Wrongfully rejected?

Morbid obesity unrelated to a physiological cause is not an impairment under the Americans
with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled, upholding a lower court decision in favor of Watkins Motor Lines. In rejecting an appeal by the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the court also ruled that Watkins did not perceive the driver/dock worker in question “as substantially limited in any major life activities.” (Case No. 05-3218)

USIS Commercial Services – formerly known as DAC Services – has followed reasonable procedures to ensure maximum accuracy of the employment history information
provided to it by trucking companies, a federal jury in Denver ruled. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and seven individual truck drivers had lodged a class-action lawsuit against USIS, but a federal judge earlier rejected class-action status and dismissed all but the one count decided by jury.

California has become the fourth state to require cell-phone users to use a hands-free device while driving, but there is a limited exception for truck drivers. Effective in July 2008, legislation signed at the end of August by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will impose a $20 fine on first-time violators and a $50 fine on repeat offenders. The law exempts emergency calls and emergency workers, and allows truck drivers to use push-to-talk phones until July 1, 2011. Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia also have similar laws.

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.

FMCSA retains broker, forwarder registration
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has settled more than a year of uncertainty by determining that registration of brokers and freight forwarders of non-household goods is needed for the protection of shippers. Last year’s highway program authorization act gave the Department of Transportation authority, in effect, to discontinue broker and forwarder registration if the department found that registration wasn’t needed for shipper protection. The language suggested that DOT or FMCSA would need to declare the need for registration in order to continue it.

Brokers, through a $10,000 surety bond, and freight forwarders, through evidence of public liability insurance, must comply with federal laws related to financial responsibility. The agency said that absent registration, it “has no statutory authority to impose a bonding requirement to protect shippers and carriers against unscrupulous or financially irresponsible general commodities brokers.”

Jury indicts 15 in CDL-related fraud
Fifteen people, including top officials of two Missouri truck driving schools and the owner of a Kansas trucking company, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo., for mail fraud related to a conspiracy to provide commercial driver’s licenses to more than 70 Somali and Bosnian nationals. According to the indictment, the conspiracy involved fraudulent testing for commercial driver’s licenses on the part of the South Central Career Center Truck Driver Training School in West Plains; and Muslim Brothers and Sisters (MBS), a trucking company that operated a truck driving training school in Kansas City. The indictment also included Howard Schneider, owner of Overland, Kan.-based H.E. Schneider Trucking Co. and co-operator of MBS.