Changes to the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading: What You Need to Know

Daniel SBy: Daniel Sbanotto, Associate Counsel, Financial and Risk Services, Transplace

Recently, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) made several changes to the terms and conditions of the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading (USBL) published in the National Motor Freight Classification (“NMFC”) that have the potential to greatly impact the liability for lost or damaged cargo.

First introduced on July 14, 2016, NMFC 100-AP Supplement No. 2 was met with a lot of criticism from shippers. This prompted the Transportation Logistics Council (TLC) and the National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council (NASSTRAC) to file a Petition for Suspension and Investigation of the changes with the Surface Transportation Board (STB). This petition asked the STB to immediately suspend the proposed changes and initiate an investigation as the STB may deem appropriate. The STB denied to suspend the changes before they took effect on August 13, 2016. However, as part of its decision, the STB did announce that it will consider further comments from the parties, in order to decide whether to investigate further.

Changes to the Uniform Straight Bill of Lading

While there weren’t many changes to the USBL, some modifications that were made significantly change the terms and conditions that regulate the transportation of goods within the United States, if using the USBL. Key changes include:

  • Section 1 (a). The motor carrier responsible for cargo loss or damage is the one shown on the bill of lading, rather than the one in possession of the goods when they are lost or damaged.
  • Section 1 (b). Under the new terms, the burden of proof to prove the carrier’s negligence for loss, damage or delay is now on the shipper. Under the old terms, carrier responsibility was presumed when the shipper showed cargo was tendered in good condition, and the burden to prove freedom from negligence was on the carrier or the party in possession. The new supplement also adds “riots or strikes or any related causes” to the list of carrier defenses to a cargo claim.
  • Section 3 (b). Claims for failure to make delivery must now be filled within nine months from the date of the bill of lading, and not “within nine months after a reasonable time for delivery has elapsed,” as stated in the old rule.
  • Section 5 (a). The old language states that limitations of liability may apply if the cargo value has been stated by the shipper or has been agreed upon in writing as the released value. The new language allows a carrier to limit liability simply by publishing the limitation in its tariff.

What These Changes Mean for Shippers

With 656 reported members of the NMFTA, including most major less-than-truckload carriers, these changes may impact a significant portion of the transportation industry. Carriers that are participants in the NMFC are required to use these bills of lading, unless other arrangements are made between the parties, such as a formal transportation contract. It is important to work with any relevant carrier partners to understand how these changes may impact your shipments.

According to the STB, the party’s further comments, to be submitted before September 12, 2016, should address the threshold issues of: 1) whether the STB has authority to investigate this matter, and 2) if the Board’s prior decision in Motor Carrier Bureaus-Periodic Review Proceeding, EP 656 (STB served May 7, 2007) should affect the STB’s authority to review these changes. Any replies or rebuttals of the comments are due by October 3, 2016, indicating the STB plans to timely review the party’s arguments, so it’s important for both shippers and carriers alike to keep a close eye on this ongoing process.





Transportation TIP List: Week of August 21st, 2016

The end of the summer is bringing so many exciting transportation topics to this week’s TIP List, we’re barely keeping up with demand! With our eyes on big issues such as the Labor Day spike in gas prices, new federal standards for the trucking industry and greenhouse gas regulations, we can’t wait to dive into this week’s list! Keep on truckin’ ahead for all of the hot August stories.

  • Trucking Industry Cautiously Embracing New Federal Standards: Major truck manufacturers and operators of large commercial fleets cautiously embraced federal standards requiring cuts in fuel usage of big trucks, one of the last in a long line of regulations President Obama has issued seeking to clamp down on greenhouse gas emissions across the U.S. economy.
  • Amid Low Demand, Spot Rates, US Truckers Look to Cut Costs: Whether the economy improves in the second half of 2016 or slides toward recession, trucking companies will have to travel in new directions, driven by high inventories, e-commerce, new regulations and increasingly complex supply chains.
  • Metric of the Month: Annual Sales Orders Filled per Warehouse Employee: The most resource-intensive logistics process is warehouse operations, and usually presents the greatest opportunity for improvement. The number of annual sales orders filled per “operate warehousing” full-time equivalent employee is a good proxy for warehouse operation efficiency.
  • Forget the Canal—Inland Ports Show Impressive Growth: Supply chain experts agree that the long-awaited Panama Canal expansion opening in late June is not likely to impact industrial activity in the short-term. However, U.S. inland ports have been quietly tearing up records for expansion and growing at nearly twice the national rate for industrial properties.
  • Louisiana Floods Delay Truck, Intermodal Rail Freight: Shippers moving intermodal rail and truckload shipments through southeastern Louisiana are grappling with shipment delays as severe flooding slows the rail and road network in the region for the third time this year.

