All temperature sensitive products, and particularly fruits and vegetables, have shelf life’s. Shelf life refers to the length of time that a commodity may be stored without becoming unfit for consumption. As part of the cold chain, trucking has a significant role in maintaining the shelf life of temperature sensitive products (keep in mind, refrigerated trailers are not designed to extend shelf life of produce, but maintain temperatures if optimal shipping and transportation practices are followed). Some of the key areas where trucking’s role can affect shelf life are transit time, transit temperature.

Transit Time

As per the Produce Blue Book’s Transportation Guidelines, trucking is “required to use ‘reasonable dispatch’ to ensure goods are delivered in a timely manner consistent with normal and customary delivery times.” The term ‘reasonable dispatch’ can be a tricky one. Since every produce load is different, it can be difficult to establish a standard for reasonable dispatch. Factors such as miles travelled per day, adverse weather conditions, extreme traffic conditions can affect delivery times.

In general, the trucking industry considers a driver that who hauls a produce load 500 or more miles per day (1,000 miles per day for team loads) to have used reasonable dispatch. These transit time must be calculated from the time loading is fully complete, and reference the HOS regulations.

Transit Temperature

Produce loads are on the extreme side of temperature sensitive products, and a multitude of factors can affect temperatures in transit, and therefore jeopardize a product’s shelf life. It is a driver’s responsibility to always run produce loads on continuous setting. On again, we will reference the  Produce Blue Book’s Transportation Guidelines, which state that “carriers should consider all factors that may affect air temperatures in transit (e.g. heat from respiration, field heat, ambient air temperatures, air flow within the trailer, the trailer’s insulation, and capacity of the temperature control system) before signing the bill of lading.”

Furthermore, the driver has a role to play to ensure that the product temperature is optimal prior to it being loaded on their trailer. This can be confirmed by taking random pulp temperature readings of the load. If a driver suspects that the product is either too hot or too cold to warrant that the air temperatures in transit will be maintained as per the bill of lading (which will ultimately affect both the product’s quality and shelf life upon delivery), they should notify the shipper and transportation provider immediately. At that point, the shipper/transportation provider will decide if the load will be taken or not, or if specific releases from liability for both the transportation provider and the carrier will be negotiated.

As noted previously, one critical thing to keep in mind is that trucking’s role is never to extend shelf life of temperature sensitive products, but to maintain it. As such, a driver’s refrigerated trailer system is not responsible for lowering pulp temperatures. It is the shipper’s responsibility to properly pre-cool and package their produce before the scheduled loading time. This will ensure that loading can be accomplished without necessary delay to transit times, and that transit temperatures will be optimal.

The cold chain for produce (and logistics related to it) requires maintaining temperature integrity. To get the best shelf life out of products means all interested parties must control the processes involved. This requires communication, coordination and an understanding that all parties involved, from shippers, transportation providers, carriers, and receivers share these responsibilities. With this understanding, it is obvious that trucking has an essential role in the shelf life of temperature sensitive products. And, with the right tools and knowledge in place, trucking can strengthen all links in the cold chain.

Trucking’s Role in the Shelf Life of Temperature Sensitive Products was last modified: by