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Loading and unloading: is the carrier liable for damage or loss?

15 October 2020


Many entrepreneurs who have goods transported wrongly assume that the carrier is always liable for loss or damage during transport. There is a rebuttable presumption that the carrier has limited liability for the (total or partial) loss of the goods between the time they are taken over and the time they are delivered. But what if something goes wrong during loading and unloading?

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CMR maintains a stony silence

CMR, the Convention for the International Carriage of Goods by Road, does not say a word about damage to or loss of goods during loading and unloading. In the event of disagreement between you and the carrier, you must therefore refer the matter to the competent court - unless you have acted wisely by taking contractual measures between yourself beforehand.

General Terms and Conditions for Road Transport

In practice, contractual agreements on loading and unloading often boil down to what is provided for in the General Terms and Conditions for Road Transport (developed by the three professional federations). They state: "Unless otherwise stated in writing, the parties expressly agree that loading and unloading shall be carried out by the consignor and the consignee respectively. To the extent that the driver is requested by the consignor or the consignee to carry out these acts, this shall be done under the express supervision, control and responsibility of the consignor or the consignee".

In short, unless you agree in advance in writing that liability will lie with the carrier, you cannot recover damage or loss of goods during loading or unloading from the carrier. If you merely refer to the General Conditions of Road Transport in the contract, you may be liable to make a claim.

Cargo insurance

The legislator divides the responsibility for securing the load between various parties: shipper, consignor, packer, driver, carrier. Sometimes the law provides for the possibility to deviate from the legal provisions in advance and in writing.

Optimally insured loading and unloading (or having them loaded and unloaded)

We advise you to carefully read your existing and future contracts and, if necessary, have them adapted (in a framework agreement, on the transport order, on the waybill, ...), so that there can be no discussion of liability in the event of damage. Also a well thought-out transport insurance, tailored to your company and needs, is no superfluous luxury. Our insurance architects will be happy to assist you! Please contact us immediately.



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