Household goods carriers get guidance on incomplete documents

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued regulatory guidance to clarify the appropriate and intended use by household goods carriers requiring shippers to sign blank or incomplete documents. According to the guidance, carriers may require shippers to sign incomplete, but not blank, documents so long as the omitted information is limited to (1) the actual weight of the shipment, in the case of nonbinding estimates, and (2) unforeseen charges incurred in transit.

The guidance also clarifies that carriers may not require shippers to sign “Revised Written Estimates,” “Rescissions of Old Estimate” or other documents authorizing the carrier to rescind an estimate unless the shipper and carrier mutually agree to amend the estimate, and the shipper signs a new estimate before the carrier loads the shipment.

A previous interim final rule prohibited carriers from requiring individual shippers to sign blank or incomplete estimates, orders for service, bills of lading or any other blank or incomplete documents pertaining to the move. In response to industry comments, the agency amended the IFR to permit carriers to require shippers to sign incomplete documents so long as the documents contain all of the relevant shipping information. In doing so, FMCSA recognizes that certain information, such as actual final weight and other transit charges, may not be available until after the shipment is in transit.