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Trading Assistance: Appointment times and reasonable dispatch

dock to dock

The Problem

Carrier missed scheduled appointment.

The Key Point

Appointment times are generally not guaranteed.  

The Solution

The party alleging a guaranteed arrival time should be prepared to prove its allegation with clear and convincing evidence.

Q. We are a produce distributor with a few retail accounts. It’s our responsibility to arrange the transportation to our retail customers. This means we contract the carriers and usually include a scheduled appointment time in our load confirmation. Recently, a carrier we hired failed to make its scheduled appointment time by 3 to 4 hours and our customer rejected the shipment. There was no damage to the product, and we did a good job with the salvage, but there were still some losses.  We deducted the losses from the carrier’s freight invoice and now we’re in a dispute with the transportation broker and carrier. They’re saying a guaranteed arrival time was never agreed to, and that we owe the freight invoice in full. Does our scheduled appointment time create a guarantee?

A. Simply scheduling an appointment time with the carrier does not create a guarantee because arrival times are customarily only estimates.

If a guaranteed arrival time was agreed to, we would expect to see clear and conspicuous language documenting this guarantee (e.g., “01/05/23 – 2PM DELIVERY TIME IS GUARANTEED”).

In the absence of this or other similarly convincing support for the guarantee you (in essence) allege, we do not believe the carrier can properly be deemed to have made a guarantee as to arrival time.

Consequently, the carrier would only have been obligated to use “reasonable dispatch” to deliver the load. Reasonable dispatch generally requires carriers to deliver the load in a manner consistent with normal and customary delivery times under the circumstances.   

Although 500 miles a day for a solo driver is a rough guideline, all parties are expected to recognize special circumstances (e.g., extreme weather) and the greater importance of road safety. Based on our review of your shipment, we do not believe the carrier failed to use reasonable dispatch.


Cliff Sieloff is a claims analyst for Blue Book Services’ Trading Assistance group