What hot industry topics do you think are the most important to watch as we head into autumn?

Transportation TIP List: Week of August 14th, 2016

Back to school time is almost here, and we’re studying up on transportation trends and topics sure to make an impact this fall and beyond. This week, our TIP List syllabus highlights a hiring boost in the trucking industry, the Top 10 3PL Awards and the impact of the “Brexit” on the retail supply chain. Get to work with the stories below!

  • Trucking Resumes Hiring, Reversing Five-month Decline: As U.S. freight shipping picked up in June and July, for-hire trucking companies began hiring again, reversing a five-month decline in trucking employment. For-hire trucking companies added 1,700 jobs in July after losing 11,500 since January.
  • Readers’ Choice: Top 10 3PL Excellence Awards 2016: The global supply chain is ever changing. International trade deals, wars, embargoes, company failures, start-ups, and increasing regulations don’t even begin to complete the list of things shippers have to stay on top of. That’s where the 3PL provider comes in.


What industry trends are on your list to watch this week? Let us know in the comments!

2016 Carrier Symposium: Congratulations to Our Carriers of the Year!

John Lower2

By: John Lower, director of strategic carrier management, Transplace

Last week, we were thrilled to hold our Annual Carrier Symposium in Lowell, Arkansas – a collaborative forum for carriers to network and discuss current transportation trends and challenges that are impacting both carriers and shippers in the industry. This one-day event hosted 200 attendees from Transplace’s core carrier partners and 125 carriers were represented.

Attendees of this year’s Carrier Symposium were able to listen to engaging industry speakers, including Jason Seidl, Managing Director at Cowen and Company, who discussed the ongoing effect of diesel prices, Cheryl Bynum, National Program Manager from the EPA who shared information and updates on the SmartWay program, and Regional Vice President of National Accounts, Matt Feighner, from Clean Energy Fuels who spoke about current and future natural gas strategies. Attendees were also able to hear from executives from each of Transplace’s business units and gain insight into our business strategy and goals.

Through these informative presentations and interactive discussions, attendees were given the chance to learn about and give input on a number of topics of interest, including:

  • The voice of the customer and what shippers are asking from their 3PL.
  • What 3PLs rely on carriers for – not just capacity and service but also critical feedback and industry insight. This knowledge can help 3PLs be a true bridge between carriers and shippers.
  • Key regulations affecting the industry, such as ELDs.
  • The short and long term outlook on the cost of diesel, as many carriers are looking at alternative fuel strategies to take them into the future.

updated pic

The Carrier Symposium has continually grown and evolved since Transplace first started hosting it a number of years ago, and we recognize that, more than ever, 3PLs should be investing in strategic carrier management efforts and carrier relationships.

We encourage our carriers to proactively bring ideas to us for ways to strengthen relationships and drive operational excellence, and the Carrier Symposium further supports that effort. The event provided an opportunity for carriers to hear about the investments Transplace has been making as a company along with insights about what Transplace is hearing from its shipper customers. The better carriers understand our customer’s challenges priorities, and the better we understand the challenges and priorities of our carrier partners, the stronger and more collaborative the relationship will be.

At Transplace, our Strategic Carrier Management Program is designed to uncover growth opportunities for our carriers and continue to strengthen these relationships. We have participated in a number of initiatives working toward helping shippers become a shipper of choice for carriers, but we also want to continually evolve our important relationship with carriers as a 3PL. We have expanded our team and refined our strategies to continue to help carriers, and attendees at this year’s Symposium contributed valuable insight toward these goals.



