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Trading Assistance: Reefer Download vs. Portable Recorder

All things considered, fresh produce vendors and carriers work pretty darn well together. Reasonable people with an eye toward future business can usually work things out.

And while the occasional dustup is inevitable, many of the disputes we see at Blue Book Services are very similar to countless disputes that have gone before. Perhaps some of these can be avoided.

In this article we look at one of the three issues our Trading Assistance team sees repeatedly and explain what we consider to be the key reasoning needed to work though these issues.

#1 Reefer Download vs. Portable Recorder
Somewhere, right now, there’s a carrier pointing to normal temperature readings indicated by a reefer download, while a vendor is pointing to readings from a portable recorder placed in the same trailer, indicating air temperatures were warm.

How can this be? One of the recorders must be wrong…

Not so fast. In the absence of clear evidence of malfunction, chances are the temperature readings from both recorders are valid.

These instruments are, after all, designed and used to help resolve this type of dispute. Before dismissing this information, it’s worth asking, how might these seemingly inconsistent readings be reconciled?

There are, in fact, many reasons (other than recorder error) why temperature readings taken in different locations within a 53-foot trailer may diverge.

Examples include the following: the seals around the rear doors may be poor; the insulation of trailer walls may be inadequate; or a torn, pinched, or detached air delivery chute may have prevented air from properly circulating.

But the key point to remember is that carriers are expected to maintain air temperatures throughout the length of a 53-foot trailer, and not just in the very nose (on the reefer-side of the return air bulkhead wall) where temperature sensors are located.

It follows that warm readings from a single recorder may be enough to show the carrier failed to properly protect the cargo in its possession.

Conversely, when readings from a portable recorder are inconclusive (see Section 6.2 of Blue Book’s Transportation Guidelines providing a “rule of thumb” for assessing normal versus abnormal temperature variance), a reefer download showing return air readings were normal may help a carrier establish that it properly controlled air temperatures in transit.

This is an excerpt from a Trading Assistance feature in the July/August 2021 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue. 

Doug Nelson is Vice President of Trading Assistance for Blue Book Services Inc.