An explanation from TimoCom lawyer Christophe Schott and a surveyor Transport damage can happen in a flash. Even transport professionals with long years of experience are not immune to items breaking while in their care.
It can happen during loading, during transport or even when unloading. It is true that most of this damage is covered by insurance, however insurance should only be brought into play when it is certain that the damage was caused by the road haulier.
It often happens that blame for damaged goods is ascribed to the road haulier even though they are not responsible in the least. An example: a truck arrives at its destination, and the rear doors or curtains open to reveal that some or all of the palettes have fallen over or come apart. The warehouse worker will often ask the driver to immediately note the damage on the bill of lading; the insurance is to pay for the damage.
Who is liable for damages?
Christophe Schott, company lawyer for the TimoCom Transport Platform: “When this happens, people occasionally forget to check whether there is any damage at all, and whether the damage is in fact the responsibility of the road haulier. For example, if the palettes were not correctly packed, or if the driver was not allowed to be there during loading, and was therefore unable to control how secure the load was, it is possible that others are liable for the damage.” It is also possible that the goods on the palettes are not destroyed or even damage by the fall – that is another scenario that is often ‘overlooked’.
If there is any doubt, it is often helpful to contact an expert in transport and goods damages: a surveyor. Karl A. Selig has been a surveyor in Germany for 30 years, and attaches great importance to the fact that he must remain absolutely neutral when surveying damages. However, he admits that his reports often help transport companies out of a tight spot:
“80 percent of all transport damage is caused by incorrect planning. If I can determine that the driver did everything correctly, and followed all regulations, then someone else must be at fault.” Karl Selig provides an example of how his report helped a transport company: “Meat was picked up for refrigerated transport at three different locations, and was off by the time it reached the customer three days later. We were able to determine that the goods were not damaged during transport, for example because the driver used incorrect settings on the cooling unit, but rather that the meat was too warm as it was loaded onto the vehicle.
The most important thing is to contact a surveyor as early as possible. It is better that the surveyor comes directly to the loading dock at which the damage was first noticed, than if they are only able to make a report a few days later based solely on photos and witness statements. However, there is a limit to this, as Christophe Schott from TimoCom notes: “It all depends on the potential total damage costs. The duty to minimise damages always applies. That is, not to drive costs much higher than is warranted based on the damage. It is hardly worth worth contacting an expensive surveyor for minor damage.”
But Andreas Selig has a tip for cases involving minor damage: “If there is damage and you do not contact a surveyor, then you need to write down exactly what happened on the bill of lading or delivery note. For example which packet on which palette was damaged. And take a photo if you can, even a mobile phone photo.”