A hot trip turns bad

The Problem
Warm weather blamed for warm temperatures in transit.

The Key Point
Carriers are expected to maintain transit temperatures regardless of outside temperatures.

The Solution
If a carrier cannot warrant transit temperatures it should consider refusing the load.

Q: We are a truck broker in Texas. Recently, we hired a truck to take a full load of asparagus from the border to North Carolina. Outside temperatures were extremely warm in the Southwest during this time, and as a result, transit temperatures ran warm. When the product arrived, the receiver complained of high temperatures and rejected the load. We agree the temperatures were 10 to 15° too high, but because the outside temperatures were so warm and produce respires more when it gets warm, we do not think the truck is to blame. The driver set the unit at 34°F as instructed; it was just too hot outside. How can a receiver claim the truck is responsible in this situation?

A: Carriers are expected to maintain transit temperatures as instructed, regardless of outside temperatures. As stated in our Transportation Guidelines:

If temperature control is required, Carriers are expected to maintain air temperature within the trailer at the instructed temperature. Carriers should consider all factors that may affect air temperatures in transit (e.g., heat from respiration, field heat, ambient air temperatures, air flow within the trailer, the trailer’s insulation, and capacity of the temperature control system) before signing the bill of lading. Ideally, drivers should take multiple random pulp temperature readings throughout the load. If the Carrier cannot warrant that air temperatures in transit will be maintained as instructed throughout the trip, either the load should not be taken, or a specific release from liability should be negotiated.

When carriers sign for a load, they warrant that they will maintain air temperatures within the conveyance as instructed and agreed. Merely setting the reefer unit at the instructed temperature is not enough; air temperatures must be maintained at, or within a few degrees of, the specified temperature.

If the carrier cannot maintain 34°F in light of the outside temperatures (and/or other factors), it should consider refusing to accept the load. Although refusing to take a load (after agreeing to take it) may expose the carrier to damages related to any additional costs reasonably incurred by the shipper in connection with obtaining replacement transportation (e.g., a team haul), such damages will likely be far less than the potential damages resulting from transporting a full load of warm asparagus across the country.

Marco Campos is a claims analyst for Blue Book Services’ Trading Assistance team.