Communication and documentation are the most important elements for the successful transportation of fresh produce, according to best practices developed by the North American Transportation Working Group.

Leaders of the group presented highlights of the best practices during a July 18 Web seminar, with participants from Australia, Mexico, Canada and the U.S.

Working group member Doug Stoiber, vice president of L&M Transportation Services Inc., said the best practices were two years in the making and designed to evolve as technology and techniques evolve. For example, he said, the best practices now recommend use of temperature recorders.

However, technology continues to move toward real-time temperature sensing devices that are combined with GPS technology in radio frequency identification devices. Stoiber said he believes the best practices eventually will be revised to reflect that trend.

But high-tech gadgets are not what gets fresh produce delivered fresh and on time, according to Stoiber and the other two seminar presenters — Jim Gordon, operations manager for Toronto-based Ippolito Fruit & Produce Ltd., and Doug Nelson, vice president of special services for Blue Book Online Services, Carol Stream, Ill.

All three said the best line of defense for shippers, carriers, truck drivers and receivers involved in disputes about fresh produce loads is documentation.

“Document all agreements and all stages of transport with all the means available to you: e-mail, photos, videos, notes on the bill of lading, etc.,” Stoiber said. “Good documentation helps all of us.”

To avoid disputes, the presenters said communication is the key.

Best practices include customized, one-page checklists for shippers, carriers and receivers to help them make sure they communicate crucial information to supply chain partners. The best practices and checklists are on the group’s website at

Gordon said in his 40 years in the produce industry one of the things that he learned early on hasn’t changed. He said respectful treatment of truck drivers and quick turnaround time to get them back on the road is critical to maintaining good relationships with carriers.

“It is even more important to get them on their way with the new hours-of-service regulation because loading and unloading time now counts toward their driving time,” Gordon said.

Top transportation tips

  • Inspect produce with the truck driver present before loading and unloading.
  • Check pulp temperatures at loading and unloading and note them on the bill of lading.
  • Pre-cool produce before loading.
  • Don’t put temperature recorders where vents will blow on them in the trailer to ensure accurate readings.
  • Require carriers to provide constant temperatures rather than relying on cycling patterns of refer units.
  • Make sure all documents are completely filled out to avoid delays at border crossings.