Importance of Documenting Temperatures


We were recently contacted by a grower/shipper who sold blueberries to a buyer in North America on an FOB basis. The grower/shipper claimed that pulp temperatures at loading were fine and the driver signed the BOL clean. When the load arrived at destination, the buyer reported that the product was not in good condition and was pulping warm. A federal inspection was requested and confirmed the blueberries were warm and the product did not make good arrival according to DRC Trading standards. The transportation company did not accept the claim arguing the product was loaded warm and the grower/shipper wanted our advice.

In order to evaluate the file and help the parties involved in the transaction determine liability, our Trading Assistance Help Desk requested the following information: Bill of lading (BOL), loading checklist, the temperature recorder readout, the reefer unit download and the federal inspection:

  1. BOL: The BOL showed the temperature to be maintain during transit was 33F on continuous mode and pulp temperatures at loading were 34F. It also showed the driver signed the BOL without any notations.
  2. Loading checklist: In this particular case, a loading checklist was available and it showed that the driver of the truck signed the loading checklist which indicated pulp temperatures were between 33F-34F.
  3. The temperature recorder readout: This document showed that the product was subject to warmer than desired temperatures during the trip.
  4. Reefer unit download: The reefer download indicated the reefer was set at 33F continuous and the truck was properly precooled. However, after a few hours in route, a big discrepancy between the supply air column and the return air column started to show. The supply air column indicated the discharged air temperatures ranged from 11°F to 58° The return air column remained constantly close to 36F which was unusual.
  5. Federal inspection: A federal inspection was requested in a timely manner and the report indicated that in fact pulp temperatures were above normal range (temp) and the product was received in deteriorated condition.

Taking into consideration the above information submitted, we were able to assist our member in establishing that based on the evidence this was a transportation claim. The evidence pointed towards product being loaded at the right temperature with undesirable temperatures developing during transit. The inspection confirmed warmer than desired temperatures upon arrival and high percentage of deterioration on the product.  In addition, the temperature discrepancy in the reefer unit download’s supply air column suggested that there could have been a problem with the reefer unit or improper circulation in the trailer.

It is the parties’ responsibility to follow certain procedures to protect themselves when shipping, hauling, or receiving product. Documenting and maintaining the cold chain is one of the most important parts of the transaction.

Regarding temperatures, the following is a brief summary of the responsibilities each party has in a transaction.

On an FOB transaction the shipper is responsible for maintaining accurate records on how the product was handled prior to loading and during loading of the truck. The shipper needs to make sure to document all temperature instructions and location of the temperature recording devices. The shipper should also check that the reefer unit is set at the correct temperature and mode (continuous or stop/start).

The responsibilities of the receiver include: pulp the product upon arrival prior to unloading the truck and, if there was an indication of undesirable temperatures, collect temperature recorders and document where the recording devices were found. The receiver must also indicate on the BOL(s) the reasons for receiving the product under protest and request the reefer unit’s download. Finally, if the shipper places one or more temperature recording devices on the load, and no recorders are found upon arrival, the receiver must document the missing recorder(s) on arrival, and must resolve the issue with the carrier.

As a carrier, your responsibilities include ensuring you have and follow all the information, instructions and requirements provided by the shipper/receiver. The driver should be allowed to pulp temperatures before loading the truck. If the driver cannot verify pulp temperatures, the receiver should be contacted for instructions.

The driver must comply with all temperature instructions and document the location of temperature recording devices as well as verify that the load count matches the manifest. If the count cannot be verified, the original BOL should be marked “shippers load and count.” Ensure that the driver sets the reefer unit at the correct temperature and mode according to the BOL. If there are discrepancies between instructions to the carrier and the BOL regarding temperature setting, on an FOB transaction contact the buyer, on a “Delivered” transaction contact the seller.

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