Winners of the 2016 Carrier Awards

The Carrier of the Year awards are the capstone of the day at the Carrier Symposium, and recognize some of the transportation service providers that are the best of the best. We’re always excited to be able to present these awards, as they recognize those providers with strong, collaborative relationships, consistent high performance and truly exemplary on-time service.

The selection criteria for these awards are data-centric, based on companywide quantitative figures as well as survey feedback from supported customers. Some specific areas that are important in the selection process include on-time service, tender acceptance, claims and EPA SmartWay partnership. Additionally, ease of doing business factors such as responsiveness and customer service are also key elements under consideration.

This year, Transplace recognized a total of 20 service providers in a number of various categories and these stellar companies represent the top one percent of our carrier base across all lines of business.


Thank you to all who participated in this year’s Carrier Symposium, and congratulations to all of the winners of our Carrier of the Year Awards!



Be sure to check out all photos from the event here.

Transportation TIP List: Week of August 7th, 2016

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio are off to an explosive start, and the U.S. is currently leading the pack with an impressive 28 medals so far. And while you might have seen some of the amazing performances in swimming and gymnastics this week, you may have missed some of the most important stories in the transportation industry. Our TIP List is here to help with all of the latest news in supply chain performance!

  • For-Hire Trucking Gains 1,700 Jobs in July: The for-hire trucking industry’s total employment rebounded slightly in July, gaining 1,700 jobs in the month, according to preliminary figures reported Aug. 5 by the Department of Labor’s monthly Employment Situation Report.
  • U.S. Trade Gap Widened in June Due to Import Surge: The U.S. trade deficit soared in June as Americans boosted purchases of foreign goods, though broader trends portray a sluggish economy. The trade gap grew 8.7% from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted $44.5 billion, the widest in 10 months, according to the Commerce Department.
  • Putting the Ever Expanding Truckload Brokerage Business into Perspective: The proliferation of truckload brokerage operations has been driven by several different factors, including the shipper’s need to manage capacity in a fluctuating market environment and the advent of truckload brokerage-specific technology advances, commonly referred to as “Uberization.”
  • Leveraging Technology to Mitigate Risk: Part I: One of the hottest issues surfacing at this year’s annual Gartner supply chain conference was risk management. “When we entered this business six-and-a-half years ago, the technology for mapping and monitoring supply chain risk was still in its infancy,” says Bindiya Vakil, CEO and founder of Resilinc.
  • Innovation In Consumer And Retail: What Drives Disruption: One of the biggest sectors of the economy today, consumer products and retail, is going through massive disruption through innovation. This isn’t something to take lightly. It is so pervasive that many people seem to forget it even exists because it’s happening constantly right before our eyes.
  • Manufacturing Growth Cooled in July From One-Year High: U.S. manufacturing expanded in July, though at a slower pace, indicating gradual improvement that could help the economy emerge from a weak first half of the year. The Institute for Supply Management’s index cooled to 52.6 from a one-year high of 53.2 a month earlier.

What trucking and transportation stories are winning your attention this week?

TSCA Reform and 21st Century Chemical Safety

Warren HoppmeyerBy: Warren Hoppmeyer, Senior Director, Transplace

The American Chemical Council (ACC) and many other industry, environment and public health groups have worked relentlessly for years to make changes to the 40-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Passed in 1976, TSCA gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the ability to regulate chemicals in commerce.

But over time, as the industry progressed, TSCA became stuck in the 20th century in terms of chemical safety – with some states deciding to enact regulation stricter than federal law and further fragmenting an already inconsistent and complex industry.

The passing of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (“Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act” or LCSA) simplified regulation across all 50 states and created a much needed national chemical regulatory system. How does this law protect businesses and consumers? In three big areas, says the ACC. The LCSA:

  1. Protects Americans’ health and our environment
  2. Supports economic growth and manufacturing in the U.S.
  3. Promotes America’s role as the world’s leading innovator

According to the ACC, 96% of all manufactured goods are touched by chemistry and the business represents an $801B enterprise employing over 800,000 people across the country. Any change in chemical regulation is going to directly impact the economy. Fortunately, LCSA will help provide greater transparency so businesses and Americans have greater confidence in the safety of the products they use every day.

