Posts Tagged “Bill Martin”

A Few Thoughts About What Thanksgiving Means to Me

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DSCN4604Happy Thanksgiving!  Come February HaulProduce.com will quietly celebrate its 5th anniversary of providing you with what I hope is information worth your valuable time ranging from active produce shipping areas, peak shipping periods, caution when needed about quality problems at shipping point, demand for refrigerated equipment, produce trucking rates, not mention health stories and other news related to perishables.  Unabashedly this site is a proponent of healthy eating and promoting the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Fresh produce is a daily part of my diet.

Today, there are nearly 1000 subscribers to HaulProduce and I cannot thank each of you enough.  Since its inception nearly 1900 posts have been placed on this blog.

It has been three years now since retiring after 40-plus years traveling this great nation as a journalist writing about both the trucking and produce industries.  It was this knowledge gained from both industries that led me to create the Produce Truckers Network back in the 1980s.  At its peak it had over 60 radio stations across North America and also was on satellite radio for several years before its completion after 20 years on the air.  The same concept exists today with HaulProduce.

Although officially, retired, this outlet allows me to continue to doing something I love – and at the same time provide something useful to our subscribers.  At the same time it allows spending more time with my kids, grandson and my lovely wife of 49 years.

It is with all of this in mind I plan to fully enjoy Thanksgiving, to appreciate and give thanks for all the opportunities available in the United States of America.

I will thank the good Lord for all those “highway warriors” that deliver over 95 percent of the fresh produce to markets across this great nation, as well as being thankful for everyone else in the distribution chain from growers and shippers, to all forms of companies involved in the distribution chain.  It certainly doesn’t end up on our Thanksgiving dinner table by magic.

May God bless each of you and have a blessed Thanksgiving.

— Bill Martin

 

 

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In-Transit Challenges, Part III: Checking Product Upon Arrival

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DSCN7138While TransFresh Corp. devotes plenty of resources to preparing fresh berries for in-transit travel to destinations far and wide, it also has specialists at the docks to evaluate product when it is ready to come off the truck.

“We continue to be involved with tracking the product and how it is doing upon arrival,” states Rich Macleod of TransFresh Corp., known for its Tectrol® Service Network that provides covering for palletized product infused with CO2 (carbon dioxide), extending the quality of life for perishable items such as berries.

With of the projects of TransFresh is partnering with the Scotland based company, Insignia Technologies that manufactures temperature sensitive labels that go on cartons.

“What’s really intriguing about their technology is rather than it being a temperature switch, i.e., if a particular carton senses a temperature of 50 degrees F. or higher at anytime, it will change color,” Macleod observes.

For example if a carton of berries is unloaded off the truck at destination, and it is showing a little warmer temperature verses other cartons, it can be put another truck for faster store delivery before other product with cooler temperatures.  The same theory applies even at the retail store level.  If a produce manager sees a color change with a carton, he knows it should be put in a display case to be sold before other products.

“This can help maintain quality and reduce shrink with product, and the customer  ‘experience'”, Macleod says.  “So we have been doing a lot of work in this area to improve the technology.  Lots of people are wanting to try it, but it is still in its infancy.  It usually requires me, or one of my associates to be there for the testing.  We’re probably another year away from announcing something on this.”

This research is unique, Macleod notes, because the visual color change with the carton reveals any “abuse” of the product, anywhere along the shipping point to destination.

“In the transportation (in-transit) portion, we’re going to give them (drivers) a lot of leeway.  The color changes won’t be changing until the product hits the retail store,” Macleod says. “So this is a product we are working on and it is coming.  I see a huge upside to that, because there are concerns about food safety and temperature.  This may allow us to identify that random carton,” he concludes. — Bill Martin

(This is last of a III-Part series based on an interview with Rich Macleod, vice president, pallet division North America for TransFresh Corp, Salinas, CA.  He has been with the company 40 years and has a masters degree in post harvest science from the University of California, Davis.)

 

 

 

 

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In-Transit Challenges, Part II: Research, Technology is Improving Berry Arrivals

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RichMacleod13Berries have always posed one of the higher risks for produce truckers because of in-transit perishability.  However, because of research and technology the chances of a retailer being pleased with quality upon arrival at the dock are much better. That can mean fewer problems for the driver at destination.

