We spend a great deal of time sourcing tools and resources for our carriers to ensure that they can avoid claims and additional charges. While we do pride ourselves on our claims process, we want to advise carriers on the right actions that they can take to prevent claims in the first place. Today, we are reviewing what we believe are the top 5 actions carriers can take.
- Maintain – Number one on our list is maintenance, and we stress this every day. Preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid not only claims, but extra repair costs that eat into your bottom line. Refrigeration units need regular maintenance and service. For a reefer unit, some common areas where issues arise are:
- Discharge Pressure – if it is too high, this could be attributed to broken fan belts, defective battery, defective High Pressure Cutout Switch on the compressor, or wiring.
- Reefer Engine Performance – ensure the fuel system to the engine and the solenoids are all in good operating order and that the fuel system to the engine is not plugged or has air in it. Check the inline fuel filter as well to make sure it is clean and operating as designed.
- Chutes – make sure there are no tears and that the chutes are properly attached so that air can flow through the unit.
- Unit Calibration – make sure the reefer unit has been calibrated according to the manufacturer’s recommendation; this will ensure that the temperature on the set point is accurate and will reduce exposure to claims or additional charges.
Remember to check these areas regularly to prevent a trailer breakdown and ensure that your unit is operating at peak condition. Also, remember to refer to the manufacturers suggested maintenance schedule. Once every three months is the minimum service that you should be doing to your reefer.
- Pulp – Prior to and during loading, drivers should make sure to pulp at least every other pallet of the product that is being loaded into their trailer. Drivers must also pulp product at every pickup. Pulp thermometers are a mandatory tool for each driver; it is even recommended that drivers have at least 2 (we recommend investing in a digital probe thermometer – not laser), and that they know how to calibrate them. For dial or digital probe thermometers, the driver should poke the product to gain an accurate reading of the internal temperature of the product. If the driver is using a laser pulp thermometer, they must take the pulp temperature from as close to the fruit as possible. Laser thermometers do provide quicker temperature readings, but technical experts warn that standing too far away from the product could compromise the thermometer’s reading, as it could be affected by outside surrounding air temperatures. No matter what type of pulp temperature device a driver is using, it is crucial to take the few extra minutes and make sure that the readings are accurate.
- Record – We cannot emphasize enough the importance of keeping good records. This relates to maintenance, and to loading. You must record anything you may see/feel is important. What does good record keeping look like? For maintenance records, the more organized and accessible your files are, the better. For specific load records, the more detailed the better. Take photos, and add clear and specific notes on the BOL related to pulp temperatures, product quality, and short case quantity to name a few. Also, remember the importance of recording when you cannot perform an action such as pulping or case counting. If access to the loading/unloading dock and pulping is not permitted, “shipper load and count” must be written on the BOL. These steps will ensure that drivers are protected and the burden of proof is placed upon the shipper.
- Communicate – This has been one of our keys to success, and something we reinforce in our Core Values. Communication will ensure instructions are followed, misunderstandings are clarified, and all interested parties have the information that they need. Asking detailed open questions is one trick to enhance and richen your communication. For drivers, one specific tip we can provide is to follow temperature instructions to the letter. Running cycle is risky, especially with almost every produce load being equipped with a temperature recorder (Temptale). It is not worth the risk, even if it’s only for a few hours. You are our eyes and ears at loading point, so make sure to communicate any issues you see directly to us. These might include things like damaged boxes, poorly packed pallets, etc. Let us help you reduce your exposure to a claim by being another point of record of any issues.
- Educate – Educate yourself about the product hauling – the more you know about specific products characteristics, handling, and storage, the better you will be able to transport it, and notice any abnormalities. UWT has created specific loading guidelines for many of the full truckload products that we haul. Give our CSR department a call today and they will go through them with you. One of the topic areas of our blog is centered around product knowledge; we have created many posts that provide detailed information on fruits and vegetables. The Blue Book Services Inc is also a great resource – they have a guide called “Know Your Commodity” that provides in-depth commodity reference information for all fruits and vegetables.
By practicing these 5 actions and they will become a part of your process, which will in turn improve your productivity and reduce your exposure to claims and additional charges. Excelling at each of these actions will also make you more attractive partner for transportation providers, which will increase your load opportunities and potential to earn.