Most recently, on July 22 the EPA issued the risk determinations for four new chemicals it has reviewed under the new standards prescribed by the LCSA.

To learn more about LCSA and how it supports safety, economic growth and innovation, visit

Transportation TIP List: Week of July 31st, 2016

The months leading up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio have been filled with much anticipation and a little bit of angst, but the action finally gets underway with the opening ceremonies on Friday. In honor of the dedicated athletes who will be dazzling viewers all over the world, this week’s TIP List showcases some winning transportation stories. Below, you’ll find info about the ongoing truck driver shortage, a controversial rail switching proposal and a surprise inspection blitz. Let the games begin!

  • Combating the Driver Shortage: From the Carrier’s Perspective: There is no denying that the trucking industry is in a state of flux right now. Even though demand is rising, the industry as a whole is facing a monumental shortage of qualified drivers. But why is there a shortage of drivers, and how can we turn it around?
  • 2016 Supply Chains To Admire: The 2016 Supply Chains to Admire Winners and Finalists for were announced in order to help supply chain leaders gain new insights from a deep data-driven analysis.
  • Shippers, Railroads Clash over Switching Proposal: U.S. federal rail regulators have proposed a controversial new rule that would allow shippers without access to other transportation modes to request their freight be moved to a competing rail line.

What events – both supply chain and Olympic – will you be watching in the coming weeks?

Our People, Our Passion

Sweet16.fwAfter 16 years in business, we know one thing for sure here at Transplace – we couldn’t have gotten here without our stellar people! And we thought that there was no better way to wrap up our “Sweet 16” celebration throughout the month of July than to showcase some statistics about the wonderful folks who make up our company. In the infographic below, you’ll find a snapshot of who we are at Transplace and how we are continually striving to make a difference in our industry and for our customers. Happy Sweet 16!

Our People, Our Passion-01

*Click on the image above for full view.

How does your organization celebrate its employees?

2016 Q1 and Q2 Logistics Review


By: Tom Sanderson, CEO, Transplace

The first and second quarters of 2016 have flown by. As we’re moving into mid-summer, I want to review some the most significant ups and downs in the transportation and logistics industry. In my year-end blog, I shared insights on capacity, housing, auto and legislature. Below you’ll find key highlights from the first six months of 2016, and what to watch out for in the rest of the year.

Retail and Auto Assemblies Strong

Seasonally adjusted retail and food service sales increased 1.6% over 2015 to $190.5 billion in June, while nominal (unadjusted for inflation) sales totaled $457 billion, up 2.7% over prior year. We focus primarily on real retail sales because they are a better indicator of freight volumes than the inflated figures, and these results were above consensus expectations.

Annualized U. S. Sales of autos and light trucks fell 4.5% to 16.6 million units in June (seasonally adjusted), and were down 2.0% from June 2015. June was only the second month in the last 12 where annualized auto sales were less than 17 million units. The auto industry could still set a new sales record this year, but will likely be very close to 2015 sales as YTD sales are up only 1.3%.

Diesel Fuel Prices See Fluctuations, Currently on the Risechart

In February, diesel prices reached their lowest level since January 2005, dropping below the recessionary trough. On March 8, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) dropped its pricing forecast by 10 cents to a $2.12 per gallon average for 2016.

Since then, diesel has been slowly climbing, reaching $2.414 per gallon on July 11. On July 12, the EIA increased its forecast to $2.36 for the balance of 2016 and 2.71 per gallon for 2017.

Capacity More Readily Available

Capacity was readily available in Q1 and Q2 of 2016. There are three factors driving this overall excess capacity:

  • Weaker freight
  • Hours-of-service rollback
  • Actual capacity additions

Overall, capacity is currently much more readily available than last year at this time. While there were seasonal regional shortages of capacity early in 2015, in general capacity became more readily available in the second half of the year. I don’t expect capacity to tighten in 2016 unless the economy regains steam.