TransFresh Corp. of Salinas, CA has been at the forefront for decades in studying ways to extend the shelf life of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, among other items.

Some of the technology research at TransFresh is resulting from the way strawberries are now being marketed, Rich Macleod of the company relates.  Just take a look in the produce department at your local supermarket and chances are you’ll see more two-pound and four-pound strawberries in clamshell packaging being promoted, with less emphasis on one pounders.

At the same time, raspberries, which are among the most perishable of berries, has been receiving extra attention.

“We still need to learn how to correctly ship raspberries.   At TransFresh we’ve had to make adjustments a couple of times for shipping raspberries,” Macleod releates.  Much of that learning process relates to the Tectrol program where palletized fruit is sealed in a bag with CO2 (carbon dioxide) that slows product deterioration and extends the life of the product.

“Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries all use the same common denominator,” Macleod observes.  “But what happens is we customize the pallet bag we put on each product.  So at the time the strawberry pallet or raspberry pallet moves across our conveyors (at the packing house), the people (working there) approve a bag (for shipping).”

Much of that approval is based on the color of the palletized bag, which determines on which load the product will be shipped.

For example, raspberries may be in a green bag, strawberries in a red bag, etc.  Additionally, all the bags are numbered.

Macleod adds, “There is some sophistication even among the colors of the bags.  The two pounders (clamshell packs)  have a different color from the four pounders and one pounders.  We are always training the operators of the machines for the pallets, which bags to select.” — Bill Martin

(This is Part II in a III-Part series based on an interview with Rich Macleod, vice president, pallet division North America for TransFresh Corp, Salinas, CA.  He has been with the company 40 years and has a masters degree in post harvest science from the University of California, Davis.)

 

 

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In-Transit Challenges, Part I: Modified Atmosphere Makes a Difference

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RichMacleod13Among the most perishable produce items refrigerated haulers transport are berries.  But a produce trucker’s risk of a claims or rejected load at destination is certainly reduced thanks to TransFresh Crop., the widely recognized leader of in-transit, pallet modified atmosphere service.

The Salinas, CA based company, now approaching its 50th year of operation, offers fully automated pallet service systems which tailor the specific atmosphere mixture for each pallet unit.  Benefactors of TransFresh’s  Tectrol® Service Network range from shippers, to truckers, receivers, and ultimately the consumer.  It is a process whereby pallets of berries are sealed with bags and infused with CO2 (carbon dioxide), a process that extends shelf life of the fruit.

Rich Macleod of TransFresh says the Tectrol process continues to dominate the market share in the produce industry, but says there will always be competition.

“If you want the modified atmosphere or the CO2 blanket for your berries at retail, it has got to be sealed and it has got to be at the right (CO2) level,” he states.

TransFresh has a group of technicians conducting inspections at retail operations upon delivery of some loads.

“We are pretty unique in this area.  The driver shouldn’t be too surprised to see a technician standing at the back of his trailer taking readings of the atmosphere,” Macleod says.

Feedback from produce truckers is appreciated by the technicians and those drivers appreciate what is being done, once the process is explained to them, he notes.

Still, there are challenges.   For example, there may be turnover at retail and a new produce buyer may be looking to cut costs, or a new strawberry salesman may be wanting to increase profit margins.  However, Macleod says if part of that decision involves not using the controlled atmosphere bags on the pallet, that retailer is not going to get the pay back he expects.

If you haul California strawberries, perhaps you have noticed some consolidations with some companies and down sizing of operations by others.  Strawberry growers have been faced with increasing production costs and there has been a trend to focus more on growing raspberries, blueberries, etc.

At the same time, Macleod believes a few of the larger berry shippers who have successful marketing programs, appear to be doing quite well. — Bill Martin

(This is Part I in a III-Part series based on an interview with Rich Macleod, vice president, pallet division North America for TransFresh Corp, Salinas, CA.  He has been with the company 40 years and has a masters degree in post harvest science from the University of California, Davis.)

 

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Wishing You a Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year and welcome to 2016!

It has been a memorable year for HaulProduce.com   We’ll be noting, if not celebrating our 4th anniversary on January 12th, of providing you the most up to date information on hauling fresh fruits and vegetables as well as issues surrounding fresh produce that may affect you.

