Playing the spot market with freight rates on fresh produce is common with owner operators and small fleet owners. However, refrigerated fleets for years have often negotiated seasonal, if not year around rates.
The fleets see advantages to having more predictable produce rates with higher rates in the slower winter months, but lower ones during the peak shipping seasons of spring and summer.
However, record produce rates this past year has changed ways of doing business, not only for the fleets, but the produce shippers. For example, uncertainty surrounding freight rates has resulted in some Idaho grower-shippers of potatoes to shy away from quoting delivered prices for potato price contracts.
Sun-Glo of Idaho Inc., in Sugar City, has chosen not to take on the risk of volatile transportation rates by quoting delivered prices. The company has found trucking companies refusing to quote set rates, because of the uncertainties in trucking. If those fleets are unwilling to take the risk of contract rates, then the grower-shippers are not going to risk giving delivered prices.
Much higher truck rates have occurred, at least in part, by the implementation of electronic logging device (ELD) regulations last year. Higher truck rates is one of the biggest complaints of grower-shippers. Instead, companies such as Sun-Glo are quoting prices for their potatoes, something which they are in control.
Other shippers are doing business in a similar fashion. Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC of Idaho Falls, ID has indicated it may lose some customers this shipping season because Wada no longer is offering a delivered price contract. It has some contracts with trucking companies to haul potatoes, but it is on a month-to-month contract basis. Six month to one year contracts with truckers has become a rarity. Since Wade Farms cannot get seasonal or yearly contracts with trucking companies, it is avoiding offering delivered price contracts to customers.
Wade Farms has even inserted some flexibility clauses into contracts. For example. if there is an extreme shortage of trucks or holiday overages, it is not locked in to the same price.
Shippers have long complained of retail chains driving down prices on the produce they purchase. Potandon Produce LLC of Idaho Falls, ID has pointed out in the current truck rate environments, some retailers are looking to drive down f.o.b. prices to maintain delivered costs.
In a effort to cut shipping costs Potandon say if offers potato buyers a premium Idaho potato, or it can source spuds from 16 other states which may be closer to their customers. The company continues to seek alternative shipping methods to cut costs.
Potandon is still offering customers delivered prices and says it has the advantage of an in-house transportation department which is in constant contact with freight carriers to get the amount of trucks needed.