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Condition Report Epic Fail Causes Auto Transport Nightmare!

What a mess! Have you read the story about David Chu’s ‘auto transport nightmare?’ He hired an auto broker, that hired a transporter, and when that transporter broke down during the trip, the broker hired another transporter to pick up and deliver David’s two vehicles. Upon final delivery, David discovered new damage on both of his vehicles and reported it to his insurance company.

David had to pay out of pocket for the repairs, and when he went to collect the money for reimbursement, nobody would take full responsibility. In addition, there appeared to be no proper condition report to prove when the damage occurred or even who caused it. So the number of problems that could have been prevented with proper documentation and a good condition report before, during and after the transport is staggering. Here are the 10 ways a good inspection report could have saved the customer thousands of dollars.

  1. Number one, if the first trucking company had simply completed a condition report before pickup and after they unloaded when their truck broke down, and if the two reports matched, then they could have shown David they had nothing to do with the damage to either of his vehicles.
  2. If the first transporter had simply taken photos before loading in New York and after unloading at the rest stop where they broke down, they could have proven to him and all parties that they were not the cause of the damage.
  3. Even if that first carrier had created illegible yet identical inspection reports without taking photos, but had obtained signatures from the second company at the rest stop location before the vehicles were loaded the second time, then they could at least argue the second carrier was at fault. A simple signature could have been enough to shift the blame!

    Click the photo to download

  4. Since the first transporter didn’t have the condition reports, surely the second transporter would have completed a condition report before loading two damaged vehicles at a highway rest stop. After they were delivered in Florida, simply ensure the two reports were identical, thereby removing any consideration that they had played a part of any mishandling during transport.
  5. If the second carrier had simply taken pictures of the damaged vehicles before loading and shown them to the customer at delivery, then they could have easily proved they had nothing to do with the damage.
  6. Even if the second transporter had no pictures and very minimal information recorded on their condition report, but had obtained a signature from the first carrier, then clearly they would have sufficient documentation to reject a claim against them. Unfortunately, they stated they were unable to get that signature.
  7. If the contract between the customer and the broker removed all liability from the broker or its contracted carriers, then the customer should not have accepted the damaged vehicles when they were delivered. Instead, the customer should have immediately begun taking pictures and obtaining statements from everyone involved, just as somebody would after a car accident. Calling the police and filing an accident report might have also been helpful.

    Altima Damage Condition Report Fail

    (Photo: Special to The News-Press)      What If This Happened To Your Car?

  8. It is difficult to believe that an auto broker is entirely free from all liability even in the absence of two contracted carriers and no proper documentation. Auto brokers have a surety bond and this issue should have been pursued further to prove liability.
  9. The first carrier said they were willing to reimburse the customer for half of the full amount to repair the damages. But if they had simply done a proper condition report, they would either be off the hook, or 100% liable. This would be an open-and-shut case.
  10. The second carrier states the vehicles were damaged when they picked them up and that they could not obtain a signature from the first carrier. That actually does happen all too often in auto transport, which is why all drivers should always take pictures and communicate with the broker anytime there is damage prior to loading. Had the second transporter taken those proper steps, they could have been free from any claim of liability.

 

Yes, that’s a lot of jargon and a lot to consider! But when something becomes a legal matter with monetary damages at stake, there are many fine points to separate, examine and argue as a complainant, or in one’s defense. If you have an opinion, suggestion, or otherwise, please feel free to comment below. And if you need more information about how to generate perfect condition reports, please click below. Thanks, and keep on trucking.

– Super Jay

Try This BOL App For Free. Download the App for Android HERE and for Apple HERE.

The Perfect Car Hauler Inspection Report Has 5 Key Ingredients

Watch the VIDEO of this post:

An Excellent Car Inspection Report Will Protect Your Business

No Inspection Report? Auto Transport Customer With Damage Claim

To avoid damage claims, every car hauler should already know that before any vehicle is loaded for transport, it must be inspected for previous damage; and it is essential for all parties involved that the inspection report is prepared methodically and precise. The format of the recorded document is called the ‘condition report’ (also referred to as a ‘bill of lading’ or ‘BOL.’) Car shipping inspection report documentation historically has been paper-based, but with recent changes in digital technology, smartphones and handheld devices with touch screens are now being used to complete a digital car hauler BOL. (As you continue to read this, it is very important to keep in mind that in nearly every case where a truck driver arrives to load a car, the pickup contact at that location has never met that driver before, and therefore, that person has no way of knowing if he or she will do a quality job of protecting the vehicle from damage during transport. This is exactly why if anything is damaged between pick up and delivery, blaming the driver is nearly always the first reaction.)

…if anything is damaged between pick up and delivery, blaming the driver is nearly always the first reaction.

Regardless of the circumstance, if the owner of the company cannot prove the driver did not cause the damage, official incident reports will be generated and delivered to the owner and insurance company, who in turn will be legally required to pay for the vehicle to be repaired. Consequently, the transporter’s insurance premium will increase, and a growing history of causing vehicle damage during transport will have a severely negative impact on their ability to find business moving forward. This chain reaction is exactly why every transporter must do everything possible to avoid auto transport damage claims from the very beginning. Here are the five best ways to complete the perfect car hauler inspection report.

