[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 157 (Monday, August 15, 2011)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [http://www.gpo.gov/]
[FR Doc No: 2011-20665]
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Regulatory Guidance Concerning Household Goods Carriers Requiring
Shippers To Sign Blank or Incomplete Documents
AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.
ACTION: Notice of Regulatory Guidance.
SUMMARY: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issues
regulatory guidance to clarify the appropriate and intended use of
blank or incomplete documents under 49 CFR 375.501(d). Carriers may
require shippers to sign incomplete, but not blank, documents so long
as the omitted information is limited to: (1) The actual weight of the
shipment, in the case of non-binding estimates; and (2) unforeseen
charges incurred in transit. This guidance also clarifies that carriers
may not require shippers to sign ``Revised Written Estimates,''
``Rescissions of Old Estimate,'' or other documents authorizing the
carrier to rescind an estimate unless the shipper and carrier mutually
agree to amend the estimate, and the shipper signs a new estimate
before the carrier loads the shipment.
DATES: Effective date: This regulatory guidance is effective on August
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kenneth E. Rodgers, Division Chief,
Commercial Enforcement, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC
20590, telephone: (202) 366-0073.
The Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 (ICCTA)
(Pub. L. 104-88, 109 Stat. 803) provides that ``the Secretary may
issue regulations, including regulations protecting individual
shippers, in order to carry out this part with respect to the
transportation of household goods by motor carriers subject to
jurisdiction under subchapter I of chapter 135. The regulations and
paperwork required of motor carriers providing transportation of
household goods shall be minimized to the maximum extent feasible
consistent with the protection of individual shippers.'' (49 U.S.C.
14104(a)(1)). In the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (Pub.
L. 106-159, December 9, 1999, 113 Stat. 1750), which established FMCSA
as a separate agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation
(DOT), Congress authorized the Agency to regulate motor carriers
transporting household goods for individual shippers.
This document provides regulatory guidance on the Agency's
interpretation of 49 CFR 375.501(d)(1) and (2). Those sections, which
were adopted as a part of a technical amendment in 2004 (69 FR 10570
(Mar. 5, 2004)), provide:
(d)(1) You may provide the individual shipper with blank or
incomplete estimates, orders for service, bills of lading, or any
other blank or incomplete documents pertaining to the move.
(2) You may require the individual shipper to sign an incomplete
document at origin provided it contains all relevant shipping
information except the actual shipment weight and any other
information necessary to determine the final charges for all
The original version of Sec. 375.501(d), published as an interim
final rule, prohibited carriers from requiring individual shippers to
sign blank or incomplete estimates, orders for service, bills of
lading, or any other blank or incomplete documents pertaining to the
move. (68 FR 35064 (June 11, 2003)). In response to industry comments,
the Agency amended Sec. 375.501(d) to permit carriers to require
shippers to sign incomplete documents so long as the documents contain
all of the relevant shipping information. In doing so, the Agency
recognized that certain information, such as actual final weight and
other transit charges, may not be available until after the shipment is
Basis for This Notice
The Agency has received numerous consumer complaints concerning
household goods carriers and brokers that are requiring shippers to
sign blank or incomplete documents and then adding unauthorized charges
later. Specifically, the complaints identify carriers that required
shippers to sign a blank or incomplete form entitled ``Revised Written
Estimate'' or ``Rescission of Old Estimate.'' This form, when fully
executed and completed, authorizes the carrier to rescind the original
estimate and give a new estimate under the guise of ``changed
circumstances.'' ``Changed circumstances'' generally occur when a
shipper requests additional services or provides additional goods for
shipment. Although the form, on its face, may be used for legitimate
changes requested by shippers, in many cases, it is being used to
defraud shippers who have not requested additional services or changes
to their moves.
Verified consumer complaints show that some carriers require
shippers to execute this incomplete or blank document before loading
shipments and then use the form to rescind the original estimates. The
carrier then improperly converts non-binding estimates to binding
estimates for significantly increased amounts or alters the pre-
existing binding estimates once the shipment is in transit. The carrier
makes these changes without the shippers' knowledge after the shipment
is in transit. The practical effect of this practice is to force
shippers unknowingly to waive their rights to the consumer protection
regulations as set forth at 49 CFR 375.403 and 375.405.
Carriers using these practices interpret Sec. 375.501(d)(2) to
authorize this conduct. Such carriers also cite Sec. 375.501(d)(2) to
support using ``Revised Written Estimate''/``Rescission of Old
Estimate'' forms, which were specifically designed in response to the
2004 technical amendments. The FMCSA rejects this interpretation and
believes that such conduct is unlawful. The 2004 amendments were
intended to address the fact that certain information related to the
shipment could not be determined until after the shipment was in
transit. The FMCSA did not amend Sec. 375.501(d) to allow carriers to
supersede the stringent consumer protections provided in part 375. In
most cases brought to the Agency's attention, carriers have used blank
or incomplete documents to increase estimates after loading without the
consent or knowledge of shippers.
The FMCSA rejects these carriers' interpretation of 49 CFR
375.501(d) and believes that their conduct violates existing
regulations in part 375. The FMCSA is issuing this regulatory guidance
to eliminate any ambiguity or confusion concerning the scope of these
regulatory provisions and to protect consumers from future harm.
Part 375--Transportation of Household Goods in Interstate Commerce;
Consumer Protection Regulations
Section 375.501(d)(1) and (2) Blank or incomplete documents:
Question 1: May household goods motor carriers require shippers to
sign blank documents before loading a shipment?
Guidance: No, movers may not require shippers to sign blank
documents before loading a shipment. Movers may provide blank documents
to shippers for information purposes only.
Question 2: May household goods movers require shippers to sign
incomplete documents before loading the shipment?
Guidance: A mover may require a shipper to sign an incomplete, but
not blank, document before loading at the shipment's origin so long as
the document contains all of the relevant shipment information. Movers
may only omit information that cannot be determined before loading,
such as actual shipment weight in the case of shipments moved under
non-binding estimates or unforeseen charges incurred in transit.
Question 3: May household goods movers require shippers to sign
``Revised Written Estimates,'' ``Rescissions of Old Estimate'' or other
documents authorizing the mover to rescind the estimate as a condition
of loading a shipment?
Guidance: Movers may not require shippers to sign ``Revised Written
Estimates,'' ``Rescissions of Old Estimate'' or other documents
authorizing the mover to rescind the estimate as a condition of loading
the shipment unless the shipper and carrier mutually agree to amend the
estimate and the shipper signs a new estimate before the carrier loads
the shipment. In accordance with 49 CFR 375.501(f), 375.401(h) and
375.403(a)(6), both the shipper and the mover must mutually agree to
any amendment to a shipping order before loading the shipment. Section
375.501(d) does not alter this requirement.
Issued on: August 8, 2011.
Anne S. Ferro,
[FR Doc. 2011-20665 Filed 8-12-11; 8:45 am]
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