Navigating the Rogue Waters of Inland Marine Transportation and the Impact of the Use of Third-Party Logistics Providers on Recovery for Cargo Loss and Damage

More and more, shippers of freight are engaging third-party logistics providers to arrange the movement of cargo instead of speaking with the motor carriers directly.  In cases of lost cargo, the claimant must determine among the carriers, brokers, and third-party logistics providers—some of whom may be unknown to the shipper—which party carries the liability.  The Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act establishes a national application of strict liability to motor carriers and preempts all state law relating to carrier liability.  The Carmack Amendment unquestionably applies to motor carriers, thus limiting their liability, but while the Amendment does not apply as to brokers and logistics providers, whether these entities qualify as carriers, despite never having physical control of the cargo, is unclear.  This Article first analyzes whether claims about third-party logistics providers are preempted by the Carmack Amendment, then continues to determine what liabilities apply and what remedies are available and whether the Carmack Amendment should apply.