A truck is lying on the ground after an accident that will generate a dispute for the damaged good

How to Reduce Disputes in Road Transport?


by Clémence Levieil, on 7/27/2023

8 min read

Damaged goods, delivery delays... Disputes leave no one happy, with the carrier struggling to manage delays and the shipper unable to use their goods, leading to decreased customer satisfaction. Dashdoc lists these disputes, the stumbling blocks for carriers and shippers alike, along with some advice on how to overcome them.

What is a dispute? 


In the road transport sector, we encounter various issues, including:

  • Accidents due to manual handling during loading and unloading;

  • Occupational diseases like musculoskeletal or back disorders;

  • Falls from heights at delivery sites (loading docks, etc.), or during the journey with cabin or trailer descent;

  • Road accidents;

  • Experienced psychological pressure…

Disputes are a distinct category within these problems.

A dispute arises when there is a disagreement over an element of the contract that connects a carrier and a shipper. Most often, this concerns the condition of the goods at the time of receipt, but it can also involve delivery delays or potential accidents at the delivery site.

Therefore, who is responsible for what? How can the risks be reduced?

The responsibility of the carrier and the shipper 

The carrier's obligations 

The first obligation is obvious: the carrier must, of course, carry out the transportation for their client and deliver the goods.

The "carrier," referred to here as the transporter, is thus responsible for the goods throughout the entire transportation period. If any degradation, loss, or even partial or complete destruction occurs during the journey, the carrier is held responsible, and this is referred to as "strict liability."

If there is a delivery delay, the client may also decide to cancel the transportation, and the carrier's responsibility can be engaged.

As part of their obligation to transport the goods, a carrier must take all necessary care to prevent any damage to the goods inside the truck.

Through the truck driver, the carrier must deliver the goods to the correct recipient: their responsibility is engaged if the recipient is not the designated recipient of the contract.

The carrier is also required to follow the instructions provided by the shipper or the ordering party, and among these instructions, there is often a safety protocol that lists all the required actions on-site (entry procedures, traffic flow, dress code, etc.).


When a dispute arises, and the carrier is at fault, they must compensate the shipper by paying damages and interest. According to French law, the carrier is considered responsible for the goods from loading to unloading.

Driver on the road, annoyed by an accident
Disputes can be a real pain for drivers and carriers

How does an international road dispute unfold?

Many international conventions coexist in the field of transportation, creating complications when multiple modes of international transport are involved.

For international road transport of goods, the CMR Convention, Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road, ratified in Geneva in 1956, clearly states that the consignee is responsible for the transportation costs and grants the carrier the right to refuse delivery until the full payment of their invoice.

In practice, if there is any visible damage, the consignee must make reservations at the latest at the time of delivery! But if there are no apparent damages, the consignee has 7 days to send their reservations by mail. If the dispute is about a delivery delay, the shipper can send a letter of reservation within 21 days to address the late delivery.

Summary table of disputes in road transport and their handling

Type of disputeHow to deal with it

Delivery with damage/partially missing

  • The recipient fills out specific and comprehensive reservations on the transport document

  • Within a maximum of 3 business days, a registered letter is sent to the carrier to confirm the reservations

  • An expert must visit the site to confirm the damage with the carrier

Refusal of goods for damage/partially missing

  • The recipient fills out specific and comprehensive reservations on the transport document

  • If the goods are to be returned to the sender, the reservations must also be clearly indicated on the transport document

  • An expert must visit the site to confirm the damage with the carrier

Total loss

  • Goods are considered permanently lost if they have not been delivered within 30 days after the deadline


  • A written claim must be sent to the carrier
How to end the litigations

Obtaining compensation for disputes in road transport 

If the damage is attributable to the carrier 


The claim for compensation for the dispute must necessarily mention the references of the relevant transportation. In addition to these, it is necessary to provide proof of the amount of the damage: the original invoice, the rate, the credit note issued to the customer, etc.

Compensation for loss or damage 

Once again, we differentiate based on the weight of the transported goods:

  • For shipments weighing less than 3 tonnes: the maximum reimbursement will be 33€ per kg of gross weight of the missing or damaged goods, and it cannot exceed 1000€ per lost package with missing or damaged parts.

  • For shipments weighing more than 3 tonnes: the reimbursement will be 20€ per kg of gross weight of the missing or damaged goods for each element of the shipment, provided that it does not exceed the "product of the gross weight of the shipment expressed in tonnes multiplied by 3,200€."

Compensation for delay Compensation due to a delay will be provided according to the Application Terms of the chosen service. The dispute settlement compensation will not exceed the transport cost.

Top 3 tips to reduce disputes

In order to reduce disputes in road transport, you can start with these options:

Be clear about important documents to prevent them 

Ensure impeccable documentation from the beginning! Make sure these transport documents are present and up-to-date before the truck even starts :

  • The consignment note: This document serves as the contract between the carrier and the shipper. It defines all the rules that bind the carrier, the freight forwarder, and the shipper, as well as the service fees, the nature of the goods, and the delivery deadline.


