Transit temperatures are at the heart of countless trading and transportation disputes involving fresh produce. Vendors and carriers alike find themselves embroiled in disputes about temperature.
This is part two of an article where we identify and respond to some frequently asked questions Blue Book Services receives regarding transit temperatures.
Are carriers responsible for lowering pulp temperatures?
No. Produce shippers are responsible for precooling produce. Carriers are only responsible for maintaining air temperatures in the trailer.
Although it is sometimes said that carriers are responsible for maintaining pulp temperatures, it must be remembered that particularly when commodities with high rates of respiration (e.g., iceless broccoli florets) are loaded warm at shipping point, pulp temperatures may rise despite the carrier’s maintenance of proper air temperatures in transit.
Can pulp temperature information be used as evidence of the air temperature within the trailer during transit?
Yes, but when considering the evidentiary weight to give warm (or cold) pulp temperature information reported at destination, the list of factors to be considered includes:
(1) Was the product loaded in the trailer when the USDA or CFIA (or other disinterested party) inspected the product? The evidentiary value of pulp temperatures decreases rapidly once the product is unloaded.
(2) Was the product wrapped in plastic or tightly packed in containers where heat may have been trapped despite proper temperatures in the trailer?
(3) Do we know what the pulp temperatures were at shipping point? Often the bill of lading only contains a temperature instruction and not a statement as to pulp temperatures. When pulp temperature statements are provided, they tend to be most convincing when readings from multiple samples are recorded and specifically verified by the driver.
What are a carrier’s obligations if the pulp temperatures are too warm at shipping point?
If temperature control is required, carriers are expected to maintain air temperatures within the trailer in accordance with 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.
If the carrier cannot warrant that air temperatures in transit will be maintained as instructed, either the load should not be taken, or a specific release from strict temperature compliance should be agreed to between the interested parties.
What if a portable temperature recorder goes missing?
A negative inference may arise as a factor weighing against any party that fails to produce a temperature recorder or report presumed to be in its possession.
If the driver signs a bill of lading that indicates a temperature recorder has been placed in the trailer, it will be presumed that the carrier received possession of the recorder.
Similarly, a receiver that signs a delivery receipt without noting a missing recorder will be presumed to have received possession of any recorder listed on the bill of lading. When notified of a rejection, carriers should account for any recorders that may have been removed by the receiver.
The above questions and answers are concise; if you would like to discuss any of these topics further, please let me know. My email address is email@example.com.