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Dock to Dock: Controlling temperatures in transit

dock to dock

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 that air temperatures in the trailer will be maintained at the instructed temperature, the carrier should refuse to take the shipment.

Cliff Sieloff
Cliff Sieloff is a Claims Analyst for Blue Book Services Inc.

Q. We are a truck broker based in the Midwest. Last summer we had a few produce loads head to Arizona. Outside temps were 100-plus degrees and I think this was a contributing factor to some warm truck claims we’re dealing with.

We had a few loads rejected due to warm destination pulp temps and warm portable recorders. For two of these rejections, it looks like our driver correctly set the unit to 34°F as instructed, but the recorders appear to be at 45 to 49°F for the entire trip.

From my point of view, because of the extremely warm outside temps and because produce respires more as it gets warm, we do not think there is any carrier negligence here. How can anyone claim the truck is responsible in these situations? What does Blue Book Services think about this?

A. Carriers are expected to maintain air temperatures within the trailer at the instructed temperature, regardless of outside temperatures. We regularly see carriers maintain temperature control despite warm outside temperatures. This requires a properly insulated trailer, as well as proper air circulation, and proper reefer settings and operation.

In other words, merely setting the reefer at the instructed temperature is not enough; air temperatures in the trailer must be maintained at, or within a few degrees of, the specified temperature.

As stated in our Transportation Guidelines: “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.”

In your scenario, if the carrier was unable to commit to maintaining temperature control (i.e., protecting the cargo) due to warm outside temperatures, it should not have accepted the load.

Although refusing to accept 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, such damages would be far less than the costly damages resulting from transporting a full produce load 10 to 15 degrees too warm.


Cliff Sieloff is a claims analyst for Blue Book Services’ Trading Assistance group.