In response to the Surface Transportation Board’s termination of antitrust immunity for the NCC’s classification-making activities, members of the National Motor Freight Traffic Association have voted to adopt a new organizational structure and set of operating procedures.
NMFTA says the new procedures allow for the continued development and maintenance of the National Motor Freight Classification without the need for antitrust immunity while facilitating continued input from carriers, shippers and third parties. NMFTA’s adoption of the procedures will be effective Dec. 6.
“The NMFC is foundational to fair treatment of carriers and shippers when establishing the cost of a shipment,” says Bill Moore, the immediate past NMFTA chairman and president of Roseville Motor Express, based in White Cottage, Ohio. “The new procedures will ensure that the NMFC will continue and expand in usage even without antitrust immunity.”
William Pugh, NMFTA executive director, says the new procedures were reviewed and approved by antitrust attorneys of Covington and Burling LLP. “We are confident that they will stand up to any legal challenge,” Pugh says. “The new procedures insulate our member carriers from antitrust concerns, allow carriers and shippers to have full input to the process, and provides for the classification decisions to be made by eminently qualified professionals that collectively have over 140 years of classification experience.”
NMFTA created two new organizations to implement the procedures: the Classification Resource Committee (CRC) and the Commodity Classification Standards Board (CCSB). CRC is comprised of the elected representatives selected by NMFC participating motor carriers in North America and serves to provide advice, information and resources to CCSB.
CCSB is the new autonomous classification-making board. Comprised of full-time employees of NMFTA, it includes a chairman appointed by the executive director of NMFTA, four members, a counsel, a packaging consultant and a classification docket coordinator. CCSB will be responsible for investigating, considering and acting on classification matters, including proposals for amending the classification of commodities, commodity descriptions, classes, rules, packaging definitions, specifications and requirements, bills of lading and any other provisions contained in NMFC.
CCSB will operate under rules and policies that are substantially similar to the rules and policies that comprise the NCC Agreement and that were developed in accordance with directives of the Interstate Commerce Commission and STB. Under the new rules and policies, proposals for amending NMFC may be made by any party having an interest in the contents of NMFC and will be addressed by CCSB through a formalized, transparent decision-making process in which all interested parties can participate.
Proposals will be docketed for consideration at public meetings of CCSB, and all interested parties will be given notice of the meetings and the proposals to be considered. Information in CCSB’s possession related to docketed proposals will be made available publicly, and all interested parties will be permitted to present their views on any proposals under consideration in writing and/or orally at public meetings of CCSB. CCSB’s decision with respect to any docketed proposal will be made in public meetings and may be appealed to a neutral arbitrator by any party of record to that proposal.
CCSB’s decisions regarding the assignment of classes to commodities will be determined by consideration of the commodity’s density, stowability, handling and liability characteristics – the same criteria that have governed the evolution of NMFC since they were specified by the ICC in 1983.
The procedures incorporate numerous safeguards to prevent collusion, manipulation or other misuse of the classification process, according to NMFTA, and they also make clear that no motor carrier or shipper is bound to use or abide by NMFC’s provisions by expressly providing that “CCSB may not interfere with a carrier’s free and unrestrained right of independent action.”