Road cargo ‘damage’ and ‘loss’.  Don’t be too hasty.
A recent court judgement helps to clarify road cargo damage and loss responsibilities 

The Convention of Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR) clearly states that ‘The carrier should be liable for the total or partial loss of the goods and for damage thereto occurring between the time when he takes over the goods and the time of delivery.’  But what exactly defines damage and subsequent loss?  A recent court case heard in Amsterdam ruled that relative to the CMR Convention it means ‘a substantial physical change to the state of the goods’. The court rejected the claim that a broken seal on the haulier’s container constitutes road cargo damage. 

At Aerona (Air & Sea) Customs Clearing Agents, because we are closely involved in arranging and managing road shipments across the UK and around Europe, we maintain a close watch on all the latest developments and we thought that the facts surrounding this case in particular were worth drawing to your attention. 

A year or two ago a food importer contracted a road haulier to transport a cargo of dairy products from Germany to France. During a night stop the truck driver heard a noise from his trailer and so he went to investigate for illegal stowaways. He didn’t find anyone, but what he did discover was that the container seal had been broken. 

Upon delivery and because of the broken seal, the customer destroyed the consignment in case of contamination and subsequently claimed the full value of the cargo plus the cost of destruction from the carrier. 

The customer claimed that the road cargo damage showed that the haulier had failed to comply with the framework contract because the contract entitled the customer to destroy all the goods if the presence of illegal persons in the trainer was suspected.  The contract also stated that the customer could claim the full value of the cargo, plus destruction costs for the road cargo damage from the carrier. 

The judgement of the court revolved around the road cargo damage and in line with other international decisions it ruled that the definition of ‘damage’ and the subsequent ‘loss’ of the cargo needed to prove that there was substantial ‘physical change’ in the condition of the goods. 

The court ruled that the fact that the seal was damaged did not constitute damage to the goods as defined by the CMR Convention. Consequently the customer’s claim for damage and loss was rejected. 

This case highlights the fact that too many traders are quite simply all too eager to destroy goods by claiming that road cargo damage may have resulted in contamination. 

We at Aerona would advise all traders, and hauliers too for that matter, to carry out checks on the affected cargo in order to confirm whether the physical state of the goods has been substantially changed. 

Destroying the goods and subsequently claiming compensation from the road haulier is not always a viable option. So our advice at Aerona is … even if you believe that your consignment has suffered road cargo damage … don’t be too hasty … pause … consider all the circumstances … and the possible consequences.  

It really is in your best interests! 

If you transport goods by road, either across the UK or overseas, then please do not hesitate to contact us.  You can call us on: 0161 652 3443. You can also email us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or you can send us an online message using the form that can be found on our Contact page.

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