Produce Panel’s View of Trucking – Pt. 2

The hours of service rule changes are not major, but they are confusing.  A greater focus is needed on prevention of stolen produce loads, and there are discussions of alternatives to using trucks to haul produce, but the alternatives are not that impressive in most cases.  These are just a few of the topics addressed at the United Fresh Produce Convention, held May 1-3 at the Dallas (Texas) Conventi0n Center.  The session was titled Examining Today’s Transportation Challenges and Alternatives.  (To read more about this session see the report published on May 3rd)

Dan Vache’, vice president of the United Fresh Produce Association describes hours of service as a top concern of the produce indutry.

Gary E. York,  general manager, C.H. Robinson Co. Worldwide Inc. describes the hours of service rules as “complicated”, specifically noting that twice a week driver’s are not allowed to drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

“If more drivers were able to operate 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. it would mean less drivers on the road during high traffic hours,” York adds.

A member of the audience points out the hours of service regulations were altered for safety reasons, “but in some cases the changes make it less safe.”

Another audience member asks the panel about compliance of rules and regulations for truckers.   York replies that technology is helping to improve compliance and will do more so in the future.

On the topic of stolen loads, Vache’  relates there are no good answers, “but we have to police ourselves.”  For example, if a truck shows up with a load of nuts, the receiver or buyer needs to know from where it came.

There also is a lot of contraband crossing the U.S. border from the Southern hemisphere and being distributed throughout the USA and Canada.  Vache’ notes the U.S. and Canadian governments are working together to reduce this problem.

With the seasonally high volume of produce, less available refrigeration equipment and rising rates, the topic of alternatives to truck transportation are addressed.  Panel members indicate there are certain commodities and routes for transporting produce other than truck, but it is limited.

Alex Crow, national trucking manager, Hellman Perishable Logistics, says, “I don’t think we can replace trucks on certain routes, but we can do some things like with Washington state to Chicago on certain items (like apples, onions and potatoes).

York indicates railroad service has improved, pointing out a rail delivery from Washington state to Chicago can occur within 12 hours of what a single truck driver can deliver.  Rails are now delivering loads to the East Coast in six days.

However, York adds that a problem with rail service is the lack of intermodal equipment.  There also is the challenge of rails being able to compete with trucks when it comes to backhauls, or return loads.  Rails remain an option, are slowly increasing their volume, but York doesn’t see any significant improvements in the next three to five years.

An audience member comments there are transportation problems in moving potatoes out of Idaho.  The challenge is getting the equipment to Idaho to make the hauls.

Concerning the CSA safety enforcement systems for trucks that used to be known as SafeStat,  Vache’ says in the future the scores will have more meaning as the government is better able to track carriers.

“It’s going to force carriers to be more selective in the drivers they hire,” Vache’s states.  “It is going to revolutionize the industry.  It will result in liability becoming a bigger issue for carriers.  Technology will result in more efficiency to the industry, but more liability.”