Posts Tagged “freight”

Ocean Freight vs. Trucking

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IMG_2589+1Nearly two dozen members of Mexico’s produce industry were recently in Philadelphia to observe firsthand what this port has to offer in handling and distributing Mexican cargo arriving by ocean.

The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority hosted the Mexican Inbound Trade Mission. Also in attendance were government representatives and regional industry members who have been active in the Ship Philly First effort to create an ocean link between the east coast of Mexico and Philadelphia, which is a seaport specializing in the fresh and vegetable produce trade.

SeaLand, a refrigerated container steamship company stepped up to link Mexico and Philadelphia through its new SL Atlantico Northbound weekly service, which began in late January. While there is certainly room for growth, all indications are that the route has a strong start.

Fresh Mexican produce is the primary target for the northbound service, but frozen meats and chilled foods are other key products that suit Atlantico Northbound. Dry goods, such as auto parts and many other commodities have access to the service.  In broad numbers, Pennsylvania and Mexico have two-way trade with one another with a total value of $8 billion.

This new ocean freight option gives Mexican exporters a less-expensive alternative for reaching the populous eastern United States and Canada.  Forty percent of the U.S. population is within a one-day truck delivery of the Port of Philadelphia.

The Mexican produce exporters located south and east of Mexico City have been tagged as having the most to gain through this ocean freight vs. trucking through Nogales. AZ or the state of Texas.

SeaLand sails from Veracruz on Tuesdays to make a stop in Altamira, which is another port further north on the Gulf of Mexico coast in the state of Veracruz. The ship then departs for Philadelphia and arrives the following Wednesday, six days later.

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Allen Roberson: A Successful Owner Operator Since 1972

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Allen Roberson has been trucking for 40 years and he’s got a few reasons why he has been a successful owner operator since 1972.  But it may not be what you think.

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.







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Working This Truck Like a Dog to Make it — Bradley Cook

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The strong, but seasonal produce trucking rates off the West Coast sound pretty good, until one starts to consider what it takes to get a Westbound freight haul.   The hard economic times in the USA has taken its toll on many truckers.   Some in trucking report dry freight grossing as little as $2000 from the Mid-west to California.

Bradley Cook  drives a truck for Frank’s Transport, a one-truck operation out of North Miami Beach, FL. recently caught up with him at a Flying J Truck Stop, after delivering a load of juice.  He was hoping to get a load of freight out of Tulsa, OK for the West Coast to pick up a load of produce.

The 35-year-old has been trucking either long haul or locally since 1998, and this is about as tough as he has seen it.

“I’m working this truck like a dog trying to make ends meets,” he says, pointing to the conventional Peterbilt he is driving.   The owner operator he is driving for once had three trucks, but now it is down this single tractor.

It is not easy when outbound dry freight is paying only $1.35 to $1.40 per mile, while eastbound produce loads are grossing about $2.25 per mile, “if you are lucky.  The people paying for the East bound (produce) want to pay you the Westbound rates,” he says, “although they pay the better rates because they have little choice.”

It also does not help that other produce shipping areas often do not pay that well.  He cites per mile rates of out of Florida being $1.25, while Texas loads are averaging about $1.50 per mile.  The high cost of number 2 diesel fuel only makes it worse.

“The price of fuel is so high the produce people and everyone else are relying on the freight charges of 20 years to help make up for it (cost of deliveries),” Bradley says.

Adding to the challenges of hauling produce are the delays in loading and unloading the often occur.

“With produce, I often face delays anywhere from one to eight hours.  The product may still be in fields, even though I’m at the facility on time to load,” Bradley states.  “I am picking  up in California and supposed to deliver in Massachusetts.  If I am late for delivery (because of loading delays), that Massachusetts receiver will not pay full price for that load upon arrival.”

Another primary “beef” with Bradley is dealing with four wheelers, and particularly those driving cars who cut off big rigs.

If a wheeler cuts me off then hits the brakes, I’m going to hit my brakes, but I can’t stop on a dime.  I’ll end up going five truck lengths through that guy’s vehicle,” Bradely states.

In some Western states he notes speed limits on some highways are 80 mph.  “You can cut me off, and I’m going to end up killing you (with my truck, which can’t stop),” he says.

Bradley believes as part of obtaining a driver’s license four wheelers should have to ride in big rig for three weeks to get a better understanding of what it is like to operate an 18 wheeler and “experience the centrifical forces of nature.”

Similar problems exist with four wheelers who tail gate big rigs and when the trucker hits the brakes, if the other driver is not paying close enough attention he can  end up “going through your DOT approved trailer bumper — and die.”





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