E-logs have been a headache for produce companies across the U.S., and Boston is no exception. ( File Photo )

Boston wholesalers report business has been mostly as expected this winter, and companies are looking forward to spring.

“Winter’s always slow for us in general, depending how harsh the winter is it can be slower than normal, but this was your typical winter, a little on the slow side,” said Maurice Crafts, vice president of Chelsea, Mass.-based Coosemans Boston. “That’s to be expected, and now that it’s warming up a little we seem to be jumping back to life.”

Anthony Aresco Jr., a partner in Chelsea-based Matarazzo Bros., gave a similar account.

“It’s all weather-related,” Aresco Jr. said. “We had (an unfortunate) month of April weather-wise with snow and cold and nobody’s going out.”

Allen Lisitano, vice president of Chelsea-based Lisitano Produce, also noted the company is expecting business to pick up as temperatures rise.

“Weather-wise March was tough, and February was equally as tough,” Lisitano said. “Every time we thought we’d get ahead, a lot of times we had those midweek snowstorms, on a Wednesday, which would really ruin your whole week. We had a couple of blizzards back-to-back Wednesdays, and a couple of those weeks and February’s over and it’s a rough month.

“But overall we’re keeping our head up, plugging away and keeping going, and the weather’s breaking now, so it kind of brings out a little energy,” Lisitano said.

Crafts noted companies seem to be more sensitive to weather reports than in the past.

“If the forecast calls for a foot of snow or a blizzard, they’re not coming down like they used to,” Crafts said. “Some companies are always going to go down, but it’s too expensive now to send a truck down and get stuck in the snow or tell your driver to go drive somewhere and then find out the place is closed or something like that.”

 

E-log effect

Along with winter weather, the requirement that truckers log their hours electronically has also been a challenge.

Adjusting to the new reality has been a work in progress for numerous companies, as has been the case across the industry.

Some reported minimal disruption, but others noted that accounting for the change has been a persistent wrinkle.

“Everybody’s still kind of feeling that one out even now,” Crafts said. “I don’t think people have quite figured out exactly what to do ... It’s definitely had an effect on business. We’ll get there, we’ll figure it all out, everybody will — shippers, growers, everybody will figure out what they have to do — but yeah, it will be different for sure.”

Before the e-logs requirement, a customer could call in an order Monday for what he needs Thursday, for example.

Now a customer might have to call the Friday of the previous week to get items by Thursday, Crafts said.

Steven Piazza, president of Everett, Mass.-based Community-Suffolk, also described changes.

“It’s just going to be a matter of myself and our sales team getting used to allowing more time for product to get here,” Piazza said. “Instead of being pretty much the fifth morning arrival, if you don’t have a team you’ve got to figure six, six-and-a-half days now.”

Steve Ricci, sales manager for Chelsea-based DiSilva Fruit, noted similar adjustments happening.

“The e-logs have been really hard to factor into my buying schedule and selling schedule,” Ricci said. “A lot of it is just increasing transit time from California by a couple days and out of Texas the same way, so it’s been a battle to try to work around that.”

He projected that freight rates will go up this summer.

Dominic Cavallaro III, general manager of Chelsea-based John Cerasuolo Co., also expected transportation to continue to pose challenges.

“I think it’s going to remain the same through the summer,” Cavallaro said. “I think it’s going to be a difficult go with the trucks.”

 
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