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Shifting and air temperatures in transit

The Problem:
Lower layer of pallet compressed.

The Key Point:
We see this as closely related to a shifting scenario.

The Solution:
This risk probably needs to be factored into the price of the freight.

We are a shipper-distributor based in California. We recently sold a pallet of kiwifruit to a customer on an f.o.b. (free-on-board) basis. Upon arrival the boxes in the lower layer of this pallet had compressed. After reviewing the pictures, I’m inclined to view this as a grower problem because it looks like the boxes were not up to the task and simply collapsed in transit, but others suggest this is a truck problem. A third-party perspective might help.

This is a tough one, but we’ve taken the position that the carrier is responsible when the lower layer compresses, just as it would be if the load shifted, unless the carrier can somehow show the boxes used by the shipper were old or wet, or were somehow not suitable. For instance, we saw one case in which the carrier was able to show that the commodity in question (cantaloupe) was stacked too many layers high per U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and University of California, Davis recommendations. Admittedly, this was an exception.

Generally speaking, it’s going to be difficult or impossible for the carrier to show the shipper used inadequate boxes. But because excessive vibration or erratic driving may make the lower layers more likely to compress, we see this as closely related to a shifting scenario (which can also be caused by inadequate boxes) where it is generally accepted that once the truck signs for the shipment as loaded, it bears responsibility for delivering the load intact, unless it can somehow show shipper fault.

As a practical matter, we would see this as an inherent risk of hauling fresh product (with the associated humidity issues) and one that probably needs to be factored into the carrier’s pricing of fresh freight.

The Problem:
Amount of freight due following carrier’s breach.

The Key Point:
Referring to your customer’s responsibility for paying for the freight may be confusing the issue.

The Solution:
The breaching party is responsible for making the aggrieved party whole.

We are a truck broker based on the East Coast. Recently we received a claim from a customer resulting from a carrier’s failure to properly maintain air temperatures in transit. We believe there are grounds for a claim here, but we also believe our customer should be responsible for paying the freight since delivery was accepted.