Freight forwarders and 3Pl’s who have outstanding charges for their transportation services need to move quickly to recover these charges because taking time to do so, may be fatal to the freight forwarder’s claim in the court. Freight forwarders’ action can be statutorily time-barred under ICC Termination Act of 1995 (“ICCTA”), Pub. L. No. 104-88, 109 Stat. 803 (1995), 49 U.S.C. § 14705(a). 49 U.S.C. § 14705(a) states:
(a) In general.–A carrier providing transportation or service subject to jurisdiction under chapter 135 must begin a civil action to recover charges for transportation or service provided by the carrier within 18 months after the claim accrues.
ICCTA would preempt New York’s breach of contract for services 6-year statute of limitations under CPLR 213(2). Under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, federal laws “shall be the supreme Law of the Land” and Congress is vested with the authority to supersede state statutory or regulatory law. U.S. Const., art. VI, cl. 2, State ex rel. Grupp v. DHL Exp. (USA), Inc., 19 N.Y.3d 278, 283, 970 N.E.2d 391, 394 (2012). Within constitutional limits Congress may preempt state authority by so stating in express terms. Biscone v. JetBlue Airways Corp., 103 A.D.3d 158, 165, 957 N.Y.S.2d 361, 368 (2d Dept. 2012). In ICCTA, Congress preempted state authority expressly stating that a carrier must begin a civil action within 18 months after the claim accrues.
Under ICCTA, “carrier” means motor carrier, a water carrier, and a freight forwarder. 49 U.S.C. § 13102(3). ICCTA’s 18-months statute of limitations applies to carriers that provide “transportation or service subject to jurisdiction under chapter 135.” ICCTA broadly defines transportation to include:
(A) a motor vehicle, vessel, warehouse, wharf, pier, dock, yard, property, facility, instrumentality, or equipment of any kind related to the movement of passengers or property, or both, regardless of ownership or an agreement concerning use; and
(B) services related to that movement, including arranging for, receipt, delivery, elevation, transfer in transit, refrigeration, icing, ventilation, storage, handling, packing, unpacking, and interchange of passengers and property.
ICCTA’s “transportation or service” includes “equipment of any kind related to the movement of * * * property * * * regardless of ownership or an agreement concerning use,” and “services related to that movement.” The definition is very broad and designed to encompass wide range of services that freight forwarders usually provide. ICCTA’s chapter 135 can confer jurisdiction for “transportation or service,” when such “transportation or service” is connected to the transportation of property and the procurement of that transportation between (1) a State and a place in another State, and (2) a State and another place in the same State through another State. 49 U.S.C. § 13501. A mere connection to the transportation of property can be sufficient to confer ICCTA’s chapter 135 jurisdiction. See Emmert Indus. Corp. v. Artisan Associates, Inc., 497 F.3d 982 (9th Cir. 2007) (Engineering, research, and operational costs related to transportation constitute “transportation” within the meaning of the ICCTA); see also id. 497 F.3d at 989 citing Centraal Stikstof Verkoopkantoor, N.V. v. Ala. State Docks Dep’t, 415 F.2d 452, 455–56 (5th Cir.1969) (“all services rendered by a common carrier in connection with transportation of goods shall be covered by the Act”), Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chi. & St. L. Ry. Co. v. Dettlebach, 239 U.S. 588, 593–94, 36 S.Ct. 177 (1916) (“the Court determined that Congress intended to define the term broadly enough so that a carrier’s duty to the public ‘included the performance of a variety of services that, according to the theory of the common law, were separable from the carrier’s service as carrier,’ and therefore defined the term so that ‘the entire body of such services should be included together under the single term ‘transportation’”). Even if a carrier’s transportation does not cross state lines, the interstate commerce requirement is satisfied if the goods being transported within the borders of one State are involved in a “practical continuity of movement” in the flow of interstate commerce. Bilyou v. Dutchess Beer Distributors, Inc., 300 F.3d 217, 223 (2d Cir. 2002), citing Walling v. Jacksonville Paper Co., 317 U.S. 564, 568, 63 S.Ct. 332 (1943).
ICCTA’s broad construction combined with a short period to commence legal action can leave unwary freight forwarder in an unfortunate position, where it cannot recover charges for its transportation services.