Common carriers are said to be carriers of "goods," and this term includes animals, money, and in fact any article of personal property that is subject to transportation. By the common law a common carrier is bound to receive without respect to persons whatever may be offered him for transportation, when the charges are paid or offered to be paid. After the goods have been delivered to the carrier the shipper cannot retake them without paying the freight, and if they are intercepted before reaching their destination, the full freight can be recovered by the carrier. The consignor or shipper is the party primarily liable for the freight and not the consignee or the person to whom the goods are shipped, unless the consignee expressly agrees to pay it.
The charges that may be made are in some instances regulated by statute, and when not so regulated they must be reasonable and the same as generally charged to others for the same services.
The rule that a common carrier is found by the common law to receive whatever is offered to him to carry without respect to the persons offering is subject to three qualifications- viz.: First, the offer of the chattel must be for hire; second, the bailment must be within the carrier's means of safe con veyance; third, such carriage should be in the line of his vocation.
The carrier may prescribe reasonable rules as to the time and manner of receiving goods. He cannot be required to receive them at an unreasonable hour or place, and he may insist that the goods be packed in a reasonable way. But by statutes passed in most of the states the carrier is prohibited from discriminating in favor of one customer over another either in rates or privileges of any kind. The common carrier must not select his patrons arbitrarily, but must furnish equal facilities to all. To further this object a statute was passed by the Congress of the United States in 1887 which is known as the interstate commerce law. This law was designed to regulate the commerce between the states and applies to all common carriers, either by land or water, who do business in two or more states or territories. It provides that no discrimination shall be made between large or small, constant or occasional, shippers, and that no charges shall be unjust or unreasonable. It also provides that proportionate charges shall be made for long and short distances. The law further requires that the schedule of rates shall be published and filed with commissioners who are appointed to oversee the enforcement of the law and are known as the interstate commerce commissioners. The act also makes it unlawful for any common carrier who comes under its provisions to enter into any combination or agreement by which the continuous carriage of freight from one point to another shall be delayed or interrupted. All of the large railroad and express companies do business in more than one state, and therefore come within the provisions of this act.
The common carrier becomes responsible for the goods when they are delivered to him for carriage and accepted by him in the capacity of a carrier, except when the loss arises from any of the following causes: (1) By an act of God, or by a public enemy; (2) by the act of the shipper; (3) by the act of the public authority; (4) from the nature of the goods.
The carrier in most of the states may limit his liability to a certain extent by contract with the shipper as to release for loss by fire, robbery, accidental delay, etc., but he can not contract away his liability for the fraud, misconduct, or negligence of himself, his agents, or servants
At the termination of the Journey the goods transported shall be delivered to the consignee or his authorized agent within a reasonable time, the carrier being liable for delivery to the right party. Goods must be delivered to the holder of the bill of lading whether the holder be the consignee or a purchaser. A delivery at a residence or place of business is sufficient, other delivery being at the carrier's risk.