Question: I noticed in one of your last articles you mentioned a book published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which would help me when hauling produce. What is it, how do I get it, and how much is it?
Answer: You are referring to “Protecting Perishable Foods During Transport by Truck.” I have a copy I refer to on a regular basis, and I find it quite helpful. This publication breaks down each produce commodity and covers ideal temperatures during transit, loading patterns, load compatibility and characteristics of damage, which can be caused in transit. USDA publishes it, and it is free. To obtain a copy, call USDA at (202) 720-7327 or write:
United States Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Marketing Service
Transportation and Marketing Division
Washington, DC 20250
Question: I hauled a load of produce to a chain store for a Monday morning delivery. I got there Sunday night and waited for the place to open at 8 a.m. Monday. When I went to the guard at the gate, there was a problem with the P. O. number my broker had given me, and after some research, it was discovered that the load associated with that P. O. had already delivered last week. I called my broker, who said to take it down to a nearby terminal market, which I did. I was paid the mileage, but I also wanted $300 for layover, gate fees and unloading. The broker said he could get only $200. What do you think?
Answer: Obviously, you already negotiated a rate to get to the market. I believe you should be entitled to the gate fees and unloading charges since these were expenses you incurred after the initial contract to the chain store was breached. As far as your downtime and layover fees, this is an age-old dilemma. I don’t know what your gate fee and unloading charges were, but it seems to me that you were being very reasonable about your layover. I have no idea what this broker was doing on this load. It sounds to me like he really screwed the thing up and then tried to backtrack and fix the mess. I say you should be entitled to the $300 that you originally asked for.
Question: I hauled a load of lettuce, which upon arrival, the receiver said showed problems. He pulled a Federal, which showed temperatures were fine. However, the lettuce did not make grade because of excessive tipburn. The receiver took the load, but now says it may be a while before I get paid because he has to work it and get all of his documentation to the shipper. Should I have to wait on my money?
Answer: Not your fault. If the temperatures were fine and you arrived on time, you have done everything you were supposed to do. Tipburn is a shipping condition and nothing the truck does during transit would cause tipburn. The receiver may have to work things out with the shipper, but this should not cause a delay in your freight bill being paid. You should be paid according to the terms of your contract on this load.
Question: I hear there are truck shortages and rates are good in the produce industry. I want to get into hauling produce, and I need to find out how to go about it. I have a reefer and want to get started right away. What do you suggest?
Answer: Having a reefer is only the start. You need to come up with some contacts and begin making calls. Do you want to go through brokers, or are you going to try to deal directly with shippers? I would tell you that the latter is not easy in the produce industry. Most shippers would rather give their loads to brokers and deal with trucks that way. You also need to know what you’re getting into from a credit extension standpoint. You can’t just deal with anyone who has a telephone. You’ve got to check the credit of those involved in the deal. I would recommend that you use the Red Book. (Imagine that!) However, there are other credit sources available, and I seriously recommend you subscribe to one of them. You also must know what you are doing. You need to ask questions regarding temperature and loading procedures, and you need to pulp the product on a regular basis. There is nothing wrong with wanting to take advantage of high rates. But, you must remember, if you cause damage to the load because you didn’t know what you were doing, you are looking at a high claim instead of a high rate. Produce hauling is not for the faint of heart. Make sure you do your homework before jumping into anything.