Consumers will receive the benefit of differing methods of charging for line-haul services. Charges based on weight, cubic feet, cubic meters, hourly charges or other volume based measurements can be made available as options for consumers. A menu of differing accessorial services at competitive rates could be included as an incentive for consumers. Custom tariffs mean more selection and choice for consumers.
WHAT IS A TARIFF AND WHY MUST AN INTERSTATE MOTOR CARRIER PUBLISH ONE?
A tariff is a legal document that must be published by every interstate motor carrier. The tariff specifies the exact prices, services, rules, regulations, classifications, policies, and other provisions of the services offered by the motor carrier. A motor carrier is bound by the terms of its published tariff; it must only provide the exact services and prices as listed in the tariff.
HOW MUST A MOTOR CARRIER USE A TARIFF?
Motor carriers must charge customers the exact rates from the tariff. No services may be offered to a customer which are not provided for in the tariff. A motor carrier may not charge a customer more or less than the specific tariff rate.
All charges for services provided to a customer must exactly match the rates of the tariff. For example, if the tariff price for 1,400 lbs. for a move from California to Florida is $0.50 per pound then the motor carrier must charge exactly $0.50; not one cent more nor one cent less. (49 USC section 13702(a)(2)).
HOW MAY A MOTOR CARRIER PUBLISH A TARIFF?
Motor carriers may write their own tariff, subscribe to a generic tariff service, or have an individual custom made tariff written for them by a legal professional. Any tariff must be written to comply with all applicable federal regulations. Since a motor carrier must only provide the exact services and prices as listed in the tariff, it is important that the tariff be made to match the services and prices that the motor carrier is providing or will provide. Be cautious of generic tariffs that may not exactly match the services and rates the motor carrier is offering.
If a motor carrier uses a generic tariff which only allows for line haul charges based on weight of the property, then charging based upon cubic feet would be both a civil and criminal violation. Also, if a generic tariff does not contain provisions for charges for stairs, long carry, storage, etc., then the motor carrier who uses the generic tariff cannot charge the consumer shipper for those services.
CAN TARIFF PRICES BE DISCOUNTED?
No. Tariff rates/prices for line haul and accessorial services must NOT be randomly or individually discounted. Motor carriers may not charge or receive different rates/prices for services other than the rates/prices specified in the tariff.
This includes offering a discount or returning part of the rate to a customer. However, amendments or changes to tariff rates/prices, properly documented, may be used to change the rates/prices for services; this is the only form of “discounting” that may be permissible. Under this method careful record keeping must be used to follow the law. (49 USC section 13702(a)(2)).
CAN A MOTOR CARRIER REPLACE THEIR CURRENT TARIFF FOR A CUSTOM MADE TARIFF INDIVIDUALLY PUBLISHED?
Yes. If a motor carrier wishes to replace a generic tariff for a custom made individually published tariff it may do so at any time. Using a custom made individually published tariff allows a motor carrier to offer the services it wishes at the rates/prices it needs to charge in order to provide better customer service.
WHAT ARE THE CIVIL AND CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR TARIFF VIOLATIONS?
Penalties for violating tariff provisions by either overcharging or undercharging are both civil and criminal. Any person who charges rates over or under the tariff rate shall be liable for a civil penalty of up to $100,000.00 for each individual violation.
A person who charges a rate/price over or under the tariff rate/price may be subject to criminal charges and financial fine and/or a sentence to prison for up to two (2) years for each individual violation. (49 USC section 14903(b)).
IS THE MOTOR CARRIER RESPONSIBLE IF AN AGENT VIOLATES A TARIFF PROVISION?
Yes. Motor carriers who use agents or subcontractors, such as other carriers, to perform services can be held civilly and criminally liable for the actions of those agents. For example, if an agent or a subcontractor hired by a motor carrier to perform a pickup or delivery charges for a service at a rate/price different than the rate specified in the principal motor carrier’s tariff, then the motor carrier can be held responsible for the violation both criminally and civilly. (49 USC section 14903(c)).