In essence, the two questions we will always ask as a starting point when assessing a temperature claim are: (1) were air temperatures outside the prescribed range? and (2) did the variance last twelve hours? It’s important to note, however, that we do not simply answer these questions and then mechanically reach a conclusion.
If, for instance, the commodity is strawberries and air temperatures within the trailer are ten degrees too warm for ten hours, we would consider this a breach even though the temperature variance lasted less than twelve hours. On the other hand, if the commodity in question is potatoes, that would be different—we would likely consider this variance to be just a slight deviation provided temperatures were otherwise normal during the trip. So, the point is, in close cases, the perishability of the commodity is factored into our assessment of whether or not the carrier used reasonable care to maintain temperatures in transit.
Similarly, when assessing claims against shippers for breach of the warranty of suitable shipping condition, PACA has more strictly defined “normal transportation” for highly perishable commodities such as strawberries.
Of course, interpreting portable and reefer-based recorders and determining what air temperatures in the trailer were, especially when the available information appears contradictory, can be a challenge in and of itself. This topic is discussed in our New Hire Academy video session, and in a January 2012 Blueprints article titled “Assessing Transit Temperatures,” which is also available at www.producebluebook.com.
Understanding these key transportation principles will serve as a good primer for the New Hire Academy video session on this topic, which is free to members. For new hires without sign-in credentials, a temporary log-in is available.