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Trading Assistance: Product Allegedly Loaded Warm

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.

#2 Product Allegedly Loaded Warm
Although it is widely agreed that carriers are not responsible for reducing pulp temperatures, which is the responsibility of the shipper’s precooling system, when product is not properly precooled reefer units must work harder to cool the air in the trailer.

Consequently, when air temperature readings are warm, carriers are often tempted to suggest that perhaps warm pulp temperatures at shipping point are to blame.

Vendors, however, are usually quick to point to a “clean” bill of lading and allege that their product was properly precooled before loading.

When reviewing these claims, we look closely at the temperature records for signs the product was loaded warm. If a carrier hopes to overcome a clean bill of lading, it should be prepared to point to temperature records that support its allegation.

For example, if the product was loaded warm, we would expect to see the reefer unit working particularly hard during the first day of the trip, and then normalizing as the rate of respiration slows (respiration rates tend to be highest within the first 24 hours after harvest) and any field heat dissipates.

When temperature readings show no improvement in the later days of the trip, or are otherwise inconsistent with the carrier’s claim that warm product at shipping point was the sole cause of the warm air temperatures, carriers are unlikely to prevail.

Carriers in this situation will sometimes explain in frustration that they were not allowed to pulp the product at shipping point.

While this frustration is understandable, when a carrier signs a bill of lading “clean” (i.e., without “shipper’s load and count” language), the carrier, in essence, assumes the burden of proof under the common law of common carriage.

Alleging warm pulps temperatures at loading without support is simply not enough to meet this burden.

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.