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Shortage claims must allow for validation

The Problem
Alleged shortage as to count.

The Key Point
Drivers must have an opportunity to validate shortage claims.

The Solution
Any problems on arrival should be noted on the delivery receipt with specificity.

Q: I’m a truck broker hauling produce up the East Coast. We recently had a freight invoice clipped by a receiver, alleging the truck arrived 50 cartons short. The bill of lading was signed clean but had a generic stamp “received under protest – subject to count.” We don’t think this is sufficient to establish a shortage, but our customer disagrees. What do you think?

A: As a general rule, receivers are expected to note, with specificity, any problems or objections before signing the original delivery receipt. Such a notation helps establish that the problem was in fact witnessed upon arrival and allows the carrier the opportunity to investigate the allegations made.

The absence of a notation on the delivery receipt may undermine a receiver’s ability to successfully pursue a claim. Similarly, a generic notation included on delivery receipts as a matter of general practice will not usually preserve or advance a receiver’s claim.

Here, your customer’s attempt to establish a shortage after the bill of lading is signed, and out of the carrier’s presence, allows the carrier no opportunity the validate the claim. How do we know, for instance, the receiver’s count was accurate? Or that the product wasn’t lost while in the receiver’s possession? Or if the product was lost at all?

The receiver had the opportunity to make a specific notation, “50 cartons short,” when your truck was unloaded. Accordingly, unless the receiver has additional evidence to provide, we must conclude that no shortage or other basis for deducting from the freight invoice has been established.

Marco Campos is Claims Analyst for Blue Book Services