Reefer Management: Avoiding Rejected Loads

Hot-Loads-Hue-LREDec 12, 2017: The ability to haul both refrigerated and dry goods makes a trucking company more versatile with its freight capabilities and more attractive to shippers. After all, there will always be a demand for fresh products and the refrigerated trucks and trailers to safely transport them. But while the hauling of fresh produce delivers gains, reefer management brings its own set of challenges.

Transporting loads at the wrong temperature – a “hot load” – can be problematic for transportation businesses. Loads can be rejected on delivery, which can result in compensation payouts and impact on insurance premiums. The risk of a load spoiling is higher if the temperature of the cargo is incorrect. It can lead to rejection of a load on delivery, which can, in turn, result in a load claim.

Find out more about how Advanced Temperature Monitoring can support your reefer business in our free download series: 7 Key Challenges in Refrigerated Transportation.

Rejected loads hurt carriers on many levels:

  • Compensation: The carrier has to pay compensation to the shipper.
  • Disposal: The carrier has to dispose of the spoiled cargo.
  • Empty miles: Trucks may need to be taken to a washout facility which adds additional costs and contributes to ‘empty miles.’
  • Increasing costs: Drivers still need to be paid and insurance premiums can climb if a claim is paid.
  • Customer relations: Reputation with a customer is built slowly but it can be lost by a single spoilt load.

Rejected Loads

32% of cargo loaded wrong

Load problems arise when cargo encounters problems with temperature, air circulation, dampness, broken seals or humidity. These can affect the transportation of fruit, vegetables, meats, pharma or dairy products.

Industry experts estimate that 32% or approximately one-third of refrigerated cargo is loaded at the wrong temperature. This is usually as a result of poor loading practices, where produce spends too long at a loading dock. The driver sets off with no idea the cargo is too warm. The danger is that the cargo will continue to get warm all the way to the destination

Other issues that can lead to a rejected or hot load includes malfunction of reefer machinery. This can happen in some instances, leading to temperature fluctuations that could harm the cargo inside. To fix, modern day reefer units can have more than 200 alarm/fault codes in place, compounding the problem.

Lack of access to real-time data can also be a factor. If something goes wrong, carriers or drivers need to be able to immediately identify and prioritize the problem.

Also, reefer units are increasingly complex and drivers have to be familiar with all kinds of refrigeration units, with variations amongst make and mode. Driver error can be a problem; a driver, for example, could change the set-point to -2.0°F instead of –20.0°F. The result can be an entire load made unusable.

Prevention is better than cure

Cargo that is hot on loading will likely be hot on delivery. Some carriers believe the reefer can cool it down but that is rarely the case.

Cargo loaded at the wrong temperature cannot be fixed within a reefer during a typical transportation period. Contrary to popular belief, reefers aren’t designed to dramatically cool warm or hot cargo. It takes a lot of extra energy and time to work as chilling engines. Instead, the units are made to consistently stay at a particular temperature range, depending on the cargo being loaded at the right temperature.

However, there are measures that can alert carriers and defend fleets against load claims or load rejection. Pre-trip inspections, pre-cooling and maintaining the set-point all play a part in ensuring reefer management is correct and the cargo reaches its destination intact.

The Fix

Blue Tree customers can detect a hot or warm load within 30 minutes of loading time thanks to Advanced Temperature Monitoring. Connected to Thermo King, carrier and other industry controllers, the platform monitors essential reefer unit information. Automatic notifications go directly to the carrier who can rectify the situation.

Alarms will notify carriers immediately in the event of a refrigeration fault. A notification can be sent by email or SMS to the office and/or driver. The alarm will deliver a note on the severity of the fault and a code number. The carrier can then enable the driver to take action.

Further back-up for drivers and carriers come in the form of two-way control, alarms, and remote monitoring. Remote, two-way monitoring allows fleet managers, located anywhere, to turn the reefer on/off, initiate a defrost or change the mode of operation.

Addressing the immediate problem

If a load is rejected, there are a number of practical procedures to complete. The carrier will have to find a home for the produce or dispose of it. It can be sold to minimize losses and should be removed from the truck.

Once the cargo is unloaded or warehoused, claims adjusters and carriers can then work to sell the product on if possible. They can typically receive bids from up to three buyers who are interested in purchasing the stock. This effort can help to mitigate the cost.

If it is time-sensitive cargo such as frozen goods, a USDA inspection must be sought by the buyer. This clarifies whether the product fails to meet the agreed terms of the sale.

A call to the insurance company is a wise idea too.

If the cargo cannot be salvaged, there are other ways of disposing of it. Instead of it ending up in dumpsters, there are charities that will still take some cargo, especially if it is rejected for aesthetic reasons such as torn packaging.

This is the sixth article in the series on the Key Challenges Facing Refrigerated Transportation. Find out more about how Advanced Temperature Monitoring can support your reefer business in our free download series: 7 Key Challenges in Refrigerated Transportation.

Read more about reefer management in Measuring the ROI on Reefer Management Technology.