We posted our 1300th item on December 18th.  Those taking advantage of our free subscription continues to grow.  This is where you are automatically notified of new postings.  We have now surpassed 350 subscribers.

I want to thank my sponsors, all of whom I’ve personally known 20 years or more.  All of them represent the highest standards of honesty and integrity, and truly care not only about their customers, but the men and women behind the wheel of the big rigs that keep this nation moving.

There is Allen Lund and Kenny Lund (Allen Lund Company), Fred Plotsky (Cool Runnings) and Jimmy DeMatteis (Des Moines Truck Brokers).  If you are an owner operator, small fleet owner or some other type of long haul carrier, you are in good hands with these folks.

TransFresh is another sponsor, but of a different nature.  When you click on their ad it can open a lot of doors to valuable information for those involved with transporting perishables.  Rich Macleod of TransFresh has a soft spot for the hard work ethic and the issues facing produce truckers, and he understands and appareciates the vital role they play.

The challenge of not only finding produce loads, but being paid a fair freight rate, is just the start.  Delivering that perishable product from point A to point B in a timely fashion, and in good condition can be equally as challenging.  Hopefully, through HaulProduce.com we can play a small part in making your business more successful.

In the meantime, here is wishing you a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2016 – and of course, safe travels.  God Bless. —Bill Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Veteran’s Day: Thankful for Our Heroes

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As a veteran I VetsDayhad about as good a duty as you get.  My first 18 months was in the Philippines.  I was editor of a base newsletter at the Cubi Point Naval Air Station, plus I had an additional job as editor of the officer’s club newsletter at nearby Subic Bay.  That meant $100 extra per month for an E-2 grade sailor right out of boot camp.  As icing on the cake I had full access to the officers club since I interviewed and photographed acts performing at the officer’s club ranging from Johnny Mathis to the Ink Spots.   From the Philippines I spent 2 months on a heavy cruiser based out of Norfolk, VA before transferring to a submarine base in Groton, CT, where I served in the public affairs office on the admiral’s staff, which included doing a Navy news program on local radio.

I point this out because today is Veteran’s Day – and I want to honor those that are the real heroes.  I could have easily received duty where I may have been killed in a Vietnam jungle as 50,000 American heroes did, including a handful of friends I grew up with.  I well remember flying home for leave from a U.S. Air Force base in the Philippines to Anchorage Alaska on a medivac flight that was filled with injured service men from Vietnam. Now those are real heroes.

I’ve often thought that young people in America who have never spent time in poor countries, where poverty and sickness are rampant, often don’t really appreciate what they have here in the United States.

So here is to the real American heroes, our service men and women who serve and have served so valiantly to protect and preserve the freedoms we enjoy in this great country.  God Bless you. —

JO2 Bill Martin, USN

 

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Produce Rates Ain’t What They Used to be

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IMG_6391Remember only a few summers ago when produce trucking rates from California to the East Coast were hitting $10,000?  It hasn’t even come close to that in 2015 – and there appears to be a number of factors why.

As we head towards the Labor Day weekend final shipments to receivers for the holiday are now underway, if not already delivered.  Don’t expect major rate increases.

East bound coast to coast rates in the summer of 2014 that were in the $8000 range are closer to $6500 this summer.

Here’s my take on why produce trucking rates are off.

***Less California Produce Volume.  The 5-year California drought is beginning to take its toll on agriculture and it’s going to get a lot worse unless the El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean changes things this winter.

The San Joaquin Valley is being hit relatively hard by the drought and it is adversely affecting volume on many crops ranging from cantaloupe and honeydew and other melons to stone fruit, tomatoes and citrus.  In the Salinas Valley, which has not suffered from the drought as much as in the San Joaquin Valley, all types of lettuce volumes have been like a roller coaster this summer.

The highest rates from California to the East Coast this year have been in the $8,000 range, and those were only for a limited amount of time.

***Rail Competition.  While the railroads provide only limited competition, it still has an affect of produce trucking rates.  After all, the rail rates are based trucking rates and often offer 10 to 15 percent less to haul.  Still, we’ve seen a couple of rail related companies go out of business this year.  The railroads have a history of dropping produce related services for other, less perishable products.

