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New Hire Academy: Part 3 of 3

Five fundamentals of transportation you must know

III. Suitable Shipping Condition
The warranty of suitable shipping condition is a promise, made by produce sellers to produce buyers, that produce shipped on an f.o.b. (free-on-board) basis will hold up under normal transportation conditions and arrive at contract destination without abnormal deterioration as defined by the applicable (PACA or DRC) good arrival guidelines for the commodity in question.

The warranty of suitable shipping condition is not a warranty made by carriers. But carriers do promise to use reasonable care to protect the product in their possession (see relevant text of UCC § 7-309(a) above) by, among other things, properly maintaining transit temperatures, delivering in a timely manner (using “reasonable dispatch”), and delivering without shortages or shifting. Blue Book Services considers the reasonable care required by the UCC and the “normal transportation” referred to in PACA regulations to be two sides of the same coin.

Generally speaking, if a claim against a shipper fails because transportation conditions were abnormal, the same facts are likely to prove that the carrier failed to use the required level of care in breach of the contract of carriage.

IV. Air Temperatures in Transit
Carriers are responsible for maintaining air temperatures within the trailer. It is no excuse to say “the product was warm when it was loaded, therefore, air temperature in the trailer ran high.” If the carrier cannot promise that the instructed air temperatures will be maintained, then, at a minimum, the carrier needs to notify the interested parties of the problem and perhaps even obtain a written release from strict temperature compliance before taking the load. If the driver remains silent, signs the bill of lading, and drives away with the product, the expectation is that the reefer unit will cool the air in the trailer to the desired range.

Note that carriers do not promise to bring produce pulp temperatures into temperature compliance; carriers only promise that their reefer unit will properly maintain the air temperatures within the trailer.

V. How warm is too warm? How cold is too cold? 
How warm is too warm? How cold is too cold? There is no universal answer to these questions. Generally speaking, all available temperature information must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

But because Blue Book reviews hundreds of claims each year, we need to have a framework to help guide our assessment of temperature disputes. To help assess “how warm is too warm or how cold is too cold?” we use the following ‘rule of thumb,’ published in our Transportation Guidelines—
Reefer systems are expected to provide steady temperatures in transit and should be set to run continuously, and not on a start-stop basis unless all parties specifically agree. Slight deviations in transit temperature based on, among other things, the location and accuracy of the temperature recorder, are inevitable and permissible. What constitutes a “slight deviation” will vary, but as a rule of thumb the temperature within the trailer should not be warmer than four (4) or five (5) degrees Fahrenheit over the agreed-upon transit temperature or cooler than two (2) or three (3) degrees Fahrenheit below the agreed-upon transit temperature. If a temperature range is specified, any deviation will be assessed from the midpoint of the specified range. A temperature variance lasting less than twelve hours may also be categorized as a slight deviation, depending on the extent of the variance, the relative perishability of the commodity, and other circumstances.