The New Year started off with good news for owner operators and small fleet owners, but had those in the produce industry anguishing over the cost of transportation rates.
A few coast-to-coast rates out of California actually topped $10,000 with the beginning of January. Produce rates have soared as much as 30 percent from some shipping areas. It has caused some int he produce industry to consider rail service, something they seldom think of when rates are more in line.
Depending on whether you are a trucker or a shipper and whether you have contract rates or are dealing in the spot market has a big affected on how you view the rate changes.
Washington state apple rates out of the Yakima Valley in early January to Boston were grossing about $8,400, which mean an additional one dollar cost onto a each 40-pound box of apples. While produce haulers like it, not so with produce receivers.
Vegetable shipments out of the Imperial Valley of California to New England led by head lettuce was grossing about $8400, about $2200 more than at the same time two years ago.
Electronic logbooks, which recently went into effect are being blamed for some higher rates, although it doesn’t appear the new regulations are really being enforced, at least yet. The new devices make it more difficult for truckers to fudge on their hours of service and if adhered to means drivers can travel fewer miles per week.
While it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons for higher produce rates, undoubtedly an improving U.S. economy is creating a bigger demand for refrigerated equipment. Trucking is a hard life and a demanding one and with better economic conditions, many drivers are seeing other jobs becoming available, not only to make more money, but allowing them to be home more with family. Still, January is supposed to be one of the slowest times of the year for produce truckers as less volume of fruits and vegetables are generally available. If rates are ever in the tank it is often during the first quarter of the New Year.