For those in the trucking industry, produce season carries an awareness of the many opportunities and challenges that comes with transporting perishable commodities. Managing the rapid changes in available TL capacity when increased volumes begin to consolidate in California presents one of the most significant of those challenges. For produce sellers and retailers, the goal is to bring in the freshest produce at the best prices. In order to do this successfully, they will have to manage their logistics and supply chain accordingly.
In our recent webinar, we addressed what challenges shippers face during produce season, the driving forces behind rising transportation costs and tighter capacity during produce season and how businesses can utilize an inbound logistics program to overcome the challenges of the produce season.
As the nature of logistics and supply chain management is complicated at the best of times, the produce season may serve as a further wrench in the works, especially as it falls during a time in which many carriers are being diverted for vaccine distribution. Below is a break down of a few of the points in further detail.
Limited Equipment During Produce Season Complicates Supply Chain Needs
The choice of which logistics approach to embrace becomes especially impactful as carriers feel the crunch in California. Meanwhile, stocking shelves with visually appealing, fresh produce is even more important in 2021 than in recent years. The pandemic has accelerated an existing consumer trend towards health-conscious, home-cooked meals, creating an increased demand for fresh produce across the country.
The need for well below freezing storage temperatures necessitates the need for specialized equipment, specifically reefer units.
As COVID-19 vaccines are manufactured and subsequently delivered, the need for well below freezing storage temperatures necessitates the need for specialized equipment, specifically reefer units. Given the availability for these trailers and the public need for the vaccine to be distributed, produce shippers will have to pay a premium for reefers in addition to working around a delivery schedule that is tighter and decidedly more limited than years past.
Driver Shortages and a Highly Regulated Supply Chain
It is no secret that the United States has an incredibly finite amount of drivers, decidedly less than demand requires. Driver shortages and lengthy detentions have already plagued 2020 and are slow to show any significant improvements thus far in 2021. It’s no wonder so many agricultural carriers are concerned with the delicate nuances necessary to coordinate a successful produce season this year. The question is, what can shippers do to help mitigate the impact of the driver and equipment shortage so they can keep their shelves stocked in the coming months?
In addition to the driver shortage, there are also federal regulations that need to be considered when transporting produce. The FDA has a fairly stringent set of standards in place regarding the transportation of perishable and consumable goods such as produce. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has a myriad of sanitation, storage and transportation requirements that must be adhered to, or else carriers could be subjected to a series of fines and penalties.
Perhaps a blessing and a curse for produce shippers.
In addition to the FSMA requirements, there are also the HoS mandates that dictate just how long a driver can work at any given time. Perhaps a blessing and a curse for produce shippers, there are some addendums and exceptions to the Hours of Service mandate when it comes to agricultural supply chains that allow shippers to be more efficient when moving produce. However, knowing what these exceptions are and how to best utilize them can be a challenge for even experienced shippers, given that the regulations continue to change.