Posts Tagged “produce truckers”

Pandemic Heroes: Thanks to Our Brave and Patriotic Men and Women

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Nicole RumseyMarch 20 ·  My view pulling into work this morning. These trucks all rolled in last night to load produce heading out across the country! I’m honored to be part of the amazing produce industry. God bless our truck drivers, provide them with safety & health as they do their part to keep our country going!

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Transportation Rates Are Lower, But Many Remain Higher than Last Year

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DSCN0299It is a bit amusing watching the produce industry’s reaction to transportation rates and other issues.

Little thought is given to transportation – trucking or rail – until there are problems.  Those problems almost always center first on what’s the cost of the truck?  Find the cheapest truck available is pretty the industry’s unwritten motto.

This has typically been most true after demand for refrigerated equipment subsides entering the fall as produce volume is seasonally lower.  It continues until around March or so when spring produce shipments are increasing and demand for equipment rises accordingly.

Since last year this has all changed.  Another cycle in trucking has arrived.  These cycles typically last maybe three to five years.  The cycle that has ended saw rates for produce truckers remain pretty stagnant.  A sluggish economy with stagnant wages did not present as many attractive employment opportunities.

That’s now in the rear view mirror as demand for trucks, and drivers is often outstripping supply.  Now there’s near panic is some produce industry corners. Not only are freight rates substantially higher, but getting a truck at any cost is often a challenge.

Truck rates have recently backed off some, but spring is coming soon and we’ll see how long that trend lasts.

The federal mandate for electronic logbooks certainly isn’t going to help no one.  Truckers currently are allotted 14 hours of operating time, but how often do they waste much of this time at loading and unloading docks? When multiple pickups and drops are involved, the problems is only compounded.

While truck rates have plunged from only a month ago, they are still much higher than a year ago.

Rates from the California desert are currently about $7,400 to  New York City, off 15 percent from three weeks earlier.  However, the current rate is still 20 percent above the same time a year ago.

For a load of apples out of  the Yakima Valley in Washington state the gross freight rate is around $4,600 to Dallas, 20 percent below only a few weeks ago, but very similar to rates at the same time last year.

Rates from south and central Florida for tomatoes and veggies are mostly below $3000 now, which is 20 percent more that a year ago.


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How Produce Trucking was Affected in 2017 by Weather

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Tk12017 had its share of bad weather conditions of different varieties that presented challenges for produce truckers.

Heavy snows early in the year resulted in collapsing buildings in the Northwest holding onions, among other items.  During the spring a Southeastern killer freeze wiped out the majority of peaches and blueberries.

On the Gulf Coast and in Florida two hurricanes were devastating.

On the positive side, winter rains eased the California drought significantly.

Citrus hauling was adversely affected with Irma causing at least $760 million in losses to citrus, with many growers losing at least half of their crop.   Vegetable and strawberry shipments also were adversely affected by Irma, but not nearly as much.

Banana imports by boat were diverted from Galveston to Florida ports after the storm.  The port of Houston remained closed for months.  The 50 inches of rain dumped on the Gulf Coast area was the most on record in the U.S. for a single storm.

In Georgia, a March freeze knocked out 70 percent of the peach shipments and an even higher percentage of blueberries.

Wave after wave of late-winter rains flooded fields, caused crop delays and played havoc with planting schedules and ultimately produce shipping schedules in California.  However, Salinas Valley produce grower and shippers were so desperate for rain they weren’t complaining.

The rains brought a much-needed cleansing of the soil in the Salinas Valley by helping to leach unwanted salts below the farmed portions of the soil.  Still California needs another two or three years like 2017 to end its drought.

In January 2017 in the Treasure Valley region of Western Idaho and Eastern Oregon, two major snow storms in less than two weeks resulted in collapsing of a number of onion storage sheds and other structures.  At least eight onion companies lost one or more buildings, while at least five had three or more cave in.


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Update for Loading Imported Melons, Avocados

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honeydewConsistent loading opportunities for imported melons are expected in coming months.  However, an expected bump in avocado shipments leading up to the Super Bowl will not be as big as originally thought.

Steady imports of imported melons are seen throughout the winter season for distribution throughout the U.S. and Canada by truck.

Guatemala’s imports finished in late January, but will be ramping up again in March.

