Truckers aren’t all about the freight rate

10/31/2012 11:13:00 AM
Coral Beach

Doug StoiberCoral BeachDoug Stoiber, vice president of produce transportation operations at L&M Transportation Services, Raleigh, N.C., discusses ways produce companies can successfully compete with other shippers for the shrinking number of trucks in the U.S. during a workshop at Fresh Summit 2012.ANAHEIM, Calif. — Other than increasing freight rates, the best way for produce companies to secure the trucks they need when they need them, according to a transportation specialist, comes down to one word that Aretha Franklin taught everyone to spell: Respect.

Doug Stoiber, vice president of produce transportation operations for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Transportation Services, told attendees at a Fresh Summit 2012 work session that the U.S. needs about 111,000 more truck drivers to reach optimum levels for freight movement.

There is little hope of much relief in the short-term, Stoiber said, partly because of the demographics of truckers.

The average age of commercial truck drivers is 48. Less than 10% of those with commercial driver’s licenses are younger than 30, and current law prohibits anyone younger than 21 from having a CDL. President Obama wants to allow states to have the right to lower the age to 18.

And then there are the baby boomers, beginning this year the nation’s largest generation started hitting 65 and retiring at the rate of 10,000 every day.

But those numbers aren’t the only issue when it comes to produce competing with other freight. Dry freight rates are lower than produce, but risks are lower, too.

When a trucker picks up a load of produce he has liability potential until the receiver accepts the load. Also, Stoiber said a truck can cross the country for at least $1,500 less by not using the refer unit.

But Stoiber and more than a dozen commercial drivers in the audience said more respectful treatment of drivers would go a long way in helping produce shippers attract drivers.

“Truckers have been viewed as obstacles to doing business instead of partners in the supply chain,” Stoiber said.

He said to make produce a preferred load shippers should be as generous as possible with rates.

“Think in terms of price per consumer unit instead of $1,000 per load. That will give you a different perspective,” he suggested. “But loyalty and respect are so important to these drivers; the transaction doesn’t end with a good rate.”

Stoiber pointed to a set of best practices for shippers, receivers and carriers that the North American Produce Transportation Working Group released earlier this year as a guide on making fresh produce a preferred load. Tips such as decreasing detention time when loading and unloading, and allowing drivers to watch loading are best practices that drivers are particularly responsive to, he said.


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Colby    
Salinas Ca  |  October, 31, 2012 at 05:59 PM

Just to clarify on the age for CDL drivers. I got my CDL Class A the day I turned 18, allowing me to drive strictly Intrastate (inside of CA). The law states you must be 21 years or older to drive interstate (outside of CA).

Doug Stoiber    
Raleigh, NC  |  November, 01, 2012 at 02:25 PM

Thanks, Colby. As the writer mentioned, I did say that states are beginning to lower the age at which an individual can get a CDL. At present, 26 states make that allowance, and more are considering it. The challenge, as you mentioned, is that you can only work intrastate. So much of the volume that produce shippers move goes across several states. The industry would really be well served by having drivers get interstate driving privileges at 18 or 19.

Steve    
Durham ,NC  |  November, 07, 2012 at 09:48 AM

I have been a Landstar Agent for 12 years now and when I first got into this line of work I refused to work with Produce companies. The reasons were many but as I got older and wiser I hooked up with Freshpoint of Jacksonville FL and we used drayage companies to haul there produce between facilities on there trailers. This was great for all parties, lower costs for FP and regular freight for the carrier and a regular schedule for me to keep.You hit the nail on the head when you said that the shipper and reciever needs to speed up the loading and unloading times. They just don't care about the fact that a driver has another load to pickup and in this day and age time is money... I would love to do more work for produce companies but the drivers don't want to haul it unless they get 3 to 4 bucks a mile. They have to cover their costs and then some inorder to feel good about taking a produce load. Being a broker for Landstar has been great but when it comes to a load that is perishable I start loosing sleep over it. Its like my wife Happy wife Happy home... A happy driver makes for a job well done. Knowing that if we were all to get on the same page I think there would be a huge increase in all areas of the hauling produce. Doug with the two of us being so close I would like to sit down and talk sometime. Steve Fay

Doug Stoiber    
Raleigh  |  November, 07, 2012 at 02:50 PM

Steve, that would be great. Contact me at doug.stoiber@lmts.com.

Paul O. Haller    
Landrum, SC  |  November, 07, 2012 at 07:15 PM

Greetings; "to allow drivers to watch loading" you say..... Who is legally responsible as to how the truck is loaded? Check your federal DOT drivers rule book for the answer. Paul O. Haller 828-216-2224

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