The National Industrial Transportation League's Highway Transportation Committee voted 32-3 to endorse the North American Through Bill of Lading. The League's board of directors is expected to confer formal endorsement when it meets in Monterey CA on May 31.
Following passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1992, the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade was formed to find ways to harmonize divergent laws in the three countries in order to foster trade within the NAFTA region. The Law Center created a transportation practices committee which included representatives of the three NAFTA governments, carriers in each country, the insurance industry, staff from the Law Center, and shippers, including League members, staff and counsel. The goals of the Committee were to create a motor carrier through bill of lading (including terms and conditions) and a standard operating process to harmonize and facilitate trade between the three NAFTA countries.
The seven-year effort resulted in the North American Through Bill of Lading and related terms and conditions, which:
- preserves a shipper's right to contract for transportation services under terms and conditions independently negotiated between carriers and their customers;
- honors existing law (including prevailing tax and liability regimes) in the three countries;
- clarifies and makes predictable the basis for carrier (and shipper) liability in each country;
- provides notice of liability limits to shippers in all three countries (in the United States a warning is provided in bold letters);
- clarifies which country's laws will apply (the country where carrier first obtains physical possession of the cargo) and where any necessary litigation may take place;
- facilitates cross border processes;
- is easily adaptable to emerging e-commerce and customs technology; and
- provides a standard document and practice that is easily adaptable to other surface modes and across Central and South America.