Using the New BIFA Standard Trading Conditions

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Last month, a new edition of the British International Freight Association’s (BIFA) Standard Trading Conditions (STC) was launched, so it’s time to familiarise yourself with the updated version and incorporate it into your transport contracts.

Why Revise the STC?

While the previous version, which was created in 2005, has been an effective tool, revisions have been made to keep contractual rights and obligations in accordance with industry changes. As freight forwarders’ practices change, legislation has to as well.

What Has Been Amended?

Now you’re probably wondering what changes have been made. First, let me stress that there’s no need to panic, as most amendments are minor and essentially only serve to make the conditions clearer for you: a few outdated terms have been reworded and various definitions have been clarified. Although there’s no need to frantically revise all of your transport contracts, there are two significant changes you should be aware of.

Clause 17

Clause 17 has been extended to take account of the SOLAS rules that relate to the verified gross mass (VGM) requirement. In essence, this revision means that the customer has to provide a precise and authentic VGM of all containers packed with cargo items and/or packages. If the provided mass is incorrect, then the carrier can legally pursue the customer for any losses caused.

Clause 28

Clause 28 covers the jurisdiction of any claim. Since its amendment, BIFA members can handle a dispute with a client over transport contracts through either arbitration or litigation. Basically, members can now pursue their customers in a jurisdiction that doesn’t recognise English Law and that does not enforce judgements that are made within an English court.

How to Implement the New Edition

A quick word of warning: there have been a few recent cases where BIFA members have taken a customer to court, but have lost the case because they couldn’t prove that the STC were part of their contract. If you haven’t been doing so, I highly recommend that you incorporate the new STC into any new transport contracts that you agree upon with your clients.

While nothing in the old STC is out of date, it’s always best to switch to the new version as soon as possible. Here’s a quick checklist of what to do before you switch:

• Speak to your liability insurer and let them know that you’re planning on switching to the 2017 STC.
• Let all of your existing customers know that you’re adopting the new STC and tell them from what date onwards the amended conditions apply.
• Send your prospective customers a link to the new STC so that they know what you expect them to agree to.
• Read the BIFA’s Good Practice Guide on Incorporation of the STC (this can be found on their website).

A Last Piece of Advice

To avoid being caught out in any legal battles, you should keep your transport contracts’clauses short and snappy. Before signing anything, you should also double check that you’ve spelt company names and place names correctly. That way, you ensure that there’s no loophole that could trip you up.
About author: Desiree Michels

Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching drivers with transport contracts. Over 4,500 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.

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