Technology rushes by at lightspeed these days: first, there were tests for platooning, then there’s the race to get self-driving trucks on the road, followed by an Uber-like driver service for shippers. How much impact these developments will have on the produce industry remains to be seen, but technology continues to play a significant role in getting fresh fruits and vegetables from harvest to grocer’s shelf.
As shippers embrace the future, new advances are poised to change the way we pack, ship, and deliver perishables from point A to point B.
Field To Fork
What’s next in high-tech transportation depends on where you’re situated in the perishables pipeline. Dan Vaché, vice president of supply chain management for United Fresh Produce Association, confirms “a variety of applications and services that enhance efficiencies in the shipping process.”
Many hark back to the Produce Traceability Initiative, which set the stage for in-field innovation, creating labels at harvest to provide critical information to packing house personnel, sales teams, shippers looking to consolidate loads, and retailers anticipating product.
Orders are placed, pallets are stacked, temperatures monitored, and truck routes tracked for traffic and delays—all through technology. A top benefit in this brave new world is real-time monitoring, so carriers and shippers can be proactive instead of reactive—avoiding in-transit problems, delivery glitches, and claims.
In & Out Of The Truck
Documentation for shipping, too, has been transformed from piles of papers, receipts, and clipboards to electronic documents and signatures. Recordkeeping is now at the touch of a button or two, and can save drivers time and headaches.
“When a carrier has ten different shipper-customers, applying technology and different telematic systems can minimize the confusion,” notes Jon Samson, executive director of the Agricultural & Food Transporters Conference for the American Trucking Associations, Inc. in Arlington, VA.
Such innovation, however, is not without cost or controversy. The debates about mandated electronic logging devices (ELDs) have diminished in fervor, but there is still resistance to a Big Brother-type system knowing a trucker’s every move. But as Samson points out, there is certainly an upside.
The other downside, unrelated to privacy issues, is the initial cost. There’s the cost of the system itself, installation, and usually some sort of subscription fee to transmit information back and forth. But most users, once acclimated, have been happy with the results.