Changes in federal hours of service regulations, along with stricter rules by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are two primary reasons refrigerated produce loads have increased this year by as much as 10 percent, according to DAT Solutions, a load board network based in Beaverton, OR, as reported recently in The Packer, a weekly national trade newspaper.
Over 99 million transactions annually are made and company bases rate estimates on $24 billion of freight bills, according the DAT website.
The hours-of-service changes require drivers to stop for rest breaks more often, meaning it takes longer to reach destinations such as distribution centers, many of which were located years ago based on drive times allowed under the old regulations.
Some (truckers) have gone to a relay system where the first one drives so far, then another driver picks up the trailer and takes it on. The downside, particularly with temperature-sensitive loads like produce, is that you don’t have the continuity of one driver taking care of the load for the whole trip,” Montague said.
Higher rates also are attributed to the tightening rates emissions regulations by CARB, which apply not only to trucks picking up and delivering produce in the state, but those merely driving through California.
Montague said as of early June, many of the highest rates in the nation were for trucks going into California. The data for the week ending May 31 showed per mile rates of $2.44 in California for reefers. “At least 90% of the fleets that haul fresh produce have 10 trucks or less,” Montague said, adding that many produce haulers are individual owner-operators with only one truck. “The changes in regulations really make it hard for the smaller operators because of the costs for upgrades. The overall message is a lot of smaller truckers are having trouble.”