***Rules and Regulations.  The insanity of excessive rules and regulations from both the federal and state levels continues, and it is having disasterous effects on owner operators.  Rates are not keeping up with increasing costs of operations, although lower fuel prices have helped.  Still, when you have the California Air Resources Board and their emission standards and other business killing rules, plus the feds pushing to implement Electronic on-board Recorders, not to mention many others, it all adds up.

***Qualified Drivers

The lack of qualified drivers continues to be a problem, although it could become a lot worse when the economy turns around.  Attracting young people into the trucking industry continues to be a challenge.  It’s a hard life and there’s certainly easier ways to make a living.

***Mexico.  Over the past 20 years more and more produce is being grown in Mexico, and much of it is being driven by investments from  American farming operations.  Mexico has cheaper labor and less government interference in their operations.  At the same time there is less produce being grown in California — Bill Martin.

 

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Part II – Allen Lund Co.: Freight Rates Not Keeping Up with Costs

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DSCN4660Kenny Lund doesn’t argue with the American Trucking Associations annual study, American Trucking Trends, which shows independent truckers and leased owner operators making $56,167 on average in 2014, which was 7 percent more income than the previous year.  However, the vice president of operations for the Allen Lund Company, a third party logistics provider, says freight rates still aren’t increasing enough and operating costs are high.

For example, gasoline in California is $4 per gallon, while Number 2 diesel is about $3.50 per gallon.  Take on excessive government regulations, plus an economy that leaves a lot to be desired, and Lund doesn’t see the freight rates keeping up with other costs.

“Truckers are making more money, but the rates aren’t up as much as expected, and the economy was expected to be much stronger,” Lund says.

He points out produce trucking is still dominated by companies with five trucks or less.

God bless the owner operators out there.  They don’t realize collectively what they do for this country and how important they are,” Lund surmises.  “We try to convey that as a company and treat these owner operators with the respect they deserve.  They are a critical component in the economic system of the U.S.”

He recently heard someone point out if all access to Los Angeles was cut off, there is only a four-day supply of food available.  Lund calls that thought “sobering” and notes people just do not realize what a great transportation system has been built in this country due to all of the small companies working together.

“With the efficient distribution system throughout the U.S., you can pretty much get strawberries anywhere in the U.S. the year around, and this is true with most major commodities,” he says.

ALC Logistics

As for Allen Lund Company, he is particularly excited about a division of the firm, ALC Logistics.  He developed the company’s Transportation Management System, building it from the ground up.  It is the first one created and provides software solutions ranging from claims management to freight audits, and carrier contracts, among other features.

“It is pretty exciting.  We are running about $1.4 billion through the system, working with the companies we have now, and we are just getting started,” Lund says.

As for the trucking industry itself, Lund is very interested in the development of driverless trucks.  For example the technology is now available where you can follow someone on I-40 from New Mexico to Arkansas and never touch the steering wheel.  He sees this addressing problems associated with hours of service regulations.

“I think we’re only five years or less away from it (driverless trucks),” he notes.

“If you can sell this to the driver by saying you are almost out of hours, then you put it on auto pilot.  The driver can then go to sleep while the truck is moving down the road, and have your hours still available when you arrive at destination,” Lund observes.  “It makes the single drivers like teams.”

(This is part II of a two-part series.  The Allen Lund Company was formed in 1976 by its namesake.  I have known Mr. Allen Lund nearly since the founding of the company.  His son Kenny Lund joined the company 26 years ago this month.  At that time the operation had 32 employees.  Today Allen Lund Company has 500 employees, arranges about 250,000 loads a year, of which about 40 percent is with fresh produce.  The company has 30 offices nationwide and will soon break the $500 million mark in annual sales. — Bill Martin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Part I – Allen Lund Co.: Reasons for Flat CA Produce Trucking Rates

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DSCN4660Many folks involved in fresh produce transportation are wondering what is going on in California.  Despite the state growing and shipping about one-half of the nation’s fruit and vegetables, rates have remained relatively flat during the heaviest volume period of the year.

In search of answers, we turned to Kenny Lund, vice president of operations for the Allen Lund Company of La Canada, CA, a transportation brokerage and logistics company that has been in business nearly 40 years.

“I think we’re in a historic…incredible shift in produce,” Lund states, “where product is being grown where it hasn’t been grown before.  It’s hard to get the numbers, but it’s looking like there’s a 20 percent increase in produce from Mexico.”

