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Feb.6, 2017

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Q&A 108 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE FEBRUARY 6.2017 CLOCK'S STILL TICKING ON THIS CLAIM Q: I CONTRACTED WITH a large Canadian trucking company. From a cabinet maker's Minnesota facility, the trucker was instructed to pick up four large pallets of fully assembled custom cabinetry. Per the bill of lading, the load was to travel north, crossing the international border, and be delivered to the carrier's Winnipeg terminal, a trip of seven to 10 hours on the road. Something went wrong. The load somehow ventured wes t , entering Canada at the Surrey, British Columbia, port of entry, via the state of Washington. I'd estimate the load incurred an additional 30-plus hours of road travel. Upon entering Canada, it was conveyed to at least one truck terminal, and when finally traced was being prepped for transportation to another British Columbia terminal. The Winnipeg trucking company had intervened by this time, and routed the load back to Winnipeg. It told me the US affiliate was making improvement s to it s computer network. Once in Winnipeg, the company completed its terms of the agreement by delivering the cabinets to my customer's home. The load was damaged extensively. In fact, 70 percent of the cabinets are currently in rebuild. I signed off on the load, indicating extensive damage. I contacted the Winnipeg carrier and was made aware of the procedure to begin a claim. Several days later, I met with an independent insurance claim investigator who examined the cabinets and took many pictures, as well as providing me copies of his report. Simply stated, his opinion indi- cated the load was mishandled by the US affiliate. In today's business world, the measure of good business is how you treat the customer when something goes wrong. In this scenario, I believe you'd be appalled by my experience. I'm now negotiating with a claims department in Toronto. I've completed their required claims procedures and provided all required documentation. I've had prior training as a crimi- nal investigator, and have learned it's best to lead with accurate and detailed paperwork, especially when crossing the Canada-US border. With each submission of required paper- work, I also have continually asked if they require further information or explanation. There was no response from the claims department, giving me the impression that the desk is occu- pied by a nameplate, not a person. The Winnipeg branch of this company — salespeople, dispatchers and middle managers — also no longer call. I can only assume I've been labeled a prob- lem. Prior to arrival of the load, they had assured me they would be there to assist, including by offering lowered rates on future orders. Some 30-plus days after filing the claim, I have landed in the promise stage of claim handling, that is, "The manager is out; he'll be in touch upon his arrival," "just about to release a check." These actions have never occurred. There must be a better way. I wasn't intending to litigate, but, unfortunately, it appears I will have to. I'll be like others before me and ask for the stars — elevated costs of damage to reputation, less than professional skills when handling my load, etc. At the beginning, all I wanted was someone from the trucking company to stand alongside me and make it right. I wanted to have the feeling that someone inside of this company cared. No one has. Hopefully, I am coming to the end of the bad expe- rience, and will be in the market for a new trucking or shipping service. Thank you for your time. A: YOU'RE NOT REALLY ASKING A question, just venting (in fact, I had to edit your letter down a lot), and I'm afraid I think you're doing that prematurely. I was right with you up to the point that you mentioned you filed your claim only 30 days ago. Hey, I know that may seem a long time to you, with only the one claim on your mind, but the carrier probably has a few others to deal with as well, and hasn't so far taken excessive time handling yours. You do seem to have a valid claim, and it should pay. But give it a little time. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's claim regulations — Code of Federal Regulations, 49 CFR Part 370 — afford carriers 120 days in which to dispose of a claim after it's filed. This carrier has used up only a quarter of that span on yours. There'll be ample opportunity for you to spew forth your fury on the carrier if it fails to pony up after a more reasonable time, but you're trying to advance the clock pretty aggressively right now. JOC Consultant, author and educator Colin Barrett is president of Barrett Transportation Consultants. Send your questions to him at 5201 Whippoorwill Lane, Johns Island, SC 29455; phone, 843 559 1277; email, Contact him to order the most recent 351-page compiled edition of past Q&A columns, published in 2010. By Colin Barrett There'll be ample opportunity for you to spew forth your fury

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