Imported Mexican watermelon volume is much better this winter and are dealing with El Niño-affected volumes like last year.  Current Colima production will shift to Sonora from May through July.

Excellent fall and winter growing conditions in Guatemala have been very good for record melon yields and imports.

Mexican melons, tomatoes, vegetables crossing at Nogales, AZ – grossing about $3400 to Chicago.

Mexican Imported Avocados

There will not be any increase in imports of Mexican avocados for U.S.. produce truckers anytime soon from the state of Jalisco, which was planned for shipping in time for the February 5th Super Bowl.  Avocado shipments typically increase significantly prior to the big game since it so popular with Super Bowl parties, etc.  Still, there should be enough avocados to meet the demand.

Shipments from Mexico’s state of Jalisco — thought to be on track in mid-January — are expected to be delayed for three or four months.  However, final clearances have not been approved and some issues apparently have to be resolved.

Jalisco’s share of Mexico’s 3.4 billion pounds of output is estimated at about 5 percent.  The USDA reported that 2016-17 acreage of avocados in Jalisco totaled 44,000 acres, about 9 percent of Mexico’s total avocado acreage of 503,000 acres.

Mexico accounted for about 95 percent of U.S. avocado supply in mid-January, with light volume also noted from Chile, the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.

Mexcian avocadoes crossing through the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas – grossing about $4200 to New York City.


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13% More U.S. Apples Remain to be Shipped over Previous Season

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dscn8591Good apple loading opportunities for produce truckers should remain throughout the season which normally continues into August.  This will be particularly true for Washington state, the nation’s leading apple shipper.

There are significant differences in U.S. apple shipments by region, but fresh market apples remaining in storages stood at 120.3 million bushels on December 1st.  This is an increase of 13 percent over a year earlier and 12 percent more than the five-year average of 107.5 million bushels.

New York state easily leads apple shipments in the Northeast and was particularly hit hard by cold weather at blossom time.  Plus a persistent drought during the growing season didn’t help New York or other Northeastern apple shippers.

New York apples in storage as of last November 1st were down 28 percent from the same date a year earlier.

Also of interest is Michigan apple shipments now rank number 2 in the nation, having surpassed New York.  Michigan apples in storages were 17 percent higher last November than the previous season, thanks primarily to good growing conditions.

Apples remaining in storage in the Western states, led by Washington, were 17 percent higher on November 1st than a year earlier.

Nationally, the total number of apples in storage was 179 million bushels, 11 percent more than the previous year total of 161 million bushels.

Apples are big business.  The fruit had totaled $2.9 billion in total sales as of October 29th, or 7.3 percent more than the same period in 2015.

Gala was the dominant variety, with $670.5 million in sales, followed by Honeycrisp, $541.5 million; fuji, $386.6 million; granny smith, $330.9 million; red delicious, $311.3 million; Pink Lady, $157.5 million; golden delicious, $129.2 million; mcintosh, $80.5 million; and Ambrosia, $60.9 million.

Apple growers in Michigan harvested an estimated 31 million bushels in 2016, compared to New York’s total of an estimated 28 million bushels.

Washington had its second-largest apple crop in history — 137.4 million bushels as of November.  The record is the 2014 crop of 142 million bushels.  There are 7 million more cartons of red delicious and 5 million more of galas remaining in Washington storages, compared to 2015.

Apple shipments from Eastern growing areas hasn’t been as fortunate.  There was a record cold snap in mid-April in Pennsylvania and other states, which may have reduced the New York and Pennsylvania crops by up to a third.

Yakima Valley (WA) apples and pears – grossing about $6400 to New York City.

Western Michigan apples – grossing about $3100 to Dallas.


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Where’s the Biggest Demand for Produce Trucks?, Plus Lots More

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dscn8594Check out where in the nation the biggest demand for produce truckers is….Also, there are reasons South Texas is becoming a bigger player for hauling Mexican imported produce. Plus, what’s up with pomegranates.

Idaho Potato Shipments

The biggest demand for produce trucking in the country is coming out of the Twin Falls, ID area.  Easily, the largest potato shipping state, Idaho is currently averaging about 2000 truck load equivalents of mostly russet potatoes per week.

Idaho potatoes – grossing about $2200 to Atlanta.

