*The driver’s shortage is a hoax.
*One of the last concerns of large fleets is the well being of owner operators and small fleet owners.
*Regulations are killing the deregulated trucking industry.
*California produce rates have been lower in recent years and the reason may be different from what you think.
These four statements came to mind following a telephone interview with Kenny Lund, vice president of Allen Lund Co.
Is There a Driver’s Shortage?
When it comes to a driver’s shortage relating to fresh produce, Lund sees the only shortages being at shipping point and at the receiving end These involve short hauls from the field to packing houses and from receiver distribution centers to retail stores, restaurants, etc. But he doesn’t see a driver’s shortage with long haul produce transporation.
Lund concedes there may be a shortage of drivers with the larger trucking companies, stating, “if you have 300 trucks you have to come up with 300 drivers to fill them.” However, produce transportation is dominated by owner operators, who is the driver of his own truck. He doesn’t have to recruit other drivers.
Large Fleets Hurting Owner Operators?
“It seems the larger truck lines are doing everything they can to make it tougher on owner operators,” Lund states.
As examples, LaCanada, CA-based Lund points to big carrier support of everything counter to issues of importance to owner operators. He cites large fleet support of Electronic Onboard Recorders (EOBRs ) that will add costs, and support of California Resources Board (CARB) rules. Why?
Lund points out large carriers tend to rotate their fleets every five years and it is the owner operators who are buying their used trucks. This wouldn’t be so bad except the CARB rules require equipment such as reefer units not to be older than seven years.
“You have to retrofit it for a cost of anywhere from $8,000 to $20,000,” Lunds says. On the plus size, he adds the fleets are starting to realize the CARB rules are not only bad for owner operators, but for the whole trucking industry. Lund believes the damaging CARB rules are a much bigger threat to the industry than a driver’s shortage.
Perhaps the biggest threat to the survival of owner operators are the growing number of federal and state regulations.
“When you produce all these regulations on an one-horse operator, he doesn’t have the resources to comply with everything,” Lund states. “It’s really putting a strain on them.”
Why Have California Rates Been Lower?
Lund notes California produce rates have not been as high in recent years. At the same time he is noticing more truck shortages, but not in California.
“There’s just not as many trucks in California now. What has kept the rates down is there is not as much produce (being grown in California),” Lund contends.
It comes down to California’s intrusive regulations, etc. are also resulting in more produce growers shifting their operations to Mexico where the red tape and costs of operation are less. For example, similar to California, there is less produce being grown in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, yet more truck shortages are occurring there, as more Mexican grown fruits and vegetables are being shipped into South Texas.
These issues are presented to you following a telephone interview with Kenny Lund. I have known Kenny’s father, the namesake of the company since shortly after his modest beginning in 1976 as a truck broker . Today, the company works with over 20,000 carriers, which are mostly owner operators. ALC arranges about 200,000 loads a year, with food items accounting for over 50 percent of the freight. Refrigerated loads make up about 40 to 45 percent of the loads.
While Allen Lund remains involved in the company, Kenny Lund has assumed a greater role in the continued growth and success of the operation. At the same time, the high ethical standards put in place by Allen nearly four decades ago, remain rooted in the company’s foundation. — Bill Martin