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Illustrating the difficulty of placing the responsibility for the damage of goods, the following instance is cited. An industry was engaged in loading a car on a team track for a distant destination. As the plant was not situated far from the loading point, only one horse-drawn truck was employed for the purpose of carting the goods from the warehouse to the car.
The loading was satisfactorily accomplished until, while conveying the last load to the car, the horses became frightened and ran away, overturning the vehicle and scattering its contents over the landscape.
As the truck had suffered no material damage, and as the teamster feared a reprimand, he gathered up the scattered cases and continued his journey to the car, completed its loading, and furnished the carrier with the necessary shipping instructions.
When the car arrived at its destination, the consignee's check showed a considerable breakage for which the railroad's record of handling the car showed no apparent reason. Nevertheless, the claim was entered against the railroad. It happened, by chance, that a loss and damage investigator of the railroad was in the vicinity at the time, made a note of the occurrence, and had it indorsed on the carrier's shipping records. This was all that prevented the paying of a claim for which the carrier was in no way responsible.
Another source of loss to the carrier is the dishonest truckmen who, after leaving industrial or railroad premises, cunningly open boxes and other packages, and pilfer them of their contents; as a result, when the receiving clerk unpacks the case, the shortage is
noticed, the railroad company's attention is called to it, claim is filed, and payment is secured.
Some concerns have adopted the plan of checking their shortages in the receipt and delivery of goods against the persons in the industry who have handled it. This plan has discouraged wholesale pilfering. That is to say, it is rather difficult for Henry Smith, a packer, or John Jones, a truckman, to say why all shortages or an unusual preponderance of them, both as to shipments and receipts, should occur in parcels they handled. It raises the presumption, at least, that while it may be possible, it is hardly probable.
These incidents are injected in this discussion more with an idea of showing the necessity for an open mind and a spirit of fair play in questions of concealed loss. A great many men on the industrial side of the fence feel that the railroads, on this score, are more sinned against than sinning.
THE OVERCHARGE INVESTIGATOR
A good overcharge claim investigator must be a man of ability, acquainted with the various rate-making methods employed thruout the country, the application of railroad and committee tariffs and classification rules, and the rules governing certain special services that may be rendered. He must be able to recognize discriminations in transportation charges, and to handle claims so intelligently that they may be collected with the least amount of correspondence and delay.
Waste in Unnecessary Correspondence
To many men, a letter is a letter, and little or no consideration is given to the cost or effort of its production. One of the leading industries of the city of Chicago made an exhaustive survey in this field, and developed the remarkable fact that the cost for each letter written by the organization represented an expenditure in excess of thirty cents. This cost was determined by reckoning the time used to develop the necessary facts, the time consumed in dictating, the typist's time in transcribing, material cost, wear and tear on the machine, and the cost of paper and postage.
It is evident, then, that it pays to make letters of transmittal and claim papers so complete that there will be no unnecessary amount of correspondence.
THE LOSS AND DAMAGE INVESTIGATOR
The qualifications of the loss and damage investigator must be entirely different from those of the overcharge investigator.
He must depend, for the most part, upon an intimate knowledge of the law of contract, the law of agency, bailment, and the many other common-law regulations that govern the delivery of property to common carriers, and their liability, both as carriers and as warehousemen, to transport and to deliver. He must also have a knowledge of current court decisions which may in any way affect pending issues or issues which, on some technicality, may have been previously declined by the carrier.
The various kinds of claims, the necessary documents to substantiate the claim, and such other information necessary to its intelligent investigation is incorporated in an able treatise entitled Freight Claims, written by Mr. Trimpe, of the Chicago Bar, and published by LaSalle Extension University, Chicago.
Mr. G. H. Hunt, Freight Claim Agent of the Chicago Great Western Railroad, is the author of a monograph, The Investigation of Freight Claims, also published by the institution mentioned in the foregoing paragraph, a textbook which shows the various steps in the investigation of freight claims from the standpoint of a railroad freight claim department.
Standard forms have been devised for the presentation of both classes of claims, that is, a form for overcharge claims, and a form for loss or damage claims.
These forms appear in Fig. 25 and Fig. 26. The essential information required by each is self-evident. These forms were approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission, the National Association of Railroad Commissioners, and the National Industrial Traffic League. The use of them simplifies the procedure in drawing up the claim, and presents a uniform statement of facts for consideration which greatly facilitates the investigation of the claim.
Some concerns that do not employ the standard form use a mimeographed or multigraphed form similar in arrangement to that appearing in the standard form.
On all claims filed with the carriers, follow-up letters should be sent when an acknowledgment is not received. The carrier should acknowledge that the