The guide continues to be a useful tool in preventing the transporting of incompatible fruits and vegetables, which can result in the loss of product quality, and even lead to claims or rejected loads.
Over the years Macleod believes increased knowledge of what produce items mix well together during transit has contributed to reducing problems with refrigerated produce loads arriving at destination – particularly on longer hauls. As stated on the guide, “Some items may tolerate less than perfect conditions for short periods (less than two days). Produce mix and temperature becomes critical with longer transit times.”
However, despite all of the information available on the topic, problems with arrivals of product at destination due to incompatibility of the produce on board still occurs.
“They (shippers) know if there is a load that is 90 percent head lettuce and there is a pallet of apples in the trailer, that is not good,” Macleod says. But sometimes chances are taken with incompatible items, especially if the transit time is not very long.
“The sensitivity of what does and doesn’t go on a load has really improved in the last five years,” Macleod notes.
He adds there are more larger carriers hauling produce and they are becoming more sophisticated with what to put in the trailer on mixed loads. He laments there seems to be fewer independent owner operator than in the past doing long haul trucking.
Macleod sees more shippers using their own brand on many fruits and vegetables, and they have become more particular how these products are loaded and transported because their name or brand is on the box.
He points out when a produce hauler picks up product in a warmer climate, there usually is a lot of activity, because a lot of produce is being moved. This increases the chance the product may not have been pre-cooled. While Macleod does not see this as a huge problems, he notes it still does happen.
“The primary protection for the driver (and receiver) is they know the pulp temperature of the product going into the trailer,” Macleod says.
Since Macleod works a lot with strawberry shipments, particularly through TransFresh’s Techtrol program, he is seeing less resistance to the driver being provided pulp temperature information on product just being load. He isn’t sure if it is a major problem with other produce commodities.
‘In the packaged vegetable industry they (shippers) clearly don’t want the driver punching a hole in it, but there is a way to do it. But it’s incredibly important to what that (pulp) temperature is going into the trailer,” Macleod stresses. “It impacts how much demand is going to be put on your reefer unit, the quality of the product, and it can impact the chances of rejected loads.”
Even if the driver did not observe the loading, he can still alert the customer (receiver) while still at the dock, if he notices the product is three to four degrees warmer than it should be.
(This is the fourth in a five-part series featuring an interview with Rich Macleod, vice president, pallet division North America for TransFresh Corp., Salinas, CA. He has been with the company since 1976, and has a masters degree in post harvest science from the University of California, Davis.)