CLASSIC RIDDLE IN TODAY’S REFRIGERATED WORLD
Dianna Whitby | DEER PARK CONSULTING, LLC
Have you ever pondered what came first, the chicken or the egg? If you have decided the answer, then move on to the next and possibly more challenging question: Which is more accurate, the reefer download or the temperature recorder (TTR)?
Your answer to that question may depend on your position in the “food” chain. Shippers and their agents are going to be very pro TTR while carriers are going to staunchly defend the download. As a 3PL, your company is going to be, as usual, stuck in the middle trying to resolve the issue with Solomon-like wisdom.
Before deciding the proper answer, here are some questions to consider:
- Is this a full truckload (F/T) or a less-than-truckload (LTL) shipment
- Where was the TTR placed
- What type of TTR was used
- How often does the carrier have his unit calibrated
- How often does the carrier perform routine maintenance
- Was the unit set on “Continuous” or “Start/Stop”
Whenever possible and practical, request that your shippers always place the TTR in a marked carton and in the second or third row of product.
Let’s look at each question in a little more detail.
If your shipment is moving on a F/T, there should only be a slight amount of variance to memorialize the temperature rises and dips as a result of the unit entering and exiting defrost cycle. On an LTL shipment, the TTR will record every time the doors are opened. Also, depending on the amount of time and air temperatures at the delivery location, there could be significant changes in the air temperature in the trailer.
Placement of the TTR is critical. If the unit is sitting on top of the pallet, it will record far greater changes in temperature as opposed to one that is placed inside the carton on top of the product. Whenever possible and practical, request that your shippers always place the TTR in a marked carton and in the second or third row of product. The purpose of marking the carton is to make it easier for the consignee to locate the TTR.
The type of TTR used does make a difference. Some shippers will use the tiny pass/fail recorders. These recorders are designed to be stuck on the top of the pallet. They will flash red once the maximum temperature has exceeded a predetermined time. The problem with these recorders is that they are not downloadable, so both you and the carrier are at the mercy of the person reading the recorder. Other shippers rely on TTRs that have a recording graph. While these graphs are generally very reliable, they can be very hard to read and are so large that placing them in the carton may not be possible. The third type of recorder needs to be downloaded, but can produce excellent graphs, data points and a composite overview. The benefit of using this type of recorder is that it small enough to fit inside the carton.
The Sanitary Transportation Rule demands that carriers provide trailers that are capable of maintaining the shipper’s desired temperature. Calibration of the reefer unit is essential, especially if the load is a fresh load with very close temperature requirements. If the reefer is off by two degrees, it could mean a refusal if the driver set the unit at the bill of lading maximum temperature and the load arrived more than two degrees over.
Regular maintenance of the reefer unit is essential. Most insurance companies will not pay a reefer breakdown claim if the carrier can’t prove six months of maintenance records. A well-maintained unit is a carrier’s best defense against a temperature refusal.
Less than five years ago, it was a common practice for the carrier to set his unit on “Continuous” so that the reefer was always running. This wasted a great deal of fuel and forced the unit to defrost more frequently. More frequent defrosting could cause the unit to short cycle and possibly fail. However, it was thought that using Start/Stop created too large of a temperature difference for the shipper’s temperature demands. Today, manufacturers are recommending that the new units be set on Stop/Start to save fuel and eliminate the possibility of short cycle. The newer, more efficient units don’t have the large temperature variations of their older cousins.
A claim investigator needs to be Sherlock Holmes in order to sift through all of the documentation presented to determine which method of temperature recording is more accurate. A properly placed TTR can only provide one temperature in one location, whereby a download can prove the temperature setting and several temperature data points.
Unlike the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, the modern transportation professional has the ability to base a claims decision on the documentation provided by the claimant and the carrier.
Dianna Whitby is Principal at Deer Park Consulting, LLC. She may be reached at DeerParkCargoClaims@gmail.com. For more information on services, please visit Dianna’s website, www.deerparkcargoclaims.com. Click on the “Contact” link to submit your questions.