Posts Tagged “Atlanta State Farmers Market”
Allen Loggins has been an owner operator all but three years since he began trucking in 1996. Some might consider him old school, whether we’re talking about the 25-year-old Pete he drives, or his refusal to haul cheap freight. Then there is the matter of him keeping his down time to a minium waiting for loads.
We’ll start with the latter.
A resident of Jackson, GA, Allen says he used to run Florida a lot over a 25-year period. That has changed.
“There is a lot of sitting and waiting in Florida. I used to haul a lot of stuff (freight) into Florida ports. But there is simply too much waiting,” he relates. This also applies to hauling Florida produce, especially during the off season.
Instead, Allen now prefers Texas over Florida. He hauls mostly fresh produce out of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Often his destination is the Atlanta State Farmers Market. Sometimes he’ll deliver the fruits and vegetables elsewhere in Georiga or the Carolinas. The return trip to Texas typically involves meat that will be exported to Mexico. It typically is something like processed chicken or balonga he picks up in Selma, AL.
“I like hauling produce,” Allen states. “Some people think you are nuts. But if you haul out of Florida, you are nuts. I would sit there all day then they want you in Atlanta in no time. Florida wears you out hauling produce. Texas is much easier.
The 51-year-old trucker says there are occasions he’ll be stuck a day or two in McAllen, TX waiting for the product from Mexico to cross the border, but that is rather unusual.
Allen owns and operates Southern States Produce, which consists of his 1989 Peterbilt conventional, housing a 425 hp Model B Cat diesel. The truck has a 15-speed tranny and 3:90 rears. He pulls a 53-foot Great Dane trailer cooled by a Thermo King refeer unit.
Allen knows the old Pete well. He drove the truck for the owner until that person retired. A few months ago Allen purchased the truck and once again became an owner operartor.
“I don’t like these new trucks. They have too many electronics and sensors. They are too expensive to repair,” he states.
When it comes to produce hauling, Allen has a few basic principals to follow. He makes sure the product is hauled within in the proper temperature range. He also avoids mixing perishable items that are not compatable. Finally, he checks his reefer unit every couple of hours or so making sure it is doing its job.
Allen had recently delivered a load of Mexican green house grown roma tomatoes to the Del Monte facility in Altanta that he had picked up in South Texas. He then loaded meat products in Alabama for delivery back to Texas. From there he picked up a load of Mexican avocados, again in South Texas, where were delivered to the Atlanta State Farmers Market.
He just had his rig washed at the nearby Patriot Truck Stop, before taking four days off until hitting the road again. Allen typically has the truck washed a couple of times a month, citing the need of making a good impression with the shippers and recievers.
“I don’t want to pull up to the dock with a dirty assed truck. If you don’t have a nice looking truck, they might think you don’t take care about their load,” Allen observes.
Finally, as an owner operator, Allen says he has to gross between $2 and $3 per mile. This way he makes enough to put some cash away for repairs and maintenance.
It make sound old school, but it seems to work for this owner operator.
As one of the faster growing wholesale distributors in the Southeastern United States, the family owned Nickey Gregory Co. has not only achieved success due to the way it conducts business with fresh produce, but realizes the importance of transportation. In fact, President Nickey Gregory will be the first to tell you that since the beginning, he has owned a truck.
Opening on New Year’s Day of 2000, Gregory now has 14 big rigs being run by sister company, Gregory Family Express, which operates within a 750-mile distribution radius of their headquarters, located on the Atlanta State Farmers Market. The company also has 16 straight jobs running between Atlanta and its facility that opened three and one-half years ago in Miami.
“I’ve been in the wholesale distribution business and in the trucking business since day one. The one needs the other,” states Gregory, whose wife Cheryl Gregory is company vice president. There also are several other family members holding key positions in the company.
The full line wholesale distributor handles over 300 fresh produce items, sourcing product from all over the United States, as well as Canada, Spain, Mexico and Holland. The product is distributed to customers in Georgia, as well as Florida, the Carolinas, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia.
