The recent severe citrus freeze in California has left many
produce haulers waiting around with empty trailers and dwindling profit
State officials have estimated that more than $1 billion
worth of citrus was destroyed by the deep freeze, which is having devastating
financial consequences for truckers who make their living transporting produce
out of the Central Valley in the winter months.
"It is a dire situation out here," OOIDA member DuWayne
Marshall of Watertown, WI, told Land Line
Magazine on Thursday, Feb. 1. "It took a driver that is leased to the same
carrier I am eight days to find a load out of California."
And that's not uncommon these days, he said.
"The truck stops are just packed right now with drivers
waiting for a load," DuWayne said.
The dilemma he said he and other drivers are facing in
California is whether to accept a load at a freight rate that is far less than
what they would normally be paid for a load, or to sit and wait to see if a
good-paying load will pop up.
With freight rates dropping daily, drivers aren't sure what
to do, DuWayne said.
He said some produce haulers have become so frustrated with
the situation, they are looking to head to other large citrus states, like
Florida and Georgia, to find loads.
An influx of new drivers to those areas could financially
impact truckers who already cover those parts of the country, DuWayne said.
"This could have a huge ripple effect in the transportation
community," he said.
DuWayne is leased to LTL Service of Wisconsin, headquartered
in South Milwaukee, WI. He said that while his company loads him out to
California, he is responsible for his return loads. He said on his current trip
he has experienced a $1,700 drop in revenue due to the lack of citrus.
"Before the freeze, the cost of a box of Sunkist oranges was between $12 and $14, not including my transportation costs," he said. "After the freeze, Sunkist raised the cost to between $32 and $34 a box and adding my transportation costs would make it around $36 a box, instead of around $16 a box before the freeze."
Overall, it has already been a lean season for truckers who
make their living hauling produce from the Central Valley, said Joe Rajkovacz,
OOIDA regulatory affairs specialist.
"Recently, E. coli outbreaks related to spinach and lettuce
have created financial burdens for many small-business truckers because of the
decreasing demand for leafy greens," he said.
"Now, they are being hit again because shipments out of California have
plummeted because of the citrus freeze. This is also having a dramatic negative
effect on rates being paid on remaining available loads."
- By Clarissa
Kell-Holland, staff writer