New regulations governing U.S. truckers’ driving hours are hitting agriculture hard. Not only are prices for trucking way up (we’ve seen a spike of 20 per cent or more to some locations), lack of adequate trucking capacity means it sometimes seems nearly impossible to find an available truck. Producers have been calling us since the regulations came into effect looking for suggestions on how to manage the changes. We always want to help — it’s a big part of what our company stands for. Here’s what we know:
Because demand for trucking now outstrips capacity, making life easier for truckers and trucking companies will increase your likelihood of getting a carrier when you need it. Truckers appreciate a flexible loading schedule, since their job can’t always be scheduled to the minute. They also appreciate efficiency: with the ELD clock always ticking, any minutes you can shave off by being ready for loading and having paperwork fully organized will make you more popular the next time you call for a truck. And, the bigger you are, the louder your voice: since a small-scale producer’s requests might be more likely to be ignored, partnering with other producers when booking transport can carry more weight with carriers. If you are having no luck trying to book freight, reach out to industry partners like us at Parkland: we may be able to help.
Transportation changes are costing agricultural companies on both ends: inputs now cost more to truck in; product now costs more to truck out. Where possible (and, admittedly, it’s usually not), producers could look at decreasing the distance between their production and their buyer. As well, if producers can spread out their shipments or ship earlier in the season, they may not have to compete as intensely for trucks. Of course, doing so is not always possible given that customers dictate when they need their seed.
Finally, let’s all cross our fingers that some of the price shock we’ve felt this season is a growing pain of the new system. In our industry, producers can’t just absorb another increase in freight costs. We’re doing our best to help get that message all the way to retailers. This year, the timing of the cost increase meant it hadn’t been spread through the value chain by the time shipping happened, so a lot of the added pressure was carried at our and our customers’ levels. Retailers are coming to understand that that can’t continue: increased costs need to filter all the way to grocery store price tags.
Despite all the challenges the new ELD (electronic logging device) regulations bring, the bottom line is they are probably a good thing. Safer roads are something we all support. But, the way the regulations were implemented — both the timing of the roll-out and the immediate jump to full-force implementation — was very difficult for agriculture.
Ultimately, an increase in capacity will resolve the lion’s share of concerns for the agriculture industry. Unfortunately, that is out of all of our control.