In recent years Gregory build a new 50,000-square-foot warehouse and offices on the Atlanta State Farmers Market. More recently, a repacking operation has been opened near the market.
While trucks are vital to the various Gregory operations, less than one percent of Gregory’s produce is delivered to Atlanta by rail. Still, Gregory wouldn’t hesitate using rail if it could provide the service. He notes one can save a dollar to $1.20 per package using railroads, but this does no good when it takes a month to receive your order.
“We used to do (buy) apples from Washington State. But we’ve lost orders by railroad for up to a month. It took nine months to get the claims settled with the railroads,” Gregory says. What little rail service he uses is mostly potatoes and onions out of Idaho and Oregon.
He states there was better rail service in the 1920s from Bakersfiled, CA to Atlanta when trains would stop to have railcars loaded with lettuce iced down.
“Texas used to be a rail market,” Gregory recalls. “We would receive cantaloupe from there.”
The wholesaler receives less than one percent of its volume by rail. Trucks continue to provide the service and flexiblity so important when handling fresh fruits and vegetables.
From day one at Nickey Gregory to this day and the foreeable future, refrigerated trucking will be a key to the company’s success.
He talks about working directly with shippers for starters. For example, the past six years Allen has worked directly with Lipman, a 60-year-old farming and shipping operation that was known as Six Ls until a name change in September 2011. Based in Immokalee, FL, Lipman is North America’s largest field grower of tomatoes with 4,000 workers and 22 locations.
Not only does Allen work directly with shippers, but good ones.
“Six Ls can call me anytime and I’ll be there. I stick with them, but it works both ways. They treat me well and I provide them with great service,” says Allen, who lives in Canton, NC.
Another reason the 64-year–old veteran trucker has always been able to make it as an owner operator is because he has his own operating authority.
“Having your own authority makes a big difference,” Allen says. “You don’t have to pay some else to run under their operating authority.”
How often does he haul produce? Everyday. He pretty much hauls exclusively for Six Ls (Lipman), a company that also has several vegetable items in addition to tomatoes. Most of his hauls are up and down the East Coast, although he occasionally delivers in the Midwest.
On this recent November day, Allen was at on the Atlanta State Farmers Market delivering tomatoes he had picked up in Asheville, NC. He didn’t know where the tomatoes were grown. Once unloaded, he would be deadheading the 200 miles back to Asheville.
“I’ll be paid for the deadhead miles,” Allen says, although he did not want the amount per mile publicized for the record. If I haul something up there then I’ll get full pay.”
Another key to being a successful owner operator is being on time.
“You have got to be dependable and on time. Wal Mart will charge (deduct from your freight) $100 if you are a minute late for arrival. It happened to me one time,” he recalls.
Allen also rarely eats in a restaurant, although he averages well over 100,000 miles a year on the road. He saves by taking and preparing his own meals.
While being on time, having your own authority and working directly with shippers are keys to his success, these are not the most important factors.
“The most important thing,” Allen says, “is you have got to have what it takes inside of you. You have to want to do it. You have to have that internal drive to work.”
Operating as E.A.R. (Edward Allen Robinson), he owns a 2006 Western Star he actually purchased new in 2007. It is powered by a 550 h.p. twin turbo Caterpillar diesel and features an 18-speed transmission. The sleeper is fully equipped with everything from a flat screen tv to a microwave oven. The Star has logged 700,000 miles. It pulls a 53-foot Utility trailer with a Thermo King reefer unit.
Allen is seriously considering retiring in May 2013. However, he admits not being sure whether he is going to keep the Western Star or not.
However, a little later he adds jokingly, “I’m going to leave my truck in the yard for a little while, just in case I wear out my welcome at home.” He has been married 20 years and has six granddaughters and two grandsons.
He’s looking forward to the holidays and taking some time to be off with the family and buying gifts for the grand kids.
“It’s really worth it, just seeing the smiles on their faces,” he concludes.