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Everything You Need to Know About Your Auto Transport Contract

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Everything You Need to Know About Your Auto Transport Contract
Everything You Need to Know About Your Auto Transport Contract

When you hire a professional auto transport company, they will supply you with a final contract that expresses the terms of your arrangement. Sometimes, these arrangements have wording that you may not understand. It is vital to understand what the contract means and what you are signing. A lot of auto transport jargon is hard to understand if you have never encountered it before.

Common Auto Transport Terminology

Anytime you are looking through a contract, you will find that there is a terminology that is common and other not quite as common. You may or may not recognize the words being used, which is okay as long as you ask what it means in that context. If you are unsure what something means, don’t just assume it benefits you. Ask the professional auto transport company that you are hiring what these items mean.

Commonly Used Auto Transport Verbiage

  • Additional Services
    • These refer to any upgrades or additional services you may have paid extra for. These are services paid for by the customer and are often things like vehicle top-loading, covered transport, guaranteed pick-up date, additional personal belongings, etc. 
  • Bill of Lading
    • A Bill of Lading, also known as BoL, often serves as receipt or contract between the carrier and the customer. The BoL has documentation that lists the company, the shipment, and the condition of the cargo, origin, destination, and terms and conditions of the company transporting. Once signed, it is a legally binding document.
  • Carrier
    • The carrier is defined as a motor carrier of property. These carriers are licensed by the State and Federal Department of Transportation. This term can also be used to describe a company that moves goods by sea.
  • Carrier Form
    • Carrier form refers to documents that will be provided by the carrier at point of origin or destination such as:
      • Bill of Lading
      • Receipt
      • Inspection reports
      • Shipping order
  • C.O.D.
    • Collect on delivery or also payment upon delivery
  • Customer
    • The customer is the individual, company, or other entity that is requesting transport from the company or carrier
  • Customer’s Agent
    • Referred to as a consignee, the customer’s agent is someone over 18 that is authorized to act on behalf of the customer if they are unavailable.
  • Destination
    • The destination is the drop off location for the shipment that is designated by the customer or later modified by the transport company and customer. The change and agreement must be mutual.
  • Inoperable
    • Inoperable refers to the state or condition of a shipment that cannot be driven. The most common causes for this are parts removed, damaged, altered, deteriorated. These parts often include the engine, wheels, transmission, brakes, tires, etc.
  • Order
    • The order is the request for transport services made by the customer.
  • Order Confirmation
    • Any written confirmation of services that have been made between the carrier and the customer regarding the terms of their shipment
  • Point of Origin
    • The shipment pick-up location that was designated by the customer or agreed upon by the carrier and customer
  • Shipment
    • The property in which a customer is seeking transport 

These are not the only terms you may see in your contract with a transport company. If you do not understand any verbiage in your contract, it is your responsibility to ask for clarification before signing anything.

Services Section of the Contract

In the services section of the contract, you will find what the transport company is going to do for you and what you can expect from them. From the minute you become a customer of a transport company, they will begin making arrangements for the services that you ask for. Most professional transport companies will include sections that advise the order could be refused or canceled at their discretion. 

If the transport company you are working with is only a broker, there will be a section in this section of the terms that expresses you understand and acknowledge that the company is only the broker. Their responsibility is completed once the carrier has accepted the order.

As a part of the contract, the transport company will express that the estimates given for pick-up and delivery are subject to change and not ironclad. The transport company and any brokered carrier cannot guarantee any exact pick-up or delivery information in writing due to circumstances that may cause change.

Expectations of the Customer

The transport company has expectations for you, as their customer. They lay these out in a section that is specifically catered to explaining what they expect of you. Following these are necessary to keep a good customer and transport company relationship.

