Posts Tagged “Best Practices”
There have been an amazing advances in trucking equipment and other technology since I first started covering the transportation of fresh fruits and vegetables in 1974. However, some things never change. The human element remains. In order for both the driver and the other parties involved in the successful loading, transit and delivery of the produce, honesty, fairness, and respect must be at the center of the business deal.
A webinar was held July 18 where a set of “best practices” have been developed by the North American Transportation Working Group (NATWG), which consists of members of the produce industry seeking improvements between their trade and the trucking industry. Among those participating were individuals from Australia, Mexico, Canada and the USA.
For decades it has been realized that some things never change. The need for communication and documentation are vital when hauling fresh produce, and those was emphasized once again at the webinar.
The advancements in technology was discussed at the webinar. For example there is becoming more use of temperature recording devices in transit that are combined with GPS systems so real time temperatures can be monitored. However, without good documentation of the load, all the technology around may not be able to protect thosed involved in the load, whether it be shipper, carrier, or driver. That documentation can be anything from photos, to bill of ladings, videos, e-mails, or a combination of these.
The NATWG has developed abest practices and checklists are on the group’s website at http://naptwg.org. It is a one-page checklist for shippers, truckers and receivers to provide important infomation to those involved in the load .
Jim Gordon, operations manager for Ippolito Fruit & Produce Ltd. of Toronto has been in the produce industry for 40 years. He observed that early in his carerr he realized the importance of respectful treatment of truck drivers, plus the need for fast turnaround times to get them back on the road. This is a key to maintaining good relationships with carriers.
This becomes even more critical with the new hours-of-service regulations because loading and unloading time now counts toward their driving time, Gordon said.
Top transportation tips
- Inspect produce with the truck driver present before loading and unloading.
- Check pulp temperatures at loading and unloading and note them on the bill of lading.
- Pre-cool produce before loading.
- Don’t put temperature recorders where vents will blow on them in the trailer to ensure accurate readings.
- Require carriers to provide constant temperatures rather than relying on cycling patterns of refer units.
- Make sure all documents are completely filled out to avoid delays at border crossings.
NATWG is to be commended for their efforts in improving working relationships between the produce and trucking industries. Unfortunately, there are those in the produce and trucking industries who are not as noble as the NATWG appears to be. Thus, recommendations and guidelines on a piece of paper will only go so far.
Something with more “teeth” in it is ultimately needed.
The produce industry has enjoyed protections from the federal government through the USDA by a vehicle known as the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. For over 80 years PACA has provided mediation and arbitration when there are business disputes between parties in the produce industry.
Since at least the 1960s or 70s there have been occasional efforts to bring produce trucking into the PACA to provide these same protections where there is a claim that cannot be resolved. Unfortunately, some in the produce industry have successfully fought these efforts.
Better treatment of truckers was a primary theme at a session titled, Transportation Best Practices for the Produce Industry, held during the annual show of the United Fresh Produce Association, May 1, at the Dallas (TX) Convention Center.
The theme of the meeting is based around a set of transportation guidelines released earlier this year by The North American Produce Transportation Working Group (NAPTWG). The group has released a document combining various transportation guidelines for the produce industry to use, with the end result being better treatment of truckers leading to more refrigerated equipment and drivers being available to haul fresh fruits and vegetables.
A member of the audience tells the panel there is a shortage of 200,000 drivers and “we’ve got some problems coming up” with an improving economy.
Panel member Ken Lund, vice president, support services, Allen Lund Co., said the average age for truckers is over 55, and not that many drivers are entering the industry. There are 2.7 million Class 8 trucks and 98 percent of those are companies with 10 trucks or less. Most refrigerated produce haulers have a one truck operation, he says.
“We want drivers to be treated well,” Lund states. He adds that today more retail receivers are treating drivers better.”
Lund notes the USA is looking at an eight and one-half to nine percent unemployment rate, yet there are “tens of thousands of openings” in transportation. “But there are not a lot of people entering the industry and we want to make it better for them.”
He points out the Allen Lund Co. has a transportation education program for drivers providing them various kinds of information such as how to take the pulp temperature of produce to ensure product being loaded has been pre-cooled.
Panel member Frank Swanson, category manager, U.S. Foods said, food safety is a concern for his company. “We look at how to get transportation companies that take care of the product and maintain the correct temperature.”
Panelist Ken Nabel, president, Kingston and Associates Marketing, LLC points out a lot of military personnel are coming home, receiving discharges and should provide a lot of potential for jobs as drivers.
Another member of the audience asks the panel what is the leading cause of produce loads being rejected?
Bret Smith, director of commodities procurement, Safeway Inc., responds the majority of kicked loads results from temperature problems with fruits and vegetables, as well as issues relating to quality.
“We need to know if a problem exists in route, not when the load arrives,” Smith says. He adds having a driver check list, plus ensuring the driver has been trained to “check all components” associated with the load helps to avoid problems with claims.
Lund points out that there are seperate points on the NAPTWG website for shippers, truckers and receivers. Those points can be found at: www.naptwg.org
What is the number one issue for produce transportation in 2012?
Nabel believes it is the cost of diesel fuel.
Smith cites “having good companies (carriers) with a good driver base.” He also says the high cost of goods Safeway must purchase for its stores is a concern. On the plus side, Smith believes docks used to consolidate loads are becoming more efficient, which is making consolidated loads more attractive to drivers.
Lund, obviously looking weeks ahead to the peak spring and summer shipping season for produce states, “When rates get high, a lot of people jump into the market (especially) when rates hit $10,000 from California to New York….Prices (rates) have gone up. Ten years ago it was $3,000 from California to Atlanta; now it’s $10,000. If we had those prices 10 years ago….” he notes
The transportation broker then adds, “Thre are a lot of shady brokers out there and a lot of double brokering going on.” Lund relates a lot of times a shipper will list the Allen Lund Co. on the document as a shipper. “We are not a shipper, we’re a broker. This is where a lot of theft occurs, as well as double brokering.”
On another topic, the panel discusses railroads and its role in hauling fresh produce.
Smith of Safeway says the retail chain has not been very successful using rail, although the company continues to consider it.
Swanson of U.S. Food cites the service of RailEx, a company working with major railroads, providing coast-to-coast unit trains. He likes the RailEx “door-to-door” service, but says over all the service is very limited.
Lund points out that only one to two percent of the nation’s fresh produce is shipped by rail.
“Some people on Capitol Hill think 50 percent of produce should be on the rails. But the infrastructure changes would be monumental,” Lund says.
Ending the session was an audience member asking the panel about 18 wheelers being powered by natural gas.
Lund says there has been a lot of testing in this area, however the infrastructure for cross country trucking is not available. Most trucks using natural gas are doing local hauls.
(For more information on the NAPTWG, see press release published on HaulProduce, titled, Transportation Group Releases Best Practices. It ran on Jan. 17, 2012)