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New York overcomes transportation troubles

Changes in federal regulation led to frustration and myriad challenges throughout the perishables supply chain this year, dictating change from the necessity of installing new equipment and systems while adapting to altered timelines.

In a year with the requisite weather woes and commodity shortages, transportation remains a dominant topic of discussion in New York.

Michelle Gurda, food safety director with A.Gurda Produce Company Inc., pegged freight cost and truck availability as the toughest obstacles this year, and she’s far from alone in this assessment.

Eric Tuttle, with grower-shipper Kenneth S. Datthyn in Sodus, NY, says transportation has been Datthyn’s biggest hurdle, by far, in 2018.

“It’s been very difficult to find trucks, and we’ve had to anticipate what our volume will be ahead of what we typically do,” he says.

For Ron Myruski, owner of onion grower-shipper Raymond Myruski LLC, Goshen, NY, freight has also been a significant challenge. “In many cases, we needed only 24 hours to move a load—now it’s a couple days,” he says.

“Logistics have always played a huge part in our business, but the changes that have taken place in the last year have brought new trials to the table,” says Stefanie Katzman, executive manager for fourth generation S. Katzman Produce Inc.

Of course, what may be a trial for one portion of the industry is an opportunity for another.

“The implementation of ELDs created a major shift in the produce logistics industry,” says Evan Kazan, director of business development for Target Interstate Systems Inc.

“With the increased freight rates, longer transit times, and lower carrier capacity, buyers are looking to put more freight on trains.”

Though Kazan’s not sure whether this will be a “long-term solution or a short-term fix while everyone continues to find the new norm of the industry.”

“Truck availability has been scarce,” says Charlie J. DiMaggio, president of Fres Co LLC, and the higher prices “ultimately hurt our shippers, growers, and distributors, who often end up with subsidized cost increases.”

The monetary effects will reverberate outside the industry as well.

“As this process assimilates, the cost will eventually be passed on to the consumer,” DiMaggio says. The results, however, are anyone’s guess.

“While we fully support the rules and regulations—as they’re in place for everyone’s safety—learning to work under these new constraints will take time and adjustment, and new approaches to processes that have been in place for decades,” says Katzman.

“Multiple pickups are not as easy to do, and having product on the road for longer periods of time will of course impact timing and planning,” she adds.

Then there are increased costs “due to trucks not being able to make as many runs throughout the year and therefore needing to charge higher rates.”

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

By Courtney Kilian, who is based in Vista, CA, and has worked with both domestic and international growers and organizations, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service and California Avocados Direct.