More transportation companies and independent drivers are switching to refrigerated transportation, also known as reefer trucking. Not only can refrigerated trucks transport products that must be kept cool, but they can also haul dry goods, providing drivers with more flexibility regarding routes and pickup locations. In addition, return trips after delivering a load (back-hauling/tri-hauling) by these trucks create an opportunity for companies to transport a wide variety of products with fewer partial and empty loads, according to DAT Freight & Analytics. However, along with the benefits, there are risks.

white paper published by Blue Tree Systems, a temperature management technology company, examined the following key challenges and potential risk exposures in refrigerated transport trucking:

  • Avoiding hot loads. Analysts estimate that 32% of cargo that is left to remain too long on the loading dock is kept at the wrong temperature. Cargo that is warmer than required runs the risk of being rejected by the receiver.
  • Equipment failure. Refrigerated transportation units are not immune to breaking down. When equipment fails, the temperature-sensitive cargo is put at risk.
  • Late notification. A driver has limited visibility to the controller of the transport refrigeration unit or drawbar trailer while transporting goods. As a result, it could be hours until the driver stops and has an opportunity to inspect the unit and make necessary adjustments.
  • Driver error. Drivers must understand the operation of the controller of the refrigeration unit and perform basic configurations. At the very minimum, drivers must know how to set the mode of operation of the unit to continuous run or start/stop mode and to manually defrost the unit when needed. Without this knowledge, companies are exposed to risks associated with driver errors when operating vital equipment.
  • Immediate proof of delivery. Carriers are often considered at fault when cargo fails to arrive in the condition it was expected to be in at the time of delivery. As a result, the burden of proof may be up to the carrier to prove that the conditions in which the cargo was transported and delivered were optimum.
  • Complying with regulations. Rules and regulations for transportation companies that are aimed at keeping the food supply safe are in a constant state of flux. Drivers must be trained in current regulatory reporting requirements and how to maintain accurate temperature records for each shipment as documentation.
  • Lack of remote control. Frozen and refrigerated loads are becoming increasingly complex to control. As a result, new or inexperienced drivers may not have the skill set to monitor and analyze temperature problems as they occur. Many companies are considering the implementation of a two-way remote dispatch office that can alert drivers of situations that may require their attention.

According to the white paper, delivering cargo at an incorrect temperature can result in significant costs for the transporter that could outweigh the invoice value. If cargo is rejected, “The transporter has to compensate the shipper for the value of the spoiled cargo by direct financial payment or through an insurance claim. If an insurance claim is paid out, the transporter faces an increase in insurance premiums for years following the claim.”

About Transatlantic Underwriters

Transatlantic Underwriters is an innovative transportation wholesaler specializing in the placement of commercial auto liability, auto physical damage and motor truck cargo insurance coverage. If you have questions or want to learn more about our products and services, please contact Colby Waltenburg at


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