Wrongfully Rejected?
By Henry E. Seaton

October 2006
Reprinted from etrucker.com

Q We deadheaded 200 miles to pick up a brokered load of dog food. At arrival, our tractor and trailer was weighed, and we were turned away because we could not handle 22 pallets weighing 43,500 pounds. Are we entitled to compensation from the broker?

Q We transported a shipment of grapes from California to Tomah, Wis., where the receiver rejected the load because the unusual tractor-trailer configuration precluded us from unhooking the tractor from the trailer after backup to the dock. Is this a wrongful rejection?

A I am responding to both of these questions because the unusual fact patterns show the unexpected issues that can frustrate truckload carriers handling spot-market shipments.

In the first situation, both the broker and the carrier should have anticipated that a load of dog food might be heavy, and the shipment weight should have been communicated before the load was accepted and the carrier deadheaded to get it. It is understandable that the shipper did not want to cut its order to its customer and to pay free astray rates for a single pallet, hence the problem of who pays for the wasted deadhead and time incurred.

Fortunately for you, the carrier, your tractor-trailer unit – with credit for the generator – could have transported 42,000 pounds. Although I know of no case law on the issue, I think 42,000 pounds is an established truckload maximum for many carriers. If a carrier’s truck is too heavy to handle this amount of freight, it’s incumbent upon a carrier to inform the shipper or broker before dispatch. On the other hand, if the load is heavier, the broker surely should confirm the maximum payload of the trailer before it sends the truck out. I understand that the broker agreed to pay you for a truck ordered and not used. Under the circumstances, I think that is a fair result. The proper way to handle this potential problem is to establish maximum weights for truckload shipments and “truck ordered but not used” provisions in your rules tariffs that are incorporated into your contracts by website reference.

To me, the second question has a clearer answer. There is no requirement in law or precedent that a carrier must unhook its power unit from its trailer in order to make effective tender at delivery. I understand that some consignees are concerned about a carrier mistakenly driving away while their dock hands are in the trailer, thus causing an injury. If that is a concern, it could have been remedied easily by requiring the driver to hand over his keys during the unloading process. Under these circumstances, to reject the load is a consignee abuse.

Shippers and brokers have a duty and obligation to provide customer-specific ground rules before dispatch to avoid such problems.

(703) 573-0700
Copyright© 2006 Law Office of Seaton & Husk, LP. All rights reserved.