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Midwest improves on legacy transportation system

Midwest receivers enjoy a long-established infrastructure of truck, rail, and air delivery routes, with bustling hubs from Cleveland to Des Moines.

As is widely known, but bears repeating here, is that the Midwest is within a day’s drive of 80 percent of the U.S. population. This brings unbridled opportunity to the region’s suppliers, along with a few headaches.

Fortunately, by drawing on the use of sophisticated data analytics, shippers can improve outbound delivery times, especially as in-bound freight costs spike and the industry continues to suffer through a capacity crunch. Trucking shortages from key sourcing areas continue to have an impact on most everyone along the perishables supply chain.

From Cincinnati to Minneapolis, receivers are dealing with longer delivery windows, most associated with the implementation and use of electronic logging devices (ELDs). Some drivers, rather than buy new equipment and learn the technology, decided to retire and leave it all behind.

Don Goetz, president of Fries Brothers, Inc., in Cincinnati, acknowledges the new technology’s impact on daily operations. “Electronic loggers have added at least one day to most deliveries,” he says.

Corsaro, at Indianapolis Fruit, concurs. “It’s been extremely important for us to allow additional time for purchase orders to load.”

Climbing shipping and delivery times and higher costs are the product of a perfect storm of driver shortages and regulatory changes. Delivery times that could formerly be accomplished by a solo driver now demand teams or stopping at distribution hubs, which add expense and critical timing.

“A reefer team load can cost on average 10 to 12 percent more than a single driver depending on lane, mileage, and other load factors,” points out Kerry Byrne, president of Total Quality Logistics LLC, Cincinnati.

Out of necessity, price boosts are being passed along the supply chain, and receivers are turning to technology to ease the burden and streamline operations.

Corsaro, for one, has jumped on the bandwagon: “We’re using more analytics,” he says, “to improve our regional delivery time.”

By implementing new management software and equipment upgrades, schedules can be created to oversee complex loading and unloading maneuvers and reduce downtime. Though there are upfront costs, users look forward to plenty of rewards down the road.

Byrne identifies trucking capacity as his company’s greatest challenge during the past year. “We’ve met this challenge by leveraging our technology investments, allowing us to mine and analyze our historical shipping data and intelligently source carriers for our customers’ loads, giving us access to greater capacity,” he explains.

The company is also striving to live up to its name by “helping our shipping customers better understand their supply chains and mitigate the risks of service disruptions,” adds Byrne.

“We’re helping them prioritize in-demand freight and offering capacity and service for more labor-intensive, high-maintenance loads,” he says.

As truck and driver availability have remained tight, some Midwest receivers have also turned back to an old standby: rail. “Rail is making another strong push to counteract the woes in the trucking industry,” says Sam Maglio, Jr., president of the Maglio Companies, headquartered in Milwaukee, WI.

“Intermodal is mostly cost neutral, whereas reefer cars offer savings if you can load/unload door to door.” Still, trucks remain essential. “Some time-sensitive commodities, like berries or fresh-cut, need to move on a quick door-to-door truck,” he says.


This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.


Matt Ernst writes about farm-related topics and is based near St. Louis, Missouri.