Warm weather blamed for high temperatures in transit.
The Key Point
Carriers are expected to maintain transit temperatures regardless of outside temperatures.
If a carrier can not warrant transit temperatures it should consider refusing the load.
Q: We are a truck broker based in the Missouri. Recently, we hired a truck to take a full load of apples from Arizona to Chicago. Outside temperatures were exceeding 100°F in the Southwest during this time, and as a result, transit temperatures were also warm. When the product arrived, the receiver complained of the high temperatures and rejected the load. We agree the temperatures were 10 to 15 degrees too high, but because the outside temperatures were so warm and produce respires when it gets warm, we do not think the truck can be blamed. The driver set the unit to 33°F as instructed, it was just too hot outside. How can our truck get claimed for this?
A: Carriers are expected to maintain transit temperatures as instructed, regardless of outside temperatures. We see carriers manage to preserve the cold chain despite adverse weather conditions on a regular basis. 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.
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 your carrier could not maintain 33°F in light of the outside temperature (and/or other factors), it should have refused to accept the load. Although refusing to take the load (after agreeing to take it) may expose the carrier to damages related to any additional costs reasonably incurred in connection with obtaining replacement transportation (and perhaps securing a team), such damages will likely be far less than the potential damages resulting from transporting a full load of warm apples.
As an alternative, you and your carrier could have attempted to negotiate a release from strict temperature compliance if outside air temperatures were a concern. In any event, the time to raise the issue is before signing for the load, not after problems are discovered at destination.