It is well known that transportation and related matters are complex and become even more so when the cargo is fresh fruits and vegetables.

Even before factoring in cargo that is highly perishable and for human consumption, these complexities range from domestic Hours of Service regulations for transport drivers to a ship captain’s right to jettison that cargo during a storm to save his ship and crew under maritime law.

As many of you may know firsthand, buying and selling produce includes consideration of many factors, such as food safety, grade standards, labeling, phytosanitary issues and requirements as well as a myriad of domestic and foreign permits.  It should not be surprising that things do not always go smoothly!

The Transportation Standards can help level the playing-field when well meaning intentions result in unintentional complications. The produce industry is aware of this and has developed best practices and protocols, many of which are reflected in these standards.

The current pandemic has upset many protocols. For example, increasingly, drivers are often restricted from actively observing the loading process and taking pulp temperatures. There are sound reasons to distance the driver from others, however, the driver is then being prevented from performing a key responsibility. The Transportation Standards indicate that a bill of lading should note when the driver could not take pulp temps of the product and state on BOL as “the shipper’s temperature declaration.” These standards also state that the driver must object and inform his customer of the situation. 

Failure to document temperatures at shipping point leaves both shipper and carrier equally exposed to blame when temperature issues arise at destination. 

Another frequent area of contention arises when the shipper’s temperature instructions conflict with the buyer’s instruction to the carrier. This may be due to a mixed manifest, ripening considerations or a number of other reasons. These standards indicate it is the shipper’s duty to contact the buyer and resolve any difference between shipper and buyer temperature instruction to the carrier. The carrier should never be responsible for making transit temperature decisions. 

The Transportation Standards reflect the industry norms, expectations, and in many circumstances – common sense. With regard to driver and pulp temperatures, it is simply not reasonable for one party to prevent drivers from taking pulp temperatures and the other party holding the driver responsible for not taking the pulp temperatures.  Yes, the driver has responsibility for not objecting, but it is not a sole responsibility.  

The Warranty of Suitable Shipping Condition (Good Arrival) requires the shipper to load the carrier in such a way as it can make good arrival. An FOB shipper who cannot demonstrate temperature information at shipping point may find themselves with liability for condition issues on arrival at destination. 

If you have a question about the Transportation Standards, please reach out to us. Remember, the Standards are written as a guide for a global audience who are doing business with DRC members.