I have had a significant number of calls and e-mails and I've had truckers approach me at conventions and tell me, "I thought about hauling produce but your articles in Land Line scared me into not doing it." That wasn't what I had in mind. You wouldn't find a produce section in the supermarket without large numbers of truckers hauling produce and getting paid for it. The point I am trying to convey is that if you decide to haul produce flying by the seat of your pants, then you should be afraid. Be very afraid.
Hauling produce can be a great source of income for carriers. It's everywhere. There is a shortage of qualified produce drivers and I know of very few truck brokers who wouldn't be able to give steady produce work to a driver who contacts them. Shippers too are beginning to feel the heat from the truck shortage. I have heard from many shippers who say they are working to provide a better environment for the carrier while they are waiting to load. They are giving drivers better facilities and access to telephones, waiting rooms, restroom facilities, etc. Are all of them doing this? No, but it is beginning to happen. I think it's because shippers realize that they need trucks more than trucks need them. Remember, without trucks, what are the shippers going to do with their product?
Hauling produce can be a great source of income for carriers. It's everywhere.
The Perishable Agricultural Commiodities Act (PACA) is now being much more helpful than ever before when it comes to truck claims. In years past, PACA would simply state that they do not cover trucking problems. While they still have no jurisdiction over transportation, they realize that the truck plays a vital role in produce and they've become much more helpful in trucking situations. PACA will give advice on a truck claim or problem and help point you in the right direction.
I've said it many times before and it bears repeating. You can make good money hauling produce but you have to know what you're doing. Ask questions. Read produce publications when you have time. Learn the industry and become a self-taught expert on produce hauling. Enroll in Allen Lund's Certified Refrigerated Transporter course that travels across the country teaching truckers how to become better refrigerated carriers.
When you're dealing with a broker, ask any questions that you have before loading. My opinion is that the only stupid question is the one that pops into your head and you don't ask. Check the broker's credit. Find out who the receiver is and check their credit too. Beyond knowing whether or not the receiver pays their bills, you need to know if they have a reputation of making unfair claims and adjustments against the truck. If you find out that the receiver is notorious for this, DON'T HAUL THE LOAD. With all of the produce loads available, I think life's too short to take a risk like hauling a load into a claim-happy receiver. If a few of these folks couldn't get trucks because of their reputation, it might just force them to clean up their acts.
Don't let produce hauling scare you away
In my job at RBCS, it is easy for me to be cynical when it comes to produce hauling. I only hear the horror stories. No one calls me up and says, "Hey Randy, I just wanted to tell you that I hauled a produce load and it delivered on time and without problems. The shipper and the broker and the receiver were all great." It just doesn't happen. So, if you are thinking about hauling produce, don't be scared off by my thoughts and comments, but rather be aware of them. These claims and horror stories do happen to produce haulers. Most of the time, they could have been avoided. It is also important to remember that for every one nightmare load that I hear about, a hundred more deliver without problems and the carriers get paid. Don't let produce hauling scare you away. Do your homework and make some money.