Posts Tagged “electronic logbooks”
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.
Based in Kenosha, WI and observing its 29th anniversary this month, Cooling Runnings has the majority of its business hauling produce out and California and the Northwest.
Plotsky cites lower diesel fuel prices as a primary factor in produce truckers doing better this year. Despite less money going for fuel, the owner operators his truck brokerage works with are saying they still need $2 per mile as freight rates continue to struggle keeping up with the increasing cost of operation.
“Business is better than last year,” Plotsky observes, “but it still could be better. There is an up tick in the economy, although I still see it as pretty flat to maybe slightly better at best.”
Cool Runnings has a history of working on a regular basis with the same produce truckers. The company provides advances to drivers, but Plotsky says one sign they are doing better, is fewer advances in pay are requested. “This leads me to believe the drivers have more money in their pockets,” he says.
Still, Plotsky knows that excessive rules and regulations on the trucking industry are taking its toll. For example, he points to the electronic logs being pushed this year by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
“A lot of the older guys are not going to plug it (electronic logs) into the engine. They are saying, ‘you know what, I’m not going to do this, and they are hanging it up,” Plotsky says. While implementing electronic logs is not that complicated, he says it is matter of excessive FMCSA government oversight.
His truckers generally feel they are doing a good job of providing service and doing it safely. They are not hurting anyone, and trucking legally for the most part.
At the same time, Plotsky notes in produce trucking it is a challenge when there are so many multi pick ups. Delays at loading docks make it more difficult to operate legally. Yet, drivers are going to have to find a way to do this when the electronic logbooks become mandatory.
“With the multiple pick ups and delays in loading, it makes it a challenge to make on time deliveries. If you don’t get out of California on Monday night or early Tuesday morning, you can’t make it to Chicago on Friday. You can drive it, but not legally,” Plotsky concludes.
Driver Rex Criddle of Downey, ID can’t say enough good things about his company, Doug Andrus Distributing LLC of Idaho Falls, ID. It is a family owned carrier that has been around a long time (DOT number is 000234).
“They (Andrus) are a religious, hard working people who treat their people right, plus they maintain good values,” Rex says. He notes the fleet owner drove trucks for 20 years and got a good understanding of the profession before moving into the office. Andrus runs about 250 trucks with flatbed, reefer and bulk divisions.
Rex says even though he is happy working for the fleet operation, he takes nothing for granted.
“They could sell out tomorrow to a Swift (Transportation), and things could change,” he states. “I always tell my kids, the first check that bounces, you get another job. The first fuel card that won’t work, you start looking elsewhere for work.”
He also pragmatically states the DOT may appear at your door one day and shut down your operation. Again, he doesn’t take anything for granted.
One change in trucking Rex likes are the new electronic logbooks. He says they are more simple, plus easier to fill out.
“It’s not worth having logbook violations on your record,” he states. “It seems the DOT is more interested in safety violations than anything.”
For example, he points to the CSA-2010 rules administered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which many in transportation view as unfairly rating the safety of motor carriers.
“I seriously wonder how many of the older drivers want to continue putting up with all these rules, while the younger kids want to be home more often,” he says.
At one time in his career Rex was farming, then 12 years ago began driving for a regional carrier. He says both trucking and farming have a lot in common and both provide a lot of independence.
Rex has been driving for Andrus Distributing for 10 years. He had an accident while driving early in his career, but since this time has had a perfect driving record. This also has resulted in Rex receiving his Million Mile Safe Driving Award.
“It always seems to be the (truck) driver’s fault in an accident. These four wheelers don’t seem to realize how dangerous getting hit by an 80,000-pound truck can be. You have to learn how to relax while driving. I learned this driving a farm tractor.”
Rex does a lot of team driving with his wife Lori Criddle, except when she is spending time at home with her grand children.
“I think my wife is a better driver than I am. We make a good pair. Team driving can either strengthen your marriage, or it can ruin it,” he observes. “She’s done a great job of raising the kids. One of daughter just recently got married.”
Rex and Lori have one child, while he has another six children from a previous marriage.
The couple drives a Freightliner Cascadia. It is equipped with an automatic transmission. The truck has a 70-inch sleeper and pulls a 53-foot Utility trailer with a Carrier Transcold reef unit.
Rex had just delivered a load of Idaho potatoes to the Atlanta State Farmers Market. He was then going to pick up a load of beer in Albany, GA for delivery to Vancouver, WA.