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Food items are something that will always be in demand. Consumers expect fresh produce and other food products year around. As such, FTR Transportation Intelligence expects 154.5 million truckloads of food and kindred products this year, up 5% from 2017. Moreover, truckloads of food are expected to rise by an additional 8% to 166.9 million by 2020. This, in turn, results in an increased demand for refrigerated and dry vans.
However, regulatory requirements including the recent Food Safety Modernization Act, which includes new rules covering shippers, receivers, loaders and carriers that transport food is having an impact on the industry. One part of the act on food transportation spells out requirements on issues, including adequate temperature controls for trucks, food contamination prevention, and vehicle cleanliness.
Additionally, individual food, beverage, and perishable suppliers are feeling the heat from rising transportation prices.
Additionally, individual food, beverage, and perishable suppliers are feeling the heat from rising transportation prices. During their most recent earnings calls, Kellogg Co. noted that freight is causing its most “acute” cost pressures, while General Mills Inc. issued a full-year profit warning due to increasing costs associated with the shortage of truck drivers. While Kellogg is looking towards its supply chain to achieve cost savings, other food companies such as Hormel Foods and Smithfield Foods, have started to build out their own private trucking fleets.
Produce Season Is a Busy Time
While holidays have a substantial effect on freight capacity, produce season can cause one of the biggest crunches of the year. This year, produce season is kicking off with a bang, which might cause some strain on both carriers and shippers. “US wholesalers and shippers stocking shelves with produce are grappling with steep truck rates up as high as 30 percent from last year — as prices out of California and Mexico surge with the produce season kicking into high gear after Memorial Day,” according to the Journal of Commerce.
“Refrigerated truck rates have followed the same industry-wide trend: spot market prices are up about 20 percent to 30 percent on a year-over-year basis. Load-to-truck ratios are elevated because there aren’t enough trucks capable of handling the demand, which gives the truckers leverage to prioritize shippers paying a higher rate.”
Truckers Feeling the Weight of The ELD
The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate, which was passed last December, is starting to put some extra pressure on carriers. The mandate has effectively lowered productivity while increasing the transit times, as carriers have to contend with the mandatory rest period. According to the Cass Freight Index, shipments have risen upwards of 12 percent over the last month, meaning more trucks are needed to handle the same freight volume. This, of course, needs to happen before a carrier can consider taking on new freight.
Fortunately for the produce season, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has made certain allowances for agricultural carriers. So long as the carrier is operating within 150 air-miles of the loading site, be it a farm, silo, or processing facility, they won’t have to start the clock. Leaving the radius would cause to the clock to resume, but the added flexibility is essential for agricultural businesses to survive the produce season.
Supply and Demand: A Double-Digit Rate Spike
Even with the added flexibility softening the blow from the ELD, market conditions remain largely unchanged. The rise in capacity demand for the season is resulting in some hefty transportation fees. According to data from the USDA, national refrigerated spot rates were up 28 percent (25 percent not counting diesel costs) over the same week last year. These rates are being seen fairly consistently, ranging from 22 to 29 percent on the U.S. west coast. “At one point this year, I paid $12,000 for a truck. Last year for the same load and same route, it would’ve cost me $9,000 [33 percent hike],” said Peter Pelosi, director of transportation for A&J Produce Corp.
Kurt Schuster of Texas’s Val Verde Vegetable Company told KRGV, “They tripled or even quadrupled. What would normally be a $2,000 ride turned into an $11,000 ride? One of the main drivers was actually in the big freeze that hit the U.S., but these freight rates aren’t helping at all.”
Roadcheck Week Had Carriers Scrambling
To further add to the complication, the month of June is when the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance conducts it’s Roadcheck Week. While it’s only a period of 72 hours, most carriers are scrambling to make sure their ducks are in a row. The focus for this year’s road check: Hours of Service Violations. “The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) International Roadcheck takes place June 5-7, 2018. Over that 72-hour period, commercial motor vehicle inspectors in jurisdictions throughout North America conducted inspections of commercial motor vehicles and drivers.
Thirty-two percent of drivers who were placed out of service during last year’s three-day International Roadcheck were removed from our roadways due to violations related to hours-of-service regulation.
This year’s focus was on hours-of-service compliance,” says the CVSA brief. “The top reason drivers were placed out of service during 2017 International Roadcheck was for hours-of-service violations,” said CVSA President Capt. Christopher Turner of the Kansas Highway Patrol. “Thirty-two percent of drivers who were placed out of service during last year’s three-day International Roadcheck were removed from our roadways due to violations related to hours-of-service regulations. It’s definitely an area that we needed to call attention to this year,” the CVSA added.
Work Smarter Not Harder
If the capacity crunch and rate hike proves anything, it’s the fact that shippers and carriers alike are going to have to work smarter if they want to operate at peak efficiency. The ELD mandate is slowing road freight down considerably.
A transportation management system can help make the most of a ripe transportation season while avoiding the pitfalls that come with higher transportation costs and reduced capacity.
This is one of the big reasons that shippers and carriers are looking to 3PLs to help bridge the gap. A transportation management system can help make the most of a ripe transportation season while avoiding the pitfalls that come with higher transportation costs and reduced capacity. BlueGrace partners with an extensive list of carriers, providing you with the resources needed to ease the affects of the tight capacity crunch. If you would like more information on how BlueGrace can help simplify your supply chain and reduce transportation costs, fill out the form below to speak to one of our experts today!