The Largest TL Carriers Are Growing Faster Than Others

The largest TL carriers continue to add capacity at a faster rate than the next tier of carriers, taking advantage of a more favorable pricing and truck utilization market and low interest rates. Data from Avondale Partners indicates that from 2008-2012, the four largest TL carriers (Hunt, Schneider, Swift and Werner) reduced capacity more quickly than the next 7 largest carriers during the recession and then added capacity more slowly through the tepid post-recession recovery.

However, that changed in 2013, with the largest carriers adding capacity at a significantly faster pace (10.2%) than the second-tier group (3.3%). That pattern continued in the first quarter of this year. Despite the addition of trucks, the largest TL carriers collectively have 5% fewer trucks on the road today than they did at the end of 2007. The second tier have added 3% to their collective capacity over that time frame, but have not added as many trucks as the largest carriers have cut.

The biggest carriers may have behaved more conservatively during the contraction and the slow-growth recovery, but they may become more aggressive if stronger expansion occurs as they have the financial ability to add trucks. New truck orders plummeted in Q2 as freight volumes remained soft and TL prices remained under pressure. Freight volumes should continue to steadily grow over the next few years and pricing power will return to the carriers as capacity tightens in 2017 or 2018.

The lack of growth among the second-tier carriers is likely a result of the recent stagnation of TL rates and uncertainty over the effects of federal regulations like the Hours-of-Service rules. The largest carriers are the most capable of absorbing regulatory shocks and the associated increased pressure on margins.

Despite the recent large carrier capacity additions, shippers must continue to develop strong relationships with the second-tier of asset-based carriers because they will grow quickly once they gain more confidence that the pricing environment has tipped in their favor. Shippers should also be using one or two large 3PLs or brokers to gain access to the tens of thousands of small carriers that are always seeking to gain market share, but lack the sales resources and name recognition to do so directly.

FMCSA Admits CSA/SMS Fix is Two Years Away

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has testified in Congress that it would take two years for FMCSA to complete its review of CSA as mandated by the FAST Act. The law required that FMCSA remove SMS online scores until the review was completed. After immediately removing SMS percentile scores and alerts from the Web, FMCSA exploited a loophole in the law by posting raw SMS scores without percentiles or alerts. FMCSA then doubled down by communicating its proposed new Safety Fitness Determination rule that is based, in part, on the flawed CSA/SMS program.

So, even though FMCSA admits it will take two years to remedy the flaws in the SMS system that have been pointed out by the General Accounting Office, Inspector General and others, it still intends to utilize the system to put some unlucky carriers out of business with an “unfit” safety rating.

The commentary period is now closed, but numerous industry participants have strongly objected to the proposed rule and Congress is considering legislative action that will prevent the rule from being implemented.

I believe there is enough opposition to prevent this harmful rule from being implemented. Time will tell.

For more updates on current trends and industry forecasts, visit my blog or follow me on Twitter: @TomSandersonCEO.

Did the first and second quarters of 2016 meet your expectations? What stood out to you?

Transportation TIP List: Week of July 24th, 2016

After the epic conclusion of the more than 2,000 mile Tour de France this weekend, we’ve been thinking about the intricate twists and turns of the challenging path to a more efficient global supply chain. Our TIP list this week covers the Canadian International Roadcheck, delays in the FMCSA Unified Registration System and Amazon “perches” for drone delivery. Check out the latest below!

  • Canadian Results of 2016 International Roadcheck Revealed: Results of Canada’s 2016 International Roadcheck have been released and according to the numbers, nearly 82% of commercial vehicles in Canada inspected this year passed CVSA’s on-road inspection criteria. The three-day blitz took place June 7-9, 2016 across Canada, the United States and Mexico.
  • “Detention is Killing Us” Say Carriers: “Detention is killing us.” That pretty much sums up how carriers feel about driver detention, as related in a recent DAT survey of 257 carriers and 50 freight brokers. Of the carriers surveyed, 84% said detention is one of the top five problems affecting their business.

What supply chain stories are intriguing you this week?