Car Hauler app digital signature

1) Get Signatures

Obtaining a signature from somebody (sometimes anybody!) at every pickup and delivery location that can compare the vehicle with the inspection report and verify the two identically match and will sign to that effect can make a world of difference. Ideally, the driver can also verify this person has the legal authority to enter into this part of the contract, and speak on behalf of the transport customer. Oftentimes, the driver cannot obtain any signature, such as at auctions, dealerships, terminals, or when it’s outside normal business hours. But the effort to attempt to get a signature as often as possible should always be present, especially with residential customers. No matter where you are, that signature is gold if anyone raises a question after the fact, so you must try, try, try to get a signature every time!

…but the driver knows if they have pictures of the damage before they ever touched the car, there is little other proof they will need…

2) Take Pictures

Everybody knows the saying: “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Taking photos takes extra time, but the driver knows if they have pictures of the damage before they ever touched the car, then there is little other proof they will need on their inspection report to argue they didn’t cause it in the first place. Getting clear photos of vehicles can be harder than it looks, because of a car’s naturally reflective surface, the brightness of the daytime sun, and shadows that can interfere with clarity. That’s why it’s best to take a lot of pictures, including close-ups, all sections, and panels, from top to bottom, and for parts with obvious damage, to take many different angles for complete coverage. If you have the photos, you have supporting evidence and total peace of mind. In addition, transport companies using special BOL apps using third-party time stamping and geo-tagged features will have that extra layer of protection that most insurance companies will request should a fierce dispute arise in the future.

“…our drivers always take inspection photos with ‘Superman,’ we sent him the pictures clearly showing that same dent was there before we ever picked it up. That claim immediately went away, and we never heard about it again!” – Miguel from 2740 Trucking

Timestamped BOL App

3) Mark All Damages

It’s very important for an insurance claims adjuster that all pre-existing damages are marked accurately. If it’s ‘dented,’ do not indicate ‘scratched.’ If it’s ‘cracked,’ then don’t put ‘chipped.’ To drivers, these may seem like semantics, but just because a damage spot has been identified doesn’t mean that’s enough to fight a claim. When a vehicle has been damaged, nobody wants to take the blame, and everyone is ready to point the finger at the trucker. New cars require an extra level of care because of their high value. If the driver is picking up at a rail yard and the broker has provided a list of Universal Damage Codes, the driver is expected to use them. Transporters must also follow any broker notes regarding notating damage if they expect to get paid in a timely fashion, so drivers really need to read the dispatch sheets so they know exactly what is expected. There are also times when the tow yard or terminal accidentally causes minor damage to the vehicle, and those employees might be hoping the driver doesn’t notice before loading. If the driver does load without taking proper steps, they deliver and the customer notices, that driver will take all of the blame and have to pay for repairs – and this scenario happens all the time! And that goes double for marking all damages on the gate pass! Here’s a good tip: many experienced drivers use the most comprehensive and thorough approach by also taking photos of additional documentation and attaching those files to the digital BOL app they are using.

Time Stamped Damages Marked On Gate Pass As Condition Report

Damages Marked On A Manheim Gate Pass And Retained At Security Gate

4) Complete Additionally Required Documents

Even if the transporter has just completed an excellent inspection report, they can also be required (based on the type of pickup location) to mark any and all damages on additional forms of documentation, such as auto auction gate passes and manufacturing plant gate copies. A digital BOL can be very helpful in this regard whether to print or email an exact duplicate copy to the security guard to include with the gate copy. Additionally, terminals and tow yards can have their own variations of this rule, and the brokers that use them frequently oftentimes have their own in-house BOL or condition report (with other additionally needed details) that they require be completed and signed for before a transport meets their own standards of completion. While it may be a real hassle for the driver to follow through with all of this documentation duplication, not doing so can create exponentially more problems and lost wages in the future.

Call the dispatcher, call the owner of the company, but be sure to call somebody!

Click the photo to download

5) Communication Is The Key

Finally, if a driver notices something that doesn’t seem quite right, identifying and communicating with the auto broker can stop a problem from snowballing. If a floor mat is obviously missing, if there’s a strange smell, if a fluid is leaking from underneath – anything out of the ordinary – the driver is responsible for letting somebody know right away. If it’s not on the dispatch sheet, there could be something wrong that nobody else even knows about. When a broker indicates on the dispatch sheet to call them 24/7 with any questions or concerns, heed their warning and call them. Call the dispatcher, call the owner of the company, but be sure to call somebody! Then take photos and email them, and do not load the car. Good communication prior to loading can be indispensable to avoiding a major damage claim in the future.

Having been an auto transport dispatcher for many years, I’ve seen every single one of these key elements for the perfect car hauler inspection report followed – and ignored. Having worked with dozens of drivers and hundreds of auto brokers, I think I know what it takes to avoid the filing of an insurance claim. Therefore, I hope my review and advice is helpful to you – as well as thorough, practical and realistic. And may you never have another unfounded damage claim for the rest of your travels. Please share your thoughts, comments and advice. Thanks, and keep on trucking.

– Super Jay

Try This BOL App For Free. Download the App for Android HERE and for Apple HERE.