The carriage contract law is to be found in various legislative acts, depending on:
- the vehicle used;
- the environment in which it is carried out;
- delimitation into national or not national borders.
In Italy, in addition to the general provisions of the contract contained in the Civil Code (artt.1678-1792), the discipline in established by:
- the navigation Code for the maritime and air transport of goods;
- r.d.l. 1st ogf January 1940 n. 9 converted into Act n. 67, 13th of May 1940 and subsequent amendments and additions for rail freight;
- special rules (Act n. 298/974, Legislative Decree n. 286/05 and Decree Law n.112/2008) for the road haulage transport.
Article 1678 of the Civil Code states: "With the carriage contract the carrier undertakes, for remuneration, to transfer persons or things from one place to another".
Over the years we have seen a progressive inadequacy of the general discipline of the Civil Code to fit the technological and organizational progress of commercial road transport.
In the recent years, the increased specialization and the development of transport systems have been imposed to the related operators an increasingly marked professionalization.
With the Act n.298 /1974 it was established for the first time the need of a functional connection between the discipline of the carriage of goods on behalf of third parties and the concept of company.
Now, the haulier agreement of goods on behalf of third parties can be defined as autonomous, characterized by its own principles such as:
- honesty, meaning the necessary stipulation of a fee;
- the commercial nature, functional to the exercise of the business of both the carrier and the customer;
- responsibility for the business risk;
- the preference for the written form, encouraged by significant advantages in favor of those who decide to constitute contracts in that way.
The general discipline of the carriage contract contained in the Civil Code does not provide for the requirement of written form for the valid conclusion of the agreement.
The transport contract is defined by the mere consent given by each party to the implementation of the deal.
However, the parties of the carriage contract have the right (and not the legal obligation) to prove the existence of the legally binding agreement by producing special hard copy documents, also valid as representative title for the carried goods.
Article. 6 of Legislative Decree n. 286/2005 enshrines that the carriage contract must comply with some essential requirements in order to be defined in writing.
The legally binding elements are:
- name and headquarters of the carrier, of the customer and, if different, of the loader;
- the carrier registration number in the haulage Roll;
- type and quantity of the goods carried in accordance with the instructions contained in the registration certificate of the transport vehicles;
- payment due for the services rendered and mode of payment;
- places of taking delivery of the goods by the carrier and places of delivery to the addressee;
- definition of the maximum period for loading and unloading of the carried goods;
- the obligation to state certain date on freight contracts defined in written form.
Even if only one of the essential requirements is lacking the contract is considered agreed between the parties not in written form.