The eCMR is equally legally valid as the paper consignment note and allows billing for the transport as soon as it is completed! Road drivers no longer waste time filling out paper forms, leading to fewer errors or document omissions, and speeding up all internal processes. The benefit of eCMR in dealing with disputes? It enables much faster issuance of reservations, with immediate transmission and supporting photos.

  • Declaration of value or special interest: This document allows verifying the limitation of compensation applicable in the consignment note or, failing that, in the standard contract.

However, if this limitation is unlikely to cover the value of the goods or potential damages, it is then possible to make:

  • A declaration of value to raise the compensation ceiling in case of loss or damage;

  • A declaration of special interest to raise the compensation ceiling in case of delay.

Adopting a Time Slot Management tool to anticipate incoming and outgoing transports

Time Slot Management and the visibility

Time Slot Management tool streamlines the scheduling process, allowing carriers and logistics teams to plan and coordinate shipments more efficiently. With clear visibility of available time slots and resources, conflicts and scheduling errors are minimized, reducing the chances of disputes related to missed or delayed deliveries.

The solution also offers flexibility to adjust schedules and adapt to unforeseen changes in real-time. Carriers can reschedule or modify bookings, and logistics teams can make adjustments based on operational needs. This flexibility reduces disruptions and potential conflicts arising from rigid schedules.

Time Slot Management and the communication

Enhanced Communication: The solution facilitates real-time communication between carriers and logistics teams. It allows for seamless exchange of information, such as delivery instructions, special requirements, and shipment updates. Clear and transparent communication helps prevent misunderstandings and disagreements, leading to smoother operations and fewer disputes. Inside the team and with the customers !

Time Slot Management and the regulations

Predefined Terms and Conditions: The Time Slot Booking system can enforce predefined terms and conditions for carriers and logistics sites. This includes adherence to specific loading and unloading protocols, liability responsibilities, and delivery performance standards. By having these conditions established in advance, both parties are aware of their obligations, reducing the potential for disagreements.

Time Slot Management and the gathering of documents

Digital Documentation and Proof of Delivery: The solution provides digital documentation of each transaction, including electronic signatures and timestamps. This serves as proof of delivery, reducing disputes over delivery confirmations and condition of goods upon receipt. Carriers and logistics sites can access accurate records, facilitating efficient claims handling in case of disputes. It is even more safe if you have a TMS to centralize your information !

Time Slot Management and analytics

Performance Analytics: Time Slot Booking systems often come with performance analytics and reporting features. These metrics can be used to monitor carrier performance and logistics site efficiency. Identifying areas of improvement can lead to a more reliable and accountable transport process, minimizing the occurrence of disputes.

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Do not overlook transport insurance

It may seem obvious, but some still underestimate its importance: transport insurance is a cornerstone for effectively managing disputes. Once you contact your insurance company, they will guide you step-by-step through the different stages until you receive compensation.

A brief reminder of road transport insurances is necessary:

  • Motor Vehicle Third Party Liability Insurance (RC Circulation) is mandatory. It covers damages caused by a motor vehicle on land (such as trucks or lifting equipment) and compensates third parties. This insurance is directly linked to the vehicle.

  • Professional Liability Insurance is not obligatory, but it is highly recommended. It covers all damages, especially bodily injuries, resulting from the activity of road freight transport, whether it concerns the cargo owner or a third party without a contractual relationship with the transport company (such as pedestrians on the road, etc.).

  • Have you ever heard of Comprehensive Insurance ? This coverage includes material damages suffered by a motor vehicle on land. Other coverages can complement it, such as theft insurance, fire insurance, or towing in the event of an accident.

In addition to these three pieces of advice, which are essential reminders, do not forget to inquire about the recommended packaging methods in your type of activity.

To be noticed : disputes are also mostly avoided if the security protocole and the truck dock management of the shipper are clear and established in advance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

What are the problems that can be encountered in transport in general? 

Here are the different problems you may encounter in road transport that can lead to disputes:

  • Goods preparation and transportation (various checks during loading; no reservations made during loading)

  • Incidents during transit

  • Unloading operations causing damage or accidents

  • Delivery delays

  • No reservations made upon delivery in case of losses or damages

  • Non-payment of vehicle immobilization time: loading time, unloading time, waiting time, etc.

What are the essential documents to manage a dispute in road transport? 

Required by the insurance, these pieces of information are necessary to handle the dispute. You must have: the CMR or consignment note, photographs in case of reservations made on the goods, commercial invoice, transport order, details and conditions of the claim, weight of the goods, location where the goods can be inspected, contact information of the parties involved.

What is the calculation formula for the compensation of a dispute, specifically for damaged goods in transport? 

Let's divide cases between goods weighing less than 3 tonnes and goods weighing more than 3 tonnes. For example, with goods weighing 15 kg, the calculation is 15 kg x 33€ = 495€. Since the limit is 1000€ per unit, the compensation applies here.

For goods exceeding 3 tonnes, you need to apply 3200€ per tonne x the number of tonnes.

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