TRUCK UNDERCHARGE BILL SIGNED AS NEW DEADLINE LOOMS

TRUCK UNDERCHARGE BILL SIGNED AS NEW DEADLINE LOOMS

President Clinton signed into law Friday morning a truck rate undercharge bill that spells out settlement provisions for companies facing retroactive freight charges.

The legislation has been eagerly sought by shippers for over three years as a way to get out of billions of dollars in freight bills for shipments made and paid for years ago. The undercharges are the difference between the amount trucking companies originally billed and shippers paid and a larger amount that bankruptcy trustees for defunct carriers claim should have been billed.The president had until Saturday night to sign the bill or it would have become a pocket veto, scuttling the bill for at least another year. Shippers now face a deadline of their own - the bill gives them just 90 days to decide whether to fight undercharge claims or settle.

Within the 90-day period shippers must either file complaints about undercharge lawsuits at the Interstate Commerce Commission or pay a set percentage of the claim.

Small businesses, charities and recyclers are not required to pay any undercharges. Public warehousemen can settle for 5 percent of the claim, those who used truckload carriers for 15 percent and those who used less-than- truckload shipments for 20 percent.