Many in the U.S., especially framers and growers in the Midwest, have not escaped the incredibly hot temperature conditions that have occurred this summer.  The U.S. is not alone in dealing with extreme heat conditions of the summer. Beyond the high visibility news of crop loss or reduced harvests are the consequences that extreme heat can have on equipment, especially that which monitors the transport of perishable and temperature sensitive cargos.

This morning while having breakfast, I happened to view a video news story that appeared on the NBC Today Program. (apologies up-front for the paid commercial insertion) It reports on the hidden hazards of refrigerated trucks transporting perishable foods and produce across the U.S. with refrigerated units not operating. Reporter Jeff Rossen tags along with the Indiana State Police who conduct random checks of refrigerated trucks The State of Indiana is geographically at the epicenter of cross-country interstate transport and has passed state laws that control food perishability standards while being transported. The video report includes disgusting scenes of rotting meat, chicken and produce with a particular trailer unit exceeding 100 degrees F in temperature. Of concern is a driver who is actually thankful that his rig has been inspected, and that the food cargo is immediately disposed. In this author’s view, that is a sign that his bosses were not all that concerned.  Of more concern, are repeated trucking and logistics carrier statements that the truck and trailer refrigerator units were somehow operating when the truck departed the original warehouse. Did the drivers turn the units off? Readers can make their own judgments by viewing the video.

The byline of the report is that the lack of any federal regulations or standards for transporting perishable food across state lines has forced state authorities to police unsafe food transport.  With the exception of Indiana, what other state has the motivation or resources to monitor refrigerated truck shipments. Reporter Rossen also clarifies that the large national food providers and their associated carriers have much higher standards for monitoring transport conditions, and that the problem may primarily involve shipments to and among local food distributors, restaurants and the like.

In any case, Supply Chain Matters expresses a clear message to mid-market U.S. logistics providers and trucking operators.  Police you own problem!  Once more, we do not want to again hear more industry cries lamenting of increased governmental monitoring and regulation. Folks, this is basic stuff- how you operate a services business.

The zeal for reduced operating costs should not include the lack of timely maintenance of critical equipment. An environment that compels drivers to ignore the fundamental principles of cargo spoilage by turning off refrigeration, or have fears to alert supervisors to these problems should not be tolerated nor acceptable as practice.  There are enough adequate and proven controls and technology available to monitor and avoid in-transit spoilage.

We would certainly encourage participants to weigh-in, either in Comments to this posting or direct email. Is this condition an industry-wide problem, or one confined to a chosen few?

Bob Ferrari