  • Accurate Information
    • The transport company relies on the customer to provide them with accurate details about their shipment. The information includes all of the precise information on the vehicle being transported. The company is relying on the information provided by you, the customer, to accurately describe the year, make, and model of the car being transported. The information received from you is what generates the quote. Providing inaccurate information can cause a discrepancy in the quoted price for transport.
  • Size and Condition of the Shipment
    • The transport company needs to know about the size and condition of the vehicle you need to be shipped. If the vehicle does not run, extra measures may need to be taken to get the vehicle on the trailer. You will also need to inform the transport company if modifications have been made to the vehicle that makes it different from the original equipment manufacturer’s condition. 
  • Preparing the Shipment
    • The customer is responsible for getting the vehicle ready for shipment. This includes removing any pieces of equipment that are not permanently fixed to the vehicle. Luggage racks and any other types of equipment on the vehicle that could potentially be damaged or cause damage to other vehicles if dislodged should be removed. The customer is responsible for damages if caused by not preparing the shipment properly.
  • Car Alarm System
    • The customer is responsible for disarming the alarm system on the vehicle before transport. If the alarm is not disarmed and engages, the driver of the transport vehicle has the authority to disengage it without any repercussions from the customer.
  • Personal Items
    • There are times when professional transport companies will allow customers to enclose personal items with their transported vehicles. Most of these have strict contingencies, though. Most companies will only allow one piece of luggage under 100 pounds, and it must be confined to the truck or storage portion of the vehicle. The company will also require that the customer acknowledge the company is under no obligation should anything happen to those items.
  • Items that are Prohibited
    • Transport companies cannot and will not transport certain items. These items need to be acknowledged by the customer so that there is no misunderstanding. Items that cannot be transported are:
      • Guns
      • Explosives
      • Ammunition
      • Anything flammable
      • Weapons
      • Live pets
      • Contraband
      • Drugs
      • Live plants
      • Narcotics
      • Alcoholic beverages
      • Anything considered illegal
    • The customer must sign that they understand the order may be canceled without compensation upon finding anything of the sort in the shipment. The customer will be responsible for paying any fines, fees, damages, or other liabilities that may result from a violation.

Responsibilities of the Carrier

Just as the contract will lay out the expectations of the customer, the carrier will be under expectations as well. Whether the carrier is a brokered company chosen by the auto transport company or the auto transport company themselves, these responsibilities are common among contracts.

It is the responsibility of the carrier to pick-up and delivers the customer’s shipment as close to the point of origin and the destination location as possible. The execution of this must be done in the safest manner possible. Communication must be open between the carrier and the customer if circumstances occur beyond their limits.

The carrier may issue a carrier form or a Bill of Lading upon pick-up and delivery of the vehicle. The customer acknowledges that they or their designated consignee will read the terms carefully and inspect the vehicle as required. The customer also understands that the Bill of Lading or carrier form is a legally binding contract between parties. The carrier form or Bill of Lading is the responsibility of the carrier initially.

Pick-up and Delivery of Vehicle for Shipment

When a customer signs a contract, they are acknowledging that they understand the point of pick-up or delivery may change if the driver of the transport vehicle finds it is not safe for pick-up or delivery at the specified locations. Things that can cause these changes are zoning restrictions, road closures, road conditions, low hanging wires, low hanging trees, residential restrictions, or narrow streets.

The customer agrees to meet the driver of the transport vehicle if they cannot accommodate the pick-up or dropoff locations initially agreed upon. The customer or their consignee must be present at the time of the pick-up and the delivery of the vehicle. 

At the time of pick-up, the customer is required to inspect the vehicle with the carrier for preexisting damage. The customer is also required to acknowledge this preexisting damage by indicating it on the Bill of Lading. The carrier should urge the customer or consignee to take photographs of the vehicle.

Upon delivery at the destination, another inspection of the vehicle must be done with the carrier. Any damages that occurred during transport must be listed on the Bill of Lading and signed by the customer or consignee and the driver. Photographs of damage are strongly encouraged at the time of delivery if any is sustained.

The customer signs understanding that the signature upon the Bill of Lading acts as a final receipt of the shipment. If the damage is not indicated on the Bill of Lading at delivery, the transport company or carrier may not assume liability for it.

Fees, Payments, Cancellation, and Refund Policy

The sections that indicate the fees and payments are going to be specific to the transport company and the carrier who physically transports your vehicle. Most fees and payments section will layout specific requirements that the customer pays for any extra fees incurred during the transport of the vehicle. Payment terms vary based on the company. Some companies will allow card payment while others require cash or certified check.

Most transport companies will allow for a shipment to be canceled as long as it has not been picked up or in possession of the carrier. There are also certain points during the shipping process that it may become necessary to cancel, a percentage may be refunded if the shipment was prepaid.

Reading this section and understanding the terms of payment, fees, cancellation, and refunding are vital pieces of information. If you do not know the terms of payment and try to pay with an unauthorized method, you could be exposed to fees or your vehicle held until you can provide the right payment method to the carrier.

Getting Assistance with Your Contract

Most of the professional auto transport companies out there should offer to assist you with any questions you may have about the contract they present you with. Besides all of the points discussed above, there will be a lot of legal information. If you are unclear about what all the legal information means, you may want to have someone with legal knowledge look it over.

A-1 Auto Transport offers full disclosure when discussing contracts with our customers. We find that the best way to keep customers happy is to include them in their shipping process. What this means is that A-1 Auto Transport will answer any question you may have about your contract and the auto shipping process. When you need to transport your vehicle, and you want a service that will explain everything to you, call A-1 Auto Transport for a free auto transport quote.

Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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