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Dock to Dock

Detention, notice, and contract satisfaction

The Problem: Receiver detaining trucks for days at a time.

The Key Point: Provide reasonable notice to receiver before taking cargo to a third-party cold storage facility.

The Solution: Carriers are not obligated to store produce for receivers after the contract of carriage has been satisfied.

QUESTION: We are a small but growing truck broker. I have a question about delivery at contract destination and demurrage. We have been arranging for the transportation for produce loads from California to Florida.One of our customers, a receiver, has been detaining trucks after being unable to unload them because of receiving space issues. Typically, this customer has beendetaining trucks for one or two days at atime and compensating them $250 for each day. One of our carriers, however,understandably refused to be held a thirdday and proceeded to deliver the produceload to a cold storage around the cornerfrom the receiver. Now my customer is advising that they are not covering the coldstorage costs because “this carrier is nomore special than the others who have been detained three and four consecutive days.”

What are a carrier’s rights and responsibilities here? I’m hoping to maintain my customer relationship but also do not want to burn all of my good carriers.

ANSWER: Provided reasonable notice was given, we think it is clear the carrier was within its rights to take the product to a local cold storage. It should go without saying, but carriers are in business too.

Our Transportation Guidelines provide that—

Unless otherwise specified, the carriage is completed when the trailer is made available for unloading at destination during the consignee’s hours of operation and the consignee has been given a reasonable time for inspection and unloading.

In other words, unless there is an agreement to the contrary, the contract of carriage is complete when the truck arrives and allows a reasonable and customary time for unloading. The time for unloading maybe extended when waiting for a U.S.Department of Agriculture (USDA)inspection, but that doesn’t seem to be the issue here.

Prior to taking the product to a thirdpartycold storage, however, we would recommend that you, as the broker, send a note to the receiver explaining that the carrier has already been detained for x number of hours/days, and that if it cannot be unloaded in the next, say eight business hours, it will need to take the produce to a third-party cold storage at the receiver’s expense.

Also, it should be added that our Transportation Guidelines provide for detention fees of $500 per day for refrigerated loads, and $400 per day when no temperature control is required. Of course, lower rates can be agreed to,but these are the default fees used to compensate a carrier for the use of it struck, the driver’s time, reefer fuel, and the increased risk of liability associated with storing perishable cargo for additional days.


Your questions? Yes, send them in.  Legal answers? No, industry knowledgeable answers. If you have questions or would like further information, email


Doug Nelson is vice president of the Special Services department at Blue Book Services. Nelson previously worked as an investigator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and as an attorney specializing in commercial litigation.