Question: I hauled a load of produce that arrived showing temperature problems. After the receiver got an inspection, it turned out that only a portion of the load was warm. It seems my chute was torn and this disrupted the airflow. I just bought this trailer, and I contend that either the chute was already torn or it was damaged at shipping point. At any rate, I don't think it's my fault. Should I reject the receiver's claim?
Answer: Providing that the proper documentation has been provided to you by the receiver, you need to honor the claim. The receiver had nothing to do with your torn chute, and their claim is justified. As far as the chute problem, my guess is that you are going to have problems with both the shipper and the outfit where you bought the trailer admitting to any liability. I can hear both of them saying, "If we damaged it, why didn't you say something when you were here?" The bottom line is you can't really prove either one of them damaged the chute. You could try turning the claim in to your cargo insurance and see what happens.
Question: When someone calls for a federal inspection on a produce load, who pays the fee?
Answer: In years past, it was always the party who called for the inspection. That has changed in recent times. Now the party who is found to be at fault pays. In other words, if an inspection indicates that a load of lettuce has tipburn, which is a growing condition, the shipper would be liable for the federal inspection. If the inspection shows freeze damage that occurred on the truck, the truck owner is liable. If the receiver calls for an inspection and nothing is found to be wrong, the receiver pays the inspection fees.
Question: If I haul a load that arrives with problems that are my fault, should I request to have the product released to me or should I have the receiver handle it for my account?
Answer: I think that is completely up to you on a load-to-load basis. I would say that many "distressed load handlers," who are working a load for the truck's account, give that truck the lowest return legally possible and assess the highest service charges legally possible. Therefore, if you have contacts that might buy this load, it would probably behoove you to move it. Even if you do have those contacts, you need to ask yourself if you have the time to spend on this problem. Are you going to lose another load because you spent too much time on this one only to save a couple hundred dollars? If you don't have buyer contacts, you are taking an even greater risk accepting the load. Keep in mind that the load was rejected because it had problems. It is like a ticking time bomb. That load needs to be placed somewhere - and fast. If you accept it and can't find a buyer for two days, it will probably be nearly shot by then and you'll end up paying for the whole thing. You need to know what the market is like on the product that was rejected. Is it a high dollar/short shelf life item like asparagus or is it a heartier commodity that you could take a little longer to place? Is it a hard to come by item or is the market flooded with it making it very hard to place? Before you agree to take a load, you need to ask yourself these questions and decide what is right for you.
Question: The truck broker I usually work with tells me he has a PACA license. How does that help me as a produce carrier, or does it help?
Answer: It could help you if there is a truck claim on one of your produce loads. I am finding that more and more truck brokers are obtaining PACA licenses. If a broker has a license and a load is rejected, the broker may opt to take title to the merchandise. This means that the product is released to the truck broker who will then find a buyer for the merchandise and hopefully cut the potential losses on the load. If the receiver handles the load for the truck's account, the broker is entitled to a detailed accounting of sales. If the receiver does not provide it, the broker can file a complaint with PACA. The thing to keep in mind is that if a truck broker has a PACA license, it still does not cover unpaid freight. The only way it can work in your favor is on problem loads.