The Carmack Amendment Explained

Commercial drivers have a lot of responsibilities while on the road. One of the most important is interstate carriers adhering to the Carmack Amendment 49 U.S.C §14706 which was adopted to achieve uniformity in rules governing interstate shipment. The Carmack Amendment is part of the Interstate Commerce Act, which preempts all state and common law claims, governs how goods are transported between states, and sets out specific regulations for commercial drivers. Read on to learn more about the Carmack Amendment and its implications for truckers.


What is the Carmack Amendment?

The Carmack Amendment is a provision of federal law by congress that governs the interstate transportation of goods by commercial trucking companies. The amendment was first enacted in 1906, and it has been amended several times since then. The amendment establishes three basic rights for trucking companies: the right to collect damages for lost or damaged goods, the right to collect freight charges from the shipper, and the right to file a lien against the shipper’s property for unpaid freight charges. The amendment was enacted to draw the lines of engagement on what constitutes a legal liability for freight cargo claims of cargo damage and or cargo loss claim against a carrier. The Carmack Amendment has been criticized for giving trucking companies too much power, but it nonetheless remains an important part of federal law. There are also a few odd spots around The Carmack Amendment such as to be compliant with Carmack the carrier is required to issue a receipt or bill of lading for the property it receives for transport. However, failure to issue a receipt or bill of lading does not affect the liability of a motor carrier. It is also worth noting that Carmack defines a “carrier” as both a motor carrier and a freight forwarder.


Who Does the Carmack Amendment Apply To?

The Carmack Amendment governs the liability of common carriers in the United States. The law is named after former senator William Carmack, who authored the legislation. The Carmack Amendment applies to all commercial trucking companies operating in the United States, and it establishes certain standards for liability in the event of damaged or lost goods. The law also provides procedures for filing claims and obtaining compensation. In general, the Carmack Amendment makes it easier for businesses to hold trucking companies accountable for losses incurred during shipments. Under the Carmack Amendment, a carrier’s limitation of liability can be established by the terms of its contract of carriage or tariff. The Carmack is also the amendment that brings the “Act of God” factoring into play. The “Act of God” defense is an affirmative defense and is limited to occurrences with a number of damages produced by a physical cause or by natural phenomena such as lightning, or storms. However, a carrier’s liability does come into play “for the actual loss or injury to the property caused by (a) the receiving carrier, (b) the delivering carrier, or (c) another carrier over whose line or route the property is transported.”


Five Exceptions to the Carmack Amendment

The law is designed to protect shippers from loss or damage to their shipments, and it requires carriers to provide compensation for any loss or damage that occurs during transit. However, there are a few exceptions to the Carmack Amendment.


  • The law does not apply to shipments of household goods or personal effects. 

  • It does not apply to shipments of live animals.

  • It does not apply to shipments of perishable goods.

  • It does not apply to shipments of hazardous materials. 

  • Finally, it does not apply to International shipments. These exceptions are important to keep in mind when shipping goods by commercial trucking companies.

Requirements for Filing Claims Under the Carmack Amendment

The Carmack Amendment establishes requirements for filing claims in the event that goods are lost or damaged during shipment. In order to file a claim under the Carmack Amendment, the shipper must first prove that the trucking company was responsible for the loss or damage. The shipper must also show that they have made a reasonable effort to recover the value of the lost or damaged goods from the trucking company. If these requirements are met, the shipper can file a claim in court to recover damages. The Carmack Amendment provides considerable protection for shippers, but it is important to understand the requirements before attempting to file a claim.


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