Bottom Line
Hauling Produce
Produce Q and A

Question: I loaded a mixed load of frozen product and found I was 1,000 pounds overweight. I called the receiver to find out what they wanted taken off and they told me I had better not take anything off and I had better get moving. I was only three miles from the shippers, so I called them and told them of my problem. They said I could either deliver the load or bring it back to their warehouse and receive nothing for my trouble. What should I have done?

Answer: In a tough situation like this, any way you look at it–you are going to have a problem. If you take any product off, the receiver will probably charge you for the shortage. If you pull the load, you run the risk of being caught overweight. If you take the load back to the shipper's warehouse, you will not be compensated for the time and miles you already have in this load. My opinion is that the best thing you could do is to get out from under the whole mess. I would take the load back to the shipper and drive away. You will probably cut your losses this way. Also, I would bill the shipper for the time and miles that you invested getting there and waiting for the product. You are entitled to some form of compensation, although the shipper is unlikely to pay based on what they told you. You would then need to decide if the amount is large enough to spend the time and the resources to sue the shipper. If so, do it.

Question: How do I know if a broker is bonded?

Answer: If a broker tells you they are bonded, ask for proof. I would get a copy of their bond and even go so far as to call the bonding company to see if it is still in force and if there are any filings against it. As far as the produce industry goes, it is a rare occurrence when a broker's bond is enough to cover their debts if they go bust. Having a bond is good, but it doesn't mean that they will pay you. Don't stop your background check once you find that a broker is bonded. You should get a credit report on all new brokers with whom you consider dealing.

Question: I hauled a load of cantaloupe to a produce terminal market. Upon arrival, the receiver told me that the fruit appeared to be overripe, and they were calling for a federal inspection. My recorder showed that I maintained proper temperatures and the product pulped fine. The inspection showed that the product was overripe, and the receiver claimed the losses against the shipper. The problem is, it took the inspector almost 24 hours to arrive. Shouldn't I be entitled to some form of compensation for my layover, especially since the problem was not caused by anything I did?

Answer: The standard layover fee in the produce industry is between $150 and $250 per day. My opinion is that you should be entitled to a day's layover on this load. The receiver called for the inspection in a timely manner and apparently with good cause. The inspection subsequently proved that the shipper loaded inferior product. Therefore, you should bill the shipper for the layover charges. I would also add that if you hadn't pulped the product and run with a recorder, you may have been looking at a truck claim on this load.

Question: If I have a truck problem with a load of produce and I want to sell the product, do I need a PACA license?

Answer: If you take title of the merchandise on your truck, you become the seller of the product. To do this, you must get the shipper to release the product for you and you in turn would agree to pay the shipper's invoice. More and more carriers see taking title to a problem load as a way of cutting their losses. Obviously, you don't want to consider taking title to the merchandise if you don't have any produce connections or potential buyers for the load. But, if you have a buyer, it might be a wise move to take title. The answer to your question is yes, you do need a PACA license if you are going to become a seller of produce. LL