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Changes to RHA conditions – check your small print

[ March 17, 2021   //   ]

Insurer the TT Club says that new clauses in the RHA conditions of carriage could put the onus on shippers under some circumstances.

It points out a number of potentially significant changes in the latest version of the conditions released last year and effective 1 September. They include changes to clauses protecting carriers’ obligations if delays in transit result from the customer’s omission, clarifying the issue of liabilities for loading and unloading cargo from the vehicle and providing a definition of ‘commencement of transit’ with implications on liability in the event of damage or loss prior to that point.

TT Club’s Mike Yarwood says that they could have significant impact on the liabilities sustained by carriers under certain circumstances. “Since Brexit, for example, there have been a number of occasions of hauliers arriving at UK ports seeking to cross the EU border without the necessary documentation or permits. Documentary errors, potentially by the customer, cause delay, which if perishable cargoes are involved can result in extensive losses.  Under clause 5 (4) of the new conditions, a carrier has the right to suspend or possibly even terminate the performance of the service, and in addition damages such as loss of business and driver’s wages could be claimed from the customer,” he explained.

TT Club and its legal partner Hill Dickinson are encouraging hauliers and other stakeholders who incorporate the terms of the earlier, 2009 version to alter their own standard trading conditions in line with the new provisions.

A further issue clarified in the 2020 conditions is connected to liabilities for loading and unloading cargo from a vehicle. Clause 4 now states that unless otherwise agreed in writing, responsibility for loading cargo onto the vehicle and the unloading of the cargo at the consignee, rests with the customer. Further, the customer is also required to indemnify the carrier from and against all and any loss, damage, death or injury that might arise during such operations. 

Another clause that has been altered affects thefts from warehouses, a consequence primarily of pandemic related backlogs and delays.  This includes from loaded trailers awaiting departure.  In this regard, Clause 7 of the new conditions sees a material change to the definition of commencement of transit.  This is defined as after the consignment has left the premises from where the consignment is collected.

This is of significant assistance to the carrier when no alternative secure parking facility is available en route to the destination or the driver does not have sufficient driving time to reach a secure parking location.  In the spirit of security, it would now be advantageous from both a liability and a security perspective to leave the loaded trailer at the shipper’s premises until the driver’s hours allow a more seamless delivery option.

https://www.rha.uk.net/membership/member-benefits/conditions-of-carriage-and-storage