An Introduction

For some time our colleague and mentor Bill Augello authored a column for PARCEL entitled ‘Ask Augello’. In his column he would answer questions of readers based upon his vast knowledge of transportation law and in his own inimitable style. Most sadly, Bill passed away in November 2006 after a short bout with cancer (see PARCEL, November, 2006, page 9). I have now accepted the challenge of continuing his column.

Bill’s column was called ‘Ask Augello’ and, in keeping in the spirit of the column, I have decided to call it ‘What Would Augello Say’? For this first column I would like to briefly introduce myself and explain the significance of the new title.

I am a transportation attorney who lives and practices in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have been practicing transportation law since 1973. I first met Bill in 1989 and came to know him very well as we worked our way through the ‘undercharge wars’ in the Courts, the ICC, and in Congress. Prior to Bill’s passing I made a personal pledge to him to continue his educational endeavors to the best of my abilities.

The reason I chose the title of the column to be ‘What Would Augello Say’? is because I feel that it is very important for shippers to have a source of information on the legal aspects affecting transportation from a shipper’s point of view. Although there are lots of places one can go to find what the carriers are saying or doing, Bill, along with the Transportation Logistics Council, was the primary spokesperson for the shipper’s view point and a champion of shippers’ rights.

As we go forward I hope that the readers take up this invitation to send in their questions and, in answering them, I will ask myself ‘What would Bill say? How would he react to this?’ For this issue instead of answering a particular question, I would like to briefly summarize two of the most important themes of Bill’s message for shippers.

First, shippers must take the time and expense to educate themselves in order to maximize revenues and minimize risks for their companies. The ICC was ‘sun-setted’ as of December 31, 1995 and with each passing year the need for vigilance by shippers has increased.

Second, watch out for tariff traps! While there is no longer a need for carriers to file their tariffs, tariffs certainly exist ‘ whether they are called ‘terms and conditions,’ ‘service guides’ or whatever. Even more significantly, with the demise of the ICC there is no governmental agency providing oversight to ensure that the tariffs are fair and reasonable.

The recent case of Treiber v. UPS, decided in January 2007, provides a prime example of what happens if a shipper is not diligent. In that case the shipper tendered a piece of jewelry with a value of $105,000.00 to UPS for delivery, declared a value of $50,000.00 and purchased insurance from UPS for $50,000.00. After the jewelry was lost, the shipper filed a claim for loss. UPS denied the claim in its entirety, and the shipper did not even receive the amount of the insurance.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals had little trouble affirming the Trial Court’s ruling that UPS had a valid defense to the claim and that the insurance did not have to be paid. Why? Because the Court determined that the shipper should have read and familiarized himself with the UPS online terms and conditions. If the shipper had he would have readily, at least in the Court’s view, seen that UPS does not accept items with a value of more than $50,000.00 and, in the event that they inadvertently do, they will have no liability whatsoever.

While it is easy for the Court to say this, PARCEL readers no doubt know that the UPS tariffs are quite voluminous with lots and lots of provisions covering many sundry situations. But the point is, even if it is not so easy to read those tariffs as the Court may think, so what! It is something a shipper needs to do in order to protect his or her self and their company.

All for now!

Brent Wm. Primus, J.D., has authored many articles and publications relating to transportation and litigation. Brent received the Transportation Lawyer of the Year Award from the Transportation Logistics Council. He is the co-author of the U.S. Domestic Terms of Sales and Incoterms 2000. He currently serves as the General Counsel for the Freight Transportation Consultants Association and is the CEO of transportlawtexts, inc. as well as the CEO of Primus Law Office, P.A. He can be reached at brent@primuslawoffice.com.