Massachusetts latest state to provide indemnity protection

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, September 05, 2012

On the final day of the legislative year Massachusetts lawmakers acted to help level the playing field for truck drivers doing business in the state.

Gov. Deval Patrick recently signed into law a bill to away with certain indemnification clauses in trucking contracts. The clauses are set up to protect shippers or hold them harmless from anything that happens with a shipment.

Effective immediately, Massachusetts is the 35th state to outlaw the provisions in contracts. Other states to act this calendar year include Alabama, Hawaii, Minnesota and South Dakota. A similar effort remains under consideration at the Michigan statehouse.

A full list of states, and the laws, where protections are in place is available.

Supporters say that indemnification clauses require freight carriers to take on liability for the negligence of shippers. As a result, truckers are responsible for trailer packing, even though shippers actually do the packing.

They say the contract clauses are bad for the trucking industry. Another complaint is they create a safety issue because the shipper’s incentive to perform its duties in a prudent and reasonably safe manner is eliminated.

The new law addresses those concerns. Provisions are outlawed from motor carrier contracts that provide for shippers to be indemnified for losses caused by their own negligence and make them “void and unenforceable.”

Affected contracts are defined as “a contract, agreement or understanding” between a motor carrier and a shipper covering the transportation of property for compensation or hire by the motor carrier, entry on property to load, unload or transport property.

The protection does not apply to intermodal chassis, containers, or other intermodal equipment.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Massachusetts, click here.

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