Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Road Haulage Operators Need to Verify Latest Changes to Conditions of Carriage

Insurance Experts Point Out Crucial Changes
Shipping News Feature

UK – Hands up those who actually read the Terms and Trading Conditions that we all face every single working day. Chances are very few are waving at teacher at the moment. However when those details mean accepting liability it seems one must pay special attention as pointed out this week by the TT Club.

Terms and Conditions of Carriage are the lifeblood of the major associations linked directly to the carriage of freight. Most carriers, forwarding agents and warehouse keepers consider it essential to have membership of the relevant bodies, not only to give themselves an air of credibility, but to enable them to trade under the specified contract terms.

The TT Club points out that, for the road transport community, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) conditions of carriage are considered the gold standard and the fact that the organisation released its 2020 version last year, wonders how many hauliers noticed the changes to the previous version.

The TT Club highlights changes to three clauses in particular: protecting carriers’ obligations if delays in transit result from the customer’s omission; clarifying the issue of liabilities for loading and unloading cargo from the vehicle; and providing a useful definition of ‘commencement of transit’ with its implications on liability in the event of damage or loss prior to that point. TT Club’s Mike Yarwood explains:

“Although relatively small, these changes can have significant impact on the liabilities sustained by carriers under certain circumstances. Since Brexit, for example, there have been a number of occasions of hauliers arriving at UK ports seeking to cross the EU border without the necessary documentation or permits.

”Documentary errors, potentially by the customer, cause delay, which if perishable cargoes are involved can result in extensive losses. Under clause 5 (4) of the new conditions, a carrier has the right to suspend or possibly even terminate the performance of the service, and in addition damages such as loss of business and driver’s wages could be claimed from the customer.”

The TT Club and commercial law firm Hill Dickinson have worked together to outline the important clause changes that effect the customer-carrier contractual relationship. Hauliers and other stakeholders who incorporate the terms of the earlier, 2009 version are encouraged to alter their own Standard Trading Conditions (STCs) in line with the new provisions.

A further issue clarified in the 2020 conditions is connected to liabilities for loading and unloading cargo from a vehicle. Clause 4 now states that unless otherwise agreed in writing, responsibility for loading cargo onto the vehicle and the unloading of the cargo at the consignee, rests with the customer. Further, the customer is also required to indemnify the carrier from and against all and any loss, damage, death or injury that might arise during such operations. Yarwood goes on to profile another clause that has been altered:

“TT has recently been active in reporting the increase in theft from warehouse premises, a consequence primarily of pandemic related backlogs and delays. This includes from loaded trailers awaiting departure. In this regard, Clause 7 of the new conditions sees a material change to the definition of commencement of transit. This is defined as after the consignment has left the premises from where the consignment is collected.”

This is of significant assistance to the carrier when no alternative secure parking facility is available en route to the destination or the driver does not have sufficient driving time to reach a secure parking location. In the spirit of security, it would now be advantageous from both a liability and a security perspective to leave the loaded trailer at the shipper’s premises until the driver’s hours allow a more seamless delivery option.

TT Club consistently advises carriers to review their STCs on a regular basis in order to maintain control over their risk profile. In this instance, the RHA should be praised for having provided a valuable service in updating some of the clauses of these conditions of carriage which, as we say, it would be wise of carriers to adopt immediately.

Photo: Parking in a lay by may cause even more problems than ever wu=ith the change to the commencement of transit definition.