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Not enough attention is paid to trucking

In perusing trade publications and attending regional and national trade shows, there seems to be no shortage of marketing issues dominating the discussion.

Organics, sustainability, online marketing, and various management and human resource issues seem to occupy the time and resources of industry leadership. All of these subjects merit attention, but it strikes me how little time or energy, if any, is given to what I consider significant threats to the produce industry.

There are four or five significant issues that if left unaddressed pose serious consequences to how fresh fruits and vegetables come to market—perhaps not today, but certainly in the foreseeable future.

These issues include food safety and traceability (two separate issues but interwoven); water (availability and management); immigration; and transportation.

Let me offer some thoughts on transportation.

One of the interesting things about the produce industry is that despite an ever-changing marketplace, most fruits and vegetables are shipped via truck and driver. This can range from a driving team in a semi crossing the country or a bobtail delivering to a local restaurant.

Regardless of size, truck, or driver, this has served the industry remarkably well. But several challenges continue to evolve that will seriously impact both availability and cost effectiveness: fuel prices, regulation, and the driver shortage.

(Read Part 2 next week)

Bruce Peterson is the founder and president of Peterson Insights, Inc., a consulting company specializing in the complex challenges of the fresh food industry. Peterson began his career bagging groceries, and went on to work for several supermarket chains, including 17 years at Walmart Stores, Inc. He has owned and operated a wholesale produce company, and served as chief executive officer of both Naturipe Foods LLC and Bland Farms.