The Problem: Warm pulp temperatures upon arrival at destination.
The Key Point: A carrier’s temperature control equipment is not responsible for bringing pulp temperatures into temperature compliance.
The Solution: Placing a temperature recorder with all produce shipments is recommended.
We are a buyer in Southern California. We recently purchased a load of stone fruit out of the Central Valley. When the truck arrived, we noticed the pulp temperatures were high and called for a USDA inspection. Although the fruit showed no condition defects, the certificate confirmed the pulp temperatures were high, ranging from 40 to 42 degrees. These temperatures appear to exceed the permissible range provided in Blue Book’s Transportation Guidelines. We did not request that a temperature recorder be included on the truck because it was such a short trip. Can we place a claim against the truck based on the warm pulp temperatures?
It is widely accepted that a carrier’s temperature control equipment is not designed or responsible for bringing produce pulp temperatures into temperature compliance. Carriers are only required to keep air temperatures inside the conveyance within an acceptable range.
Of course, high pulp temperatures at destination may, in some cases, be good evidence of warm air temperatures during a trip. But warm pulp temperatures alone are not usually enough to establish that the carrier failed to properly maintain transit temperatures.
You may be misreading our Transportation Guidelines somewhat. The Guidelines provide that, as a rule of thumb, air temperatures within the trailer should not deviate more than four (4) to five (5) degrees from the agreed upon transit temperature; a temperature variance lasting more than twelve (12) 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.
It is important to note that the temperature range stated is applicable to the air temperature in the trailer, not produce pulp temperature, as your question implies.
In the case you describe, the bill of lading instructs the carrier to “maintain temperature at 35 [degrees].” However, the bill of lading does not contain a statement as to pulp temperatures. Therefore, when the driver signed the bill of lading at shipping point, he signed for stone fruit—not stone fruit pulping at a specific temperature. How, then, do we know the fruit was any warmer at destination than it was at shipping point?