're paid for a particular service? If DOT is allowed to become involved in economic issues such as detention, will that open up other areas for regulation? And finally, if there's already a regulation so carriers can address these economic issues with customers, why add more rules to complicate the issue? Just publish your service conditions and rules circular.
Contact Tim Brady at 731-749-8567 or at www.timothybrady.com