Temperature Recorder Readout or Reefer Unit Download?

We are often asked “Which is a better indicator of transit temperatures, a reefer unit download or a temperature recorder readout?”


The best answer is that it depends on many variables, including at shipping point, during transit and at arrival surrounding this temperature equipment. While this answer may not be satisfactory, when these two temperature tools are available, both must be given the same weight until the variables affecting temperatures are considered. Once these variables are studied, it might be easier to determine which of the two can be given more weight.


What are some of these variables?

  • Shipping point pulp temperatures, including, did the driver pulp the product?
  • Loading pattern
  • Information on the BoL
  • Other incompatible products on truck
  • Location of the temperature recorder inside the truck
  • Reefer setting; for produce, continuous mode is the recommended setting.
  • Has the reefer unit been calibrated and maintained?
  • Pulp temperatures upon arrival
  • Where was the temperature recorder found upon arrival?
  • Does recorder number match number on the BoL/manifest?
  • Temperature and condition inspection report results
  • Restricted inspection
  • Was the requested set temperature correct? (don’t laugh, it happens!)


The following are some examples of circumstances that can create problems during transit:

  • Loading product at a warmer temperature than the reefer unit set temperature
  • Setting the reefer unit on cycle-sentry (stop/start)
  • Some commodities are more susceptible to undesirable temperatures because they have higher respiration rates or are under temperature control atmosphere such as Peak Fresh or Tectrol
  • Even with the best insulated trucks, outside ambient temperatures which are too cold or too hot can impact ambient temperatures inside the truck.


Finally, as a DRC member, all the above-noted can be irrelevant if the buyer/receiver does not follow DRC procedures to document loading and unloading and requesting a temperature and condition inspection on arrival. This can link the undesirable transit temperatures to product damage. Therefore, make sure you request a government inspection or an agreed upon private survey in a timely manner.


In our experience, it is the information from the reefer download and the temperature recorder coupled with the kind of problems found on arrival which collectively answer the question of “what went wrong?”