In a nutshell, produce truckers too often receive the shaft in unfair claims and deductions from the produce industry. And the produce industry, which has protections in disputes, won’t even consider allowing these same truckers the protections they enjoy. More about this in a moment.
It is turning into a relatively uneventful produce shipping and hauling season, as far as total produce volume as well as supply and demand for refrigerated equipment. Rates remain strong from the major shipping areas, but not setting any records. Any produce shipping area that may be reporting a shortage of trucks is probably experiencing this shortage primarily due to not increasing the rates enough to attract more equipment. Often the shipping areas are off the beaten path, and providing more lower cost, basic or “hardware” produce items.
Also, when I describe the summer produce shipping season as “relatively uneventful,” I qualify that by saying there still are the usual unfair claims and deduction on loads at destination. Combine this with the fact, there have been a number of produce companies file for bankruptcy this year, it increases the odds that the trucker will be the last to paid, and probably not receive a dime of what is owed.
Many if not most produce companies receive protections under the Perishable Commodites Act (PACA) that provides protections and arbitation in disputes between members of the produce industry. However, as I’ve “preached” for decades now, truckers are not afforded the same protections. So if you are owed money by a bankrupt receiver, you are pretty much on your own in trying to collect monies owed. Even with a receiver not involved in a bankruptcy, and there is an unfair claim or deduction, unless you have an exceptional carrier, shipper or broker behind you, or you can afford a lawyer to represent you, mostly likely in a state hundreds if not thousands of miles away — you are out of luck.
Meanwhile, the produce industry continues to have meetings, conferences, teleconferences, etc. now and then, that promote good and fair treatment of produce truckers. This is honorable. There are actually some people in the industry that care and would love to see produce haulers receive the same protections as members of the produce industry. But they are easily in the minority and lack the clout to do much about it.
Large produce companies with political clout and money generally won’t consider PACA protections for truckers — and until this changes — no one in the Federal government has the will, stomach, or abililty to fight for this needed change. — Bill Martin