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Time Limitations-Tracing Shipments: The Tracer; The
In the matter of loss and damage claims, close supervision of the correspondence concerning undelivered shipments is particularly necessary to avoid the possibility of a legitimate claim being outlawed under the time limitations incorporated in the uniform bill of lading and similar contracts of affreightment.
The clause in the uniform bill of lading reads as follows:
Except where the loss, damage, or injury complained of is due to delay or damage while being loaded or unloaded, or damaged in transit by carelessness or negligence, as conditions precedent to recovery, claims must be made in writing to the originating or delivering carrier within six months after delivery of property (or in case of export traffic, within nine months after delivery at port of export), or in the case of failure to make delivery, then within six months (or nine months in the case of export traffic), after a reasonable time for delivery has elapsed; and suits for loss, damage, or delay, shall be instituted only within two years and one day after delivery of the property, or in case of failure to make delivery, then within two years and one day after a reasonable time for delivery has elapsed.
This limitation is defended on the grounds that it affords the carriers an opportunity to review the transaction while the matter is fresh in the minds of the parties concerned with the handling of the shipment. It has been sustained by the various courts, and where the conditions are not observed, many a valid and otherwise sound claim is outlawed, and the shippers can receive no redress.
It is well to maintain the tracing division of an industrial traffic organization as a subsidiary of the claim division. Many of the shipments that the industry is called upon to trace are unlocated, and finally become questions of loss or damage. The accumulated correspondence following the tracing of the shipment can be transferred to the claim record and formal claim made when the proper time arrives.
The word “tracer" is the name which is applied to communications addressed to the carriers, signifying the nondelivery to the consignee of a shipment which has been previously intrusted to the carriers' custody, and requesting that they take up the matter with their connections at the intermediate transfer point or with the junction agent in an endeavor to locate the shipment or the missing part thereof, and hurry it on to its destination.
A representative form of tracer is illustrated in Fig. 24.
The Carrier's Procedure
On receipt of the tracer, the railroad agent delegates an employee to refer to the outbound railroad billing, or waybill, as the document is styled, covering shipment for that particular day and to locate the particular waybill on which the shipment in question has been entered. He then fills out a form addressed to the agent on whom the billing was made with a request that he show delivery to the consignee. Copies are sometimes sent to intermediate junction agents.
Not infrequently, the agent at destination is unable to show delivery because the property was loaded in the wrong car. Consequently, the matter must be referred to the freight claim agent to discover whether or not the particular shipment is reported as "over," or “on hand,” at any other point on the line, or in any other cars from the line that were sent to connections.
The increased demand of shippers for tracers has become a serious burden to the railroads. It is practically impossible, even with an increased force of clerks, to supply all the information asked for in connection with shipments in transit.
Our customer, Mr.
at reports the nonreceipt of shipment consisting of
which was delivered to your
station and for which we hold
Yours very truly,
FIG. 24.-A Card Tracer
The majority of tracers are instituted by the shippers themselves, who believe they can hasten the movement of freight by some means of this kind. For this reason, the railroads are forced to disregard the great majority of such requests from a standpoint of economy, thus defeating the aim and purpose of many legitimate tracers.
A tracer should not be instituted until there is evidence of undue delay in transit. Then a tracer should be sent to the local agent, stating full particulars of the shipment, and requesting a prompt investigation and reply. But this should not be done until the carrier has had ample opportunity to effect the transportation.
An instance of unreasonable demand for tracers was the custom of a large Chicago enterprise to follow up its deliveries of one day with request to the carrier the next day to trace such shipments, and to indicate delivery to the consignee. As there were one hundred shipments or so daily, it can be readily appreciated that an undue burden was thus imposed on the carriers.
The opportunity for property to be held in such a manner will be minimized if the shipping room is required to indicate the address of the consignee on each separate item comprising the shipment, as in such cases, it is the custom of the carriers to forward shipments received erroneously to the proper destination on so-called “free astray billing."
The first consideration of the shipping room should be to have everything exactly right, not only as to inside and exterior packing, but as to marking as well. It is