I have just returned from the Transportation Intermediaries Associations' annual convention in Orlando where I sat in on a roundtable discussion of the Perishable Carriers Conference. This is a group of truck brokers who work with perishables, primarily produce. There was one common theme throughout: No one wants a claim.
Some of the brokers in this group discussed how they relay instructions to their drivers. Some of them have a pre-loading checklist. Some require pulp temperatures to be called in several times daily. Almost all required daily calls from the driver to report his or her whereabouts and other information pertinent to the load.
I have stated many times that one of the biggest factors leading to claims is that many drivers lack a "produce education." Does that mean I think drivers who haul produce lack intelligence? Of course not. I simply mean there are better ways of learning how to haul produce than graduating from the school of hard knocks.
Brokers and carriers who work with produce are not adversaries, they're allies. If the carriers don't do their job, the brokers don't get paid. Brokers and carriers must work together. The best way to achieve this goal is to communicate with each other.
Brokers must relay good information to the driver. With produce, this would include number of pick-ups, number of drops, specific temperature for transport, delivery times, etc. If you are not getting this information from your broker or you think your broker is flying by the seat of his/her pants and hoping there will be no problems, find another broker. Likewise, if you are dealing with a broker who sends you to marginal receivers and bails out when there is a problem, find another broker. There are too many good brokers out there to put yourself through these types of problems.
The other side of this coin is the driver relaying information to the broker. You are the broker's eyes and ears. If you detect a potential problem, report it immediately. It is their job to take charge of the situation and solve the problem before it turns into a claim.
At the roundtable discussion, many brokers stated they could have fixed a problem, but the driver either told them too late or didn't tell them at all. I have had many truckers or brokers ask the help of Red Book in solving a problem with a hot or frozen load. Many times the story is the same. The truck arrived with either extremely hot or frozen product and the receiver claimed against the truck. Brokers and drivers alike have said to me many times, "It had to have been loaded hot." What I need in order to help are pulp temperatures at shipping point and a copy of the temperature recording tape. If you don't have these items, our hands are tied.
This is a very common situation that could have been avoided if the driver had taken a pulp temperature at shipping point and the broker had made sure this was done. Running with a temperature recording tape is a must when you're hauling produce. A good broker will make sure their drivers are aware of this fact.
When you haul produce, you don't need to be able to recite every variety of fruit and vegetable grown on earth. However, you do need to be able to detect a problem be it at shipping point or during the loading process and transit. If and when a problem occurs, relay the information to the broker immediately. It is their responsibility to get involved and solve the matter. The easiest way to avoid produce claims is to ask questions, know what you are doing and communicate.