California Pomegranate Shipments

 Most pomegranates for the holiday season have already been shipped because of a short crop due to heavy October rains.  The USDA reports only 120,000 pounds of U.S. pomegranates shipped between November 6 – 12, off from 660,000 between November  8 – 14 a year ago.  The year-to-date total for U.S. pomegranate shipments is 7.56 million pounds, down from 9.17 million pounds at the same point last year.

California’s Pom Wonderful accounts for about 60 percent of the pomegranate shipments, which normally lasts through January.

Crown Jewels Produce, of Fresno, normally ships through the second week of December, but finished its season a month early.  Its volume is down about 30 percent.

Simonian Fruit of Fowler, CA typically ships pomegranates into January, or February, but will wrap up its season by Christmas if not sooner.

Mexican Import Growth

Mexico continues to play a pivotal role in the Texas produce industry.
“We’ve seen tremendous growth in our Texas ports of entry on the import side,” Bret Erickson, president and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association, said recently. “It’s important to recognize also that many of our largest producers in Texas are also some of our largest importers, so the import industry plays a real critical role in the overall success of the produce industry in Texas.”
Import volumes were up nearly 25 percent in 2015 from the previous year, and a significant volume of fresh produce coming from Mexico now goes through Texas.
This has resulted in volumes of fresh produce coming through Pharr, TX just about equaling tonnage in Nogales, AZ.
Reasons for the increase in import volume include a new highway system in Mexico, which serves as a pipeline from the main production area of Mexico straight to south Texas.
Weather and labor issues in the U.S. have also contributed.  However, the import growth rate is expected to slow in the coming years as the infrastructure in the area expands to handle the volume now being transported.
The boom in infrastructure in south Texas is certainly a positive economic impact to the state of Texas in terms of jobs and construction companies getting bids to build cold storage facilities, with some being as large as 100,000 square feet.
Mexcian imports through South Texas – grossing bout $3100 to Miami.


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Double Digit Increase in Apple Shipments Seen

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dscn8461There should be good loading opportunities for produce truckers hauling apples during the 2016-17 shipping season.
National Apple Shipments
Fresh apples in storage as of November 1 totaled 134.8 million bushel (42-pound) cartons, up 14 percent from last season’s levels and 13 percent greater than the five-year average.
The first storage report from the U.S. Apple Association, shows total apple inventories were 179.1 million cartons, up 11 percent from a year ago and from the five-year average.
Northeast Apple Shipments
November 1 total fresh holdings were 8.1 million cartons in the Northeast U.S., down from 11.4 million cartons a year ago and 10.5 million two years ago.  New York state’s fresh holdings were pegged at 5.82 million cartons, or more than 70 percent of remaining fresh supply.
Midwest Apple Shipments
In the Midwest, the  storage report showed 7.7 million cartons of fresh apples on hand, up from 6.9 million cartons in 2015 and 6.7 million cartons in 2014.  Within the Midwest region, the storage report showed Michigan accounted for 7.54 million cartons, or 98 percent of the Midwest fresh supply.
Northwest Apple Shipments
Northwest U.S. fresh apple holdings on were 117.6 million cartons, up from 98.4 million cartons a year ago but off from 127 million cartons in 2014.
For the Northwest region, Washington’s  apple inventories were 116.3 million cartons, or 99 percent of remaining fresh apples in the Northwest states.
Variety breakdown
The leading U.S. fresh varieties on hand Nov. 1 were red delicious (39 million cartons), gala (25.9 million), fuji (14.7 million), granny smith (13.7 million), golden delicious (8.1 million), Honeycrisp (7 million cartons) and cripps pink/Pink Lady (5.5 million cartons).
The Washington State Tree Fruit Association on Nov. 9 raised its estimate of the Washington fresh apple crop to 137.4 million cartons, up 3.4% from the August estimate of 132.9 million 40-pound cartons.
The Washington apple harvest is still ongoing for some varieties, but based on volumes harvested so far observers  are expecting an increase to 137.4 million boxes.  An estimated total may be revised in December.   However, observers still see a high-quality crop with good storage potential, with plenty of loading opportunities for produce haulers.
Washington apple shipments – grossing about $5300 to Atlanta.
Michigan apple shipments – grossing about $2700 to Atlanta.

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Solution to Florida Tomato Dumping Found?

