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of no avail to put thru the factory an order to construct a particular article or to manufacture an article within a given time, only to have it shipped wrong, thereby losing the customer's goodwill and necessitating reconsigning, duplicating, or returning the shipment.
Filing the Tracers
Preferably, the tracer should be maintained as a desk file, and should be kept separate from the general correspondence files of the department. A very satisfactory system of filing is to take the first letter of the word “tracer (T) as the key or letter prefix for the tracer number; all tracers starting on the first working day of each month will have number 1, and the series continues numerically thruout the month until the first working day of the succeeding month, when a new series is started. The number corresponding with the month is used as a suffix. For example, the first tracer started in the month of December would be identified as T-1-12; the first tracer in the month of January would be designated as T-1-1; the first tracer in the month of July would be T-1-7; if it is assumed that there are 600 tracers inaugurated during the month of July, the last tracer number would appear as T-600-7, and any subsequent correspondence referring to this number would be readily identified.
By employing this method, the tracers that are held in abeyance—the ones on which the carriers have not been able to indicate delivery-can be kept in a wire basket or similar receptacle. The various months are separated by stout pieces of cardboard, and the tracers are followed up from time to time.
As the period of time in which claims can be filed diminishes, the oldest tracers can be removed from the tracing file and passed to the loss and damage clerk for preparation of the claim, with the necessary documents and the letter of transmittal. By following this plan, the outlawed claim becomes a conspicuous exception.
The method of recording and indexing tracers which is used by the National Cash Register Company has proved satisfactory. Under its system tracers are numbered from 1 to 9,999, and when the latter number is reached, a new series starting with 1 is begun. A Hall & McChesney (Syracuse, N. Y.) index file book is used in which to record the substance of the tracer; the tracer is indexed under the customer's or consignee's name, followed by the number assigned to that particular tracer.
Not only does the tracer system apply on nondeliveries but on shipments which may be unclaimed, refused, or undelivered at destination for other causes. These requests for disposition are handled in the same manner as tracers, and the efforts of the department are directed to furnishing to the carrier satisfactory orders for disposition.
In preparing the index for the tracing file, a geographical arrangement has been found the most satisfactory. Under the adoption of this plan, the destination of a shipment is taken as the key to find the particular tracer number which has been assigned to a shipment.
The tracer for a shipment consigned to Oliver Holmes, Little Rock, Ark., would be indexed under the page set aside for the state of Arkansas under “L” as follows:
Little Rock, Ark., Oliver Holmes, 1-12, indicating that tracer No. 1 of December covers.
Any substantial alphabetically tabbed book will suffice for this purpose.
With respect to carload business, not infrequently the industrial department can make arrangements with the traffic department of the carrier, whereby the latter will furnish the industrial traffic department with socalled "passing reports” showing the dates on which cars passed certain junctions or were delivered to connections at terminal points.
This is another very important division of the work contemplated in industrial traffic management, since, to a large extent, the efficiency of the department is measured, from a financial standpoint, by the amount of money recovered from each carrier following the institution of claims of various kinds.
A few years ago, loss and damage claims were taken much as a matter of course. Both shippers and carriers seemed to consider them as a necessary evil in the transportation of freight.
Lately, however, it has been demonstrated that much can be done to reduce this evil to a minimum. The carriers have, in many cases, established bureaus for the systematic study of the causes of claims, and have taken many steps to reduce the causes of claims by requiring greater care in the handling of goods in freight houses, and better judgment in the storing of freight in cars, and by promulgating intelligent classification and tariff requirements regarding containers of various kinds.
American shippers, as a class, are not sufficiently careful of the condition of shipping containers and the consequent protection to their offering. The physical damage to a shipment is often very small as compared with the results growing out of the failure to deliver a shipment, or the delivery of it in bad condition. The man who can deliver a shipment in the shortest time and in the best condition may expect repeat orders.
The wise industrial traffic manager is not the one who tries to pack his shipments just well enough to meet the requirements of the carriers; he is the one who studies his shipments to see what is necessary beyond complying with the carriers' rules and regulations.
A few cents additional spent in using a new package or one that is a little more secure, instead of an old, flimsy container, may easily mean thousands of dollars' saving in the end.
Classification of Claims
The two broad distinctions of classes of claims are (1) overcharge claims and (2) loss or damage claims.
Overcharge claims include those claims where the
shipper or his customer has been required to pay a greater sum than that lawfully established for the service of the particular kind rendered. The determination of such instances is contingent upon the ability and resources of the departmental employees.
Loss and damage issues are not so easy of adjustment, in that many of the claims follow so-called “concealed loss” and it is difficult to determine whether this damage occurred before or after it came into or left the carrier's possession.
Questions of loss or damage claims, therefore, resolve themselves largely into questions of fact, and, as one authority has stated, such claims are largely one point law and ninety-nine points fact.
Federal Regulations The regulations of the federal government concerning all claims require the carrier to make a thoro investigation within a reasonable time. This has done much to allay the feeling of the shipping public that unnecessary delays have attended investigations of this kind in the past.
Not infrequently a year or two years was consumed in investigating a claim, and unless the amount was sufficient to warrant suit, shippers or claimants gave up hopes of securing small amounts, and permitted the claim to fall thru by default.
Fraudulent claims are often submitted to the carriers, and their investigations must of necessity be sufficiently thoro to protect themselves from the practices of unscrupulous persons.