Oakes Farms plans to launch its new transportation company, Seed to Table Logistics, in advance of the mid-December implementation date for the Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) mandate that presents some challenges for the produce industry.

Immokalee, Fla.-based Oakes Farms already had a logistics division with its own trucks, but now it is adding owner-operators as well.

The new company is scheduled to debut Dec. 1, and the staff is expected to grow from three people to 10-15 over the next six months.

Steve Veneziano, vice president of sales and operations for Oakes Farms, described how the change is designed to benefit customers.

“Instead of them using their own in-house logistics or outside brokers, we’re going to manage owner-operators and ensure we do what it takes to get on-time delivery to the customers,” Veneziano said, “because this industry will be interrupted pretty heavily with this ELD mandate coming into effect.”

Under the new rule, commercial drivers will have to use electronic logging devices to track their hours, and stricter enforcement could mean that time spent not driving but on duty — like hours spent waiting at a dock to be loaded — might contribute to delayed shipments.

Veneziano and many others in the industry expect freight costs and shipment times to increase as a result of the mandate.

In another move aimed at streamlining the process, Oakes Farms has started loading by appointment only, a change that took effect Nov. 15.

Western Growers has requested the implementation date of the ELD mandate be delayed by at least one year.

More coverage of how the mandate could affect the produce industry is available here.