He also cites production and shipping increases from Canada, as well as boat arrivals with imported produce from around the globe.

“But there is not an increase from the most fertile land in the world (California); there’s a decrease,” Lund contends.  “I think the decrease is more significant than people will say.”

While acknowledging the drought has a lot to do with it, Lund sees an attack by environmentalists on the California agricultural industry as being a factor.  He points to cuts in water allocations to agriculture and water going elsewhere due to environmental reasons.

He says there has been somewhere between 400,000 and 800,000 acres of California farm land being placed out of production.

“It is political more than anything,” Lund states.  “They build pipelines for everything, but for some reason we can’t do it for water.  You keep seeing a reduction of water in California and an increase in people (living here). The drought is more political than the actual drought.  There is  a lack of water going to the farms.  The Columbia River going into the ocean is enough in itself to handle California farming needs.  But the environmentalists will not let that happen.”

Similar to a statement Lund has made many times about the over regulation of trucking, he says the excessive regulation of farms is “amazing.”  For example he recently talked to someone in charge of compliance with a California farming operation and was told she had to answer to 42 different government agencies.

Lund believes this a contributing factor to Allen Lund Company having more produce loads than ever crossing the border from Mexico into California, Arizona and Texas.

“It’s a contradiction.  50 percent of the nation’s produce is grown in California.  That is under attack by a lack of water due to over regulation of farming, as well as trucking,” Lund says.  “Government is over regulating diesel engines, farming equipment, pumps; all these things are under severe attack.”

Each of these factors are contributing to what he calls a “historic” shift in produce shipments from California.  Lund talks of the Autopista Durango-Mazatlan, a 143-mile highway spanning from the growing regions of west Mexico to Texas ports of entry that opened last year.   As a result business in McAllen, Tx is booming.

While California produce trucking rates are remaining rather flat, Lund says rates are up significantly in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.  At the same time, Florida is “mixed” because it has a very similar growing and shipping season to Mexico with which it competes.  Still, he notes Florida does not have nearly as many regulations, plus that state has plenty of water.

(This is Part I of a two-part series.  The Allen Lund Company was formed in 1976 by its namesake.  I have known Mr. Lund almost since the founding of the company.  His son Kenny Lund joined the company 26 years ago this month.  At that time the operation had 32 employees.  Today Allen Lund Company has 500 employees, arranges about 250,000 loads a year, of which about 40 percent is with fresh produce.  The company has 30 offices nationwide and will soon break the $500 million mark in annual sales. — Bill Martin)

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Produce Truckers Still Lack Adequate Protections

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IMG_6477+1There is angst among some in the Canadian produce industry because the rules set up by an entity of America’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has changed some rules regarding protection they receive when there is a dispute involving a produce transaction.  However, it could be worse.  What if the Canadians had absolutely no protection against unfair practices, something U.S. produce truckers have never had.

The U.S. government recently took away a trading privilege from Canadian produce companies that has been available for more than 75 years.  The result is fruit and vegetable producers risk losing thousands of dollars, closing their businesses, or moving across the border into the U.S.

Canadian produce companies that were owed money from U.S. companies could pay $100 to start a legal process, under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA).   This would happen when U.S. companies didn’t pay their bills on time, at all, or when the company declared bankruptcy.

However,  in October 2014, the United States withdrew Canada’s privileged access to PACA after the Canadian government neglected to implement the same privileges this side of the border.   Now Canadian fruit and vegetable producers have to pay double the amount of money they’re owed to get access to the unpaid funds. If they’re owed $100,000 for cucumbers for example, they have to pay $200,000 as a bond to get the process started.

For decades, this writer has advocated owner operators, small fleets and large fleets hauling fresh fruits and vegetables be afforded similar protections the USDA’s PACA provides for the produce industry.  This would be invaluable for produce truckers facing unfair claims or deductions or rejected loads.  However, the produce industry has always fought against such measures and the PACA has certainly shown no interest.

About the only recourse for produce haulers is going through the court system, which can be costly, time consuming and particularly difficult considering the fact the problem may have taken place thousands miles from the trucker’s home base.  Otherwise, hope and pray you have a good truck broker or shipper backing you when such issues arise. — Bill Martin

 

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