Common Carrier: Everything You Need to Know
A common carrier is a transporter who offers their services for the transportation of goods over a definite route and according to a regular schedule. 6 min read
Common carriers generally fall under two main categories:
- Carriers by land.
- Carriers by water.
Carriers by land often include the proprietors of stagecoaches, stage wagons, or expresses which move between different places and carry goods for hire. Additionally, those in this category include truck drivers, teamsters, cart drivers, and porters who carry goods from one part of a town or city to another. Carriers by water are the masters and owners of ships and steamboats and are engaged in the transportation of goods. These carriers might include lightermen, hoymen, barge-owners, ferrymen, canal boatmen, and others employed in similar areas.
Under the laws, a common carrier is generally liable for all losses which may occur to property entrusted to their charge during the course of business. If the common carrier can provide the loss happened as the result of the act of God, of the enemies of the United States, or by the act of the owner of the property, they may not be held liable.
Carriers by land are generally held responsible under the common law in all states governed by these laws. For example, Louisiana follows the doctrine of the civil law in its code. Proprietors of stagecoaches or wagons, whose employment is solely to carry passengers, as hackney coachmen, are not considered to be common carriers. However, if the proprietors of such vehicles for passengers also carry goods for hire, they are deemed to be common carriers when carrying such goods. Similar reasoning applies to packet ships and steamboats, which ply between different ports, and are accustomed to carrying merchandise as well as passengers. The law which makes a common carrier responsible for the loss of goods does not extend to the carriage of persons. A carrier of persons is therefore only responsible for want of care and skill.
In all cases, a common carrier of goods is entitled to demand the price of the carriage before receiving the goods. If not paid, the common carrier may refuse to take charge of the goods. However, if the carrier takes charge of them without the hire being paid, the carrier may recover it after the transport has occurred. The compensation which becomes due for the carriage of goods by sea is commonly called freight. The carrier is also entitled to a lien on the goods for hire, which may be waived. Once waived, the right to the lien cannot be resumed. The consignor or shipper is bound to the carrier for the hire or freight of goods. Whenever the consignee engages to pay it, they become responsible. Bills of lading will commonly state that the goods are to be delivered to the consignee or to those assigned by the consignee and those paying the freight. By accepting the goods, the consignee and their assigns are then implied to be bound to pay the freight. Additionally, the consignor is also liable to pay the freight.
Duties, Liabilities, and Rights of Carriers of Passengers
Carriers of passengers are split into two main categories:
- Carriers of passengers on land.
- Carriers of passengers on water.
The duties of carriers of passengers on land that may arise during the journey include:
- To carry passengers who offer themselves and are ready to pay for their transportation. Carriers of passengers on land have no more right to refuse a passenger, as long as they have sufficient room and accommodation, than an innkeeper has to refuse a guest.
- To provide transportation vessels that are reasonably strong and sufficient for the journey, with suitable horses, trappings and other equipment.
- To provide careful drivers of reasonable skill and good habits for the journey, and to employ horses which are steady and not vicious or otherwise likely to endanger the safety of the passengers.
- Not to overload the coach either with passengers or luggage.
- To receive and take care of the usual luggage allowed to every passenger on the journey.
The duties of carriers of passengers on land during the progress of the journey include:
- To stop at the usual places and allow the usual intervals for the refreshment of the passengers.
- To use all the ordinary precautions for the safety of passengers on the road.
- To handle their duties on the termination of the journey.
- To carry the passengers to the end of the journey.
- To put the passengers down at the usual place of stopping, unless there has been a special contract to the contrary, and then to put them down at the place agreed upon by all involved parties.
Carriers of passengers on land are bound to use extraordinary care and diligence to carry safely those whom they take in their coaches. Since they are not insurers, carriers are not responsible for accidents when all reasonable skill and diligence have been used.
These carriers have several rights:
- To demand and receive their fare at the time the passenger takes his seat.
- To hold a lien on the baggage of the passenger for his fare or passage money, but not on the person of the passenger nor the clothes the passenger is wearing.
Carriers of Passengers By Water
By the act of Congress of March 2, 1819, it is enacted that:
- No master of a vessel bound to or from the United States shall take more than two passengers for every five tons of the ship's custom-house measurement.
- The quantity of water and provisions, which shall be taken on board and secured under deck, by every ship bound from the United States to any port on the continent of Europe, shall be sixty gallons of water, one hundred pounds of salted provisions, one gallon of vinegar and one hundred pounds of wholesome ship bread for each passenger, besides the stores of the crew. The tonnage here mentioned is the measurement of the custom-house and in estimating the number of passengers in a vessel no deduction is to be made for children or persons not paying, but the crew is not to be included.
The act of Congress of February 22, 1847, provides that if the master of any vessel, owned in whole or in part by a citizen of the United States of America or by a citizen of any foreign country, shall take on board such vessel at any foreign port or place a greater number of passengers than in the following proportion to the space occupied by them and appropriated for their use and unoccupied by stores or other goods, not being the personal luggage of such passengers, that is to say on the lower deck or platform one passenger for every fourteen clear superficial feet of deck if such vessel is not to pass within the tropics during such voyage; but if such vessel is to pass within the tropics during such voyage, then one passenger for every twenty such clear superficial feet of deck, and on the orlop deck (if any) one passenger for every thirty such superficial feet in all cases, with intent to bring such passengers to the United States of America, and shall leave such port or place with the same and bring the same, or any number thereof, within the jurisdiction of the United States aforesaid, or if any such master of a vessel shall take on board of his vessel at any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States aforesaid, any greater number of passengers than the proportions aforesaid admit with intent to carry the same to any foreign port or place, every such master shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof before any circuit or district court of the United States aforesaid shall, for each passenger taken on board beyond the above proportions, be fined in the sum of fifty dollars and may also be imprisoned for any term not exceeding one year: Provided, That this act shall not be construed to permit any ship or vessel to carry more than two passengers to five tons of such ship or vessel.
Children under one year of age are not to be included when counting the passengers. Those over one year and under eight years are to be counted as two children for one passenger, according to Section 4. However, this section is repealed so far as authorizes shippers to estimate two children of eight years of age and under as one passenger by the act of March 2, 1847.