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Hauling Produce
Produce Q & A

Question: I am a truck broker who booked a load of potatoes for a three-day delivery. Unfortunately, the truck broke down and we were a day late arriving. The potatoes were fine as far as condition, but the receiver said he had to buy against the account and signed the bills "claim pending." Now, 45 days have gone by, we have already paid the truck, and today in the mail we received the check with a $250 deduction and the documentation that showed the receiver bought against the account. I say after 30 days, the receiver can't make a deduction. What do you say?

Answer: I would say that you admittedly were late due to the breakdown of the truck. I think you raise an issue with the claim coming in 45 days. The produce industry usually operates with 30 days being the standard, but it is not a law or an enforceable regulation. I think it's commendable that you paid the truck, but I think that you could have given this file a little more attention. You said that the bills were signed "claim pending." I think that before you paid the carrier, a call to the receiver would have been appropriate to find out the status of this claim. After your oversight, I don't see how you can go back on the carrier at this time. I think you made a $250 mistake, even though I agree that the receiver drug his feet.

Question: I dealt with a broker who tells me they are a collect and remit truck broker. I delivered this load 41 days ago and haven't been paid. They tell me that they haven't been paid yet, but when this happens, I'll get my money. Can I file against their bond?

Answer: I sympathize with you for having to wait, but I have to wonder what terms were initially discussed. In other words, didn't you know you were dealing with a collect and remit broker to begin with? If not, you should have. As far as filing against their bond, it's worth a try. I do think that you have a case if the broker misrepresented himself or herself, but if it comes down to you not paying attention to the payment terms before you hauled the load, you will probably lose.

Get in touch with a good brokerwho can get you good produce loads and who can get you paid

Question: If I as a carrier get a PACA license, can I file freight claims with them when I have problems?

Answer: No, you can't. More carriers and brokers are getting PACA licenses these days, but they aren't getting them for the purpose you described. When a load is rejected back to the truck and the truck/truck broker becomes a seller of produce, having a license grants the right to get accountings of sales and proper documentation from the receiver. It unfortunately does not cover past due freight on clean bills.

Question: I'd like to haul produce, but I don't know anything about it. Can you show me the first steps?

Answer: You gave me your address, so I can send you our "Produce Handbook" to give you a little bit of an idea. I would recommend you get in touch with a good broker who can get you good produce loads and get you paid. I have said it so many times that I probably sound like a broken record, but it bears repeating in your case. Ask questions. Make sure you understand what you are supposed to do and not do with your produce load. Produce is obviously a volatile, sensitive commodity. Temperatures can vary 4 or 5 degrees either way and cause significant damage to a lot of produce items. You need to know what commodities are compatible. Some produce items produce ethylene as they ripen and others are highly sensitive to this gas. They should never be placed aboard the same truck. Always run with a time and temperature recorder. Most of the time it will be a non-factor, but those times when a temperature is disputed, you're in trouble if you don't have one. You need a pulp thermometer so you can check the temperatures at shipping point. Getting to the receivers and finding out a load is warm and then saying, "It must have been loaded hot," does not get you paid, believe me. Make sure your chute is intact so the air can flow properly over the produce. Carry a roll of duct tape in case the chute gets torn during the loading process. Most importantly, if you think you see a problem, call your broker or your dispatcher and let them know immediately. Don't drive off and hope everything will be all right. It usually won't.