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IMG_6551+1While produce truckers haul thousands of load of Florida tomatoes each year, the Sunshine state still has a big time tomato waste problem.  Some solutions to this problem may be coming from researchers in Florida.

They have been performing groundbreaking work on turning rotten, damaged and generally unfit for sale tomatoes into electricity, which could be a major source of green energy.

The researchers working on the pilot project see tremendous potential in the new “tomato battery.”   They believe it could eventually generate enough energy from the state’s tomato waste to power Disney World’s 43 square mile complex of hotels, theme parks, golf courses and shopping centres for three months of the year.
The process could also reduce Florida’s tomato waste, which currently has 396,000 tons dumped into landfills and waterways annually, causing significant problems for the environment.
The scientists are using bacteria to break down and oxidise “defective” tomato waste – a chemical reaction which releases electrons that can be captured in a fuel cell and be a source of electricity.
Tomatoes are particularly well suited to the job because they contain a bright red carotene pigment, which the researchers have found to be an excellent catalyst for generating electrical charges.
Team leader Professor Venkataramana Gadhamshetty said: “We wanted to find a way to treat this waste that, when dumped in landfills, can produce methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – and when dumped in water bodies, can create major water treatment problems.”
He acknowledges that the amount of electricity they are generating from tomato waste is relatively small, but says with more research and development the energy output can be increased many times over.

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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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Canada Seeks to Implement PACA Similar to That in U.S.

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(While this story doesn’t apply to produce trucking directly, in reality it really does.  The PACA system in the U.S. fails to provide protection for produce truckers in the event of a dispute involving problems ranging from claims to rejected loads and unfair deductions from the load.  In effect, the trucker has little recourse in a dispute, but to seek remedy through the court system, which can be very expensive, time consuming and not very practical.  Currently, the best solution is deliver to reputable produce receivers.  It also helps to deal with shippers, truck brokers, logistic companies, etc.DSCN4997 that will back you in an unfair claims dispute. for decades has called for PACA to include produce trucking, but the produce industry, which has very close ties with the USDA, which administers the PACA, has strongly opposed it.)

The Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Horticultural Council applaud the commitment from the Liberal Party of Canada and Liberal Agriculture Critic Mark Eyking to establishing a Canadian mechanism comparable to the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act(PACA) in the United States and to restoring Canada’s preferential access to PACA programs.

“CPMA raised this issue when we met with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau last September, where he committed to resolving this critical problem for the produce industry,” CPMA President Ron Lemaire said in a press release. “We are thrilled that he is following through on this commitment and that the Liberal Party recognizes the importance of a strong produce industry that can continue to provide fresh, healthy food for Canadians.”

“Growing and selling fresh fruit and vegetables is risky, which makes this commitment to ensuring strong, equitable payment protection tools, both in Canada and when exporting to our largest market, all the more important,” Anne Fowlie, executive vice president of the CHC, added in the press release. “We are grateful of the Liberal Party’s support of those who bring fresh fruits and vegetables to our tables every day.”

The lack of payment protection in Canada is the number one issue for fresh fruit and vegetable growers and sellers across Canada. The industry has long advocated for a PACA-like trust in Canada. The highly perishable nature of fresh produce makes the industry uniquely vulnerable during bankruptcies, risking financial ruin for those affected.

Produce sellers in the United States have PACA, which provides a deemed trust mechanism that ensures that growers and sellers are paid should a buyer go bankrupt or simply refuse to pay for the product they receive. Canada had been the only country whose exporters were granted the same protections as U.S. companies under PACA.

The U.S. revoked Canada’s special access due to the lack of similar trust protection and the lack of progress in fulfilling the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council commitment to establishing a comparable approach in Canada.

Long vulnerable in Canada, the situation became more urgent after the decision last fall made exporting to the U.S. a much riskier enterprise for Canadian companies, who currently send 40 percent of all produce grown in Canada to U.S. customers.

Since Oct. 1, Canadian companies trying to recover unpaid bills have had to post a bond of double the value of their claim to move forward with a formal claim under PACA. Many cannot afford to do so and must simply walk away from what they are owed, a decision several have already had to make.

CHC and CPMA have been asking all parties to commit to resolving this issue in their platforms this election. A limited statutory deemed trust, like the PACA model, is a no-cost solution and the most effective means to resolve the issue. Other options would result in high cost to both sellers and government, while still providing ineffective protection.

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