During a Fresh Summit session on transportation Oct. 18, participants share ideas on easing the driver shortage. ( Tom Karst )

ORLANDO, Fla. — A packed session on produce transportation issues at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit sought ideas from the audience on possible solutions to alleviate driver shortages.

Ed Treacy, vice president of supply chain efficiencies at PMA, led the Oct. 18 “Experience Extension” session, and was accompanied by Jon Samson, executive director of the Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference for the American Trucking Associations and

David Mostoller, general manager at C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc.

Samson said the driver shortage — now at about 50,000 drivers across the U.S. among all sectors — will only get worse in coming years. There are currently about 500,000 over-the-road truckers, he said.

Over the next 15 years or so, the driver shortage could increase to 250,000, he said.

One of the strategies to bring new drivers to the industry is an attempt to lower the age minimum from 21 to 18 for interstate trucking. There are 48 states that allow 18-year old drivers for intrastate routes.

Samson said the trucking industry is working with Congress and regulators to bring down the threshold age for interstate trucking to 18, perhaps first through pilot projects.

The industry also has raised wages and tried to make life more comfortable for the drivers, he said.

Mostoller said C.H. Robinson is working to make it easier and more efficient for truck capacity to work with the company.

Treacy said that receivers and shippers who make trucks wait to load or unload will affect truck rates and the willingness of truckers to take on fresh produce loads.

Mostoller said that what truckers think of receivers and shippers is important.

“If you are known to hold trucks ... you are going to pay for it,” he said.

One audience member said that if hold times for truckers were erased at loading and unloading, that would add an estimated 15% more capacity to the industry.

“And so when we talk about capacity and driver shortage, it is a huge issue, but this ability to communicate between shipper, carrier and receiver and be efficient can really start to close that gap as well,” the audience member said.

Treacy urged audience members to become familiar with list of best practices for shippers, receivers and carriers developed by the North American Produce Transportation Working Group, which was led by the United Fresh Produce Association and includes members from other industry associations.

Another question from the audience was about whether the trucking industry could use more immigrants or guest workers to help alleviate the shortage, but Samson said that would be difficult to achieve politically.

Audience members, organized by tables, submitted ideas on how to address trucking issues organized by a grid of high/low impact and low/high cost.

Ideas generated included using parolees as drivers, investing in autonomous trucks and developing a smart phone app to find available drivers.

 

 
Comments
Submitted by Dan Vache on Fri, 10/19/2018 - 17:40

The challenges the produce industry face in transportation are not new. The North American Produce Transportation Working Group (NAPTWG) was a cross border effort and crafted guidance that addresses the challenges carriers (drivers) face at both the loading point and receiving facilities. There are incremental steps each participant of the perishable supply chain can take to enable carriers to be more efficient and deliver produce on time in the proper condition. Tools are available for the shipper, carrier and receiver to keep good drivers behind the wheel and keep and deliver of our healthy products to the consumer. Simply said the perishable supply chain is as strong as the weakest link. If the industry works togeter for the common goal ( delight the consumer) the entire industry benefits. Where do you fit in the equation?

Submitted by Steve on Mon, 10/22/2018 - 09:09

We need to change the receiver way of doing business or trucks will get much more expensive yet. Walmart needs to leed the way by providing truck parking with electric 20 amp plus for heating and air conditioning along 12 hour parking spots. Many truck drivers refused to deliver to Walmart after getting told to leave after taking 6 hours to unload 4 skids. They are to be there in time even when held for 3 hours after a accident or break down. Yet when get there still wait 3 hours for someone to start to unload them am told 6 hour later they can not stay one more hour to be legal.226 8899299

In reply to by Dan Vache (not verified)