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Status:Closed    Asked:Jul 06, 2011 - 12:07 PM


Does passing an ISTA test procedure or project mean that my carrier will pay for a damage claim?

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In certain situations, the answer would be "yes", but in general you should check with your carrier's website or account representative for full details.

UPS, in addition to other requrements, states "
It is the responsibility of the shipperto ensure that proper packaging is used and that contents of packages areadequately and securely packed, wrapped, and cushioned for transportation.Packages must be so packed or wrapped as to meet UPS’s published standardsrelated thereto set forth in the Service Guide, or on, and as to passtests set forth in the International Safe Transit Association (“ISTA”)Procedure 3A, Procedure for Testing Packaged Products, published by ISTA. Inaddition, any tested product must be free from damage and the packaging mustafford reasonable protection as determined by UPS in its sole judgment ."

So, while testing isn't explicitely required by UPS, it would be necessary for the shipper to prove the packaged-product can pass the testing shold damage occur. The best way to do this is have the testing done prior to shipping, so a test report is available when needed (be sure to have the testing lab submit the test report to ISTA for third-party review!). Click here to review the full UPS Tariff/Terms and Conditions of Service (see Section 8).

Federal Express (FedEx) has its own package testing procedures, which were approved as ISTA 6-Series Member Perofrmance Tests in 2008. While similar in many ways to basic ISTA tests, there are a number of detailed differences. The testing procedures are recommended, not required, by FedEx. Of course, FedEx may look for test passage as part of resolving disputes. You can download the FedEx procedures for no charge from their website:
Click here for packaged-prouicts weighing under 150 pounds
Click here for packaged-products weighing over 150 pounds

National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC), or National Classification Committee (NCC) Item 180 and Item 181 are performance test alternatives to other NMFC/NCC packaging rules for common carrier motor friehgt shipments. The tests are similar in many ways to basic ISTA tests, but there are also a number of differences. Testing must be done in a "competent" laboratory (an ISTA Certified Lab with the proper equipment can register as an NMFC lab), and packages certified in this way must carry a special marking.

Other carriers and carrier organizations may have different requirements and tests. Always contact your carrier to determine what regulations must be met in order to be in compliance.

In addition to the above, there are strict packaging regulations which apply to hazardous materials (dangerous goods). See the Q&A regarding USDOT hazmat testing for discussion regarding hazmat packaging.

To further understand that ISTA testing is not a guarantee that a damage claim will be paid, it is important to realize that the distribution environment is large in scope; diverse and extremely complex. It would be impossible to design a product or package, or packaged-product preshipment test, which would always ensure perfect performance.

Further, packaged-products and preshipment tests are typically designed for normal environments (perhaps with a reasonable safety factor), yet occasionally very abnormal circumstances can arise. It would usually be impractical and uneconomical, for instance, to design and test for a 3-story drop height, a train derailment, or a package being run over by a lift truck, yet occasionally these things do happen.

However, properly-applied ISTA tests will greatly increase the probability of damage-free shipments. The basic (1-Series) ISTA tests are most useful as screening tools, to be used to avoid major problems in shipment. The more sophisticated ISTA tests (especially the 3-Series and higher) are able to uncover more subtle effects, and allow fine-tuning of costs and environmental impacts as well as reasonable avoidance of damage of all types.

So, payment of a damage claim is never automatic. But the likelihood of a claims payment being succesfully negotiated goes up tremendously if the package is ISTA Certified. Companies that have their packaged-products ISTA tested and certified, yet still experience damage in the transportation/distribution environment, have a huge advantage over other shippers when it coimes to claims negotiations. These companies can demonstrate diligence and actual package performance to industry-accepted standards, and with ISTA's third-party retention of test results, there's never a question of authenticity.

But because there are so many different aspects of distribution and the transport environment that can be factor, carriers essentially rarely, if ever, "automatically" pay claims. It is important for a carrier to determine the cause of damage so as to attempt to prevent it in the future. But a certified packaged-product will likely direct a carrier's attention to other areas of the environment, as opposed to making the assumption that the packaging was inadequate and therefore not covered under their policies.

ISTA is willing to help member companies with the claims negotiation process if needed; we strongly believe in our programs, and will gladly assist those members who believe in them as well. Contact ISTA for assistance (

Source: ISTA Staff


Jul 06, 2011 - 12:13 PM

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