November 11, 2020

Responsibility and Risk When Shipping Non-Compatible Commodities

When shipping fresh fruits and vegetables, it is important that the shipper be aware of the compatibility of the commodities being shipped with respect to temperature, relative humidity, and ethylene exposure. This is especially true when you are shipping LTL (less than truckload).

An example of a shipment involving non-compatible commodities might be table grapes being shipped with honeydew melons. Table grapes are to be transported at 32°F whereas honeydew melons require a temperature of 45°F. Therefore, any condition problems associated with high temperatures with the grapes, or for the honeydew melons with any chilling injury would be an associated dependent upon what shipping terms were used for the sale.

When shipping on delivered terms, you (the shipper) are responsible for all the in transit risk, which would include any potential damage that may result from tendering a shipment containing non-compatible commodities. If you are handling and loading LTL shipments, make sure the instructions provided to the carrier are clear and concise on the bill of lading (BOL) not to load any non-compatible commodities after you have loaded your product. If for some reason your buyer (customer) were to contact the carrier directly and instruct to load a non-compatible commodity on your truck, that action would void the suitable shipping condition warranty and you would look to the buyer for full payment. Regarding FOB contracts, where the buyer is responsible for arranging transportation, the in-transit risks will rest on their shoulders even if non-compatible commodities are also being loaded in the same trailer transporting your product, unless you loaded those non-compatible commodities.

If you notice a non-compatible commodity on the trailer that you are about to load, you as the shipper need to immediately put your buyer on notice that you will not be responsible for any damage caused to your product. Until you obtain a documented response from the buyer, you should not load the truck, because you may find yourself responsible for knowingly loading a truck where you have knowledge that the load may arrive damaged. Memorialize it in writing for your protection! Always document when putting your customer on notice.

To assist you on proper temperatures to transport your commodities, visit this link for a produce fact sheet prepared by the University of California-Davis which also discusses ethylene sensitivity of commodities:

As always, should you have any questions, comments or concerns I may be able to assist with, please do not hesitate to contact me at 949-885-2392 or email [email protected].