“Duty of Care” is a legal term for a shipper’s responsibility that I always keep in my mind. When I was a kid, my mother taught it to me. She used different words, but she got the point across.
“Mom, do I really need the winter coat?”
“Mom, can I play with the snake?”
“Mom, can I jump off the garage?”
Mom would tell me, over and over, “Don’t be stupid.”
I’ve carried Mom’s lesson forward in my professional life, and when I make a shipment I really try not to be stupid. The “Duty of Care” standard requires shippers to exercise intelligent and reasonable judgment. For a shipment of paper clips, the duty of care is a pretty low bar. For more important items, the bar is raised.
I’ve rented cars, I’ve hired couriers, I’ve leased dedicated trucks, and I’ve bought airplane tickets just to put a critical shipment in my carry-on luggage. In extreme cases, I’ve even chartered airplanes for critical and time sensitive international moves. When shipping something critical or sensitive I also use a system of checks and balances -and in some cases someone to check the checkers- to sure I live up to the “Duty of Care” standard.
On January 7, 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported, “An inert U.S. Hellfire missile sent to Europe for training purposes was wrongly shipped from there to Cuba in 2014, said people familiar with the matter, a loss of sensitive military technology that ranks among the worst-known incidents of its kind.”
The article continues, “Several of those familiar with the case said the loss of the Hellfire missile is the worst example they can recall of the kind of missteps that can occur in international shipping of sensitive military technology. While there are instances in which sensitive technology ends up getting lost in transit, it is virtually unheard of for such a shipment to end up in a sanctioned country like Cuba, according to industry experts.”
Unsurprisingly, the US government declines comment. Mom isn’t pleased about that.
A lesson I learned a long time ago is to hope for the best, plan for the worst, and always employ preventive measures appropriate for the circumstance. I keep hoping the military will learn the lesson, but they are creative.
Logistics lesson 101: Listen to Mom: don’t be stupid.