SAN DIEGO — Two new trucking rules — one from California and the other federal — could have wide-ranging effects on the fresh produce industry from the shipper all the way to the retailer.
A panel of industry experts outlined the two regulations and their implications during the Expert Council Workshop Series, May 15, at United Fresh 2013.
Of the two, the California Air Resources Board’s Transportation Refrigeration Unit, is the more challenging, said Kenny Lund, vice president, support services, for The Allen Lund Co. Inc., La Canada, and chairman of the United Fresh Supply Chain & Logistics Council.
The rule requires all reefer units operating within California or entering the state to have engines manufactured in 2007 or later.
To comply, older units can be retrofitted with an Environmental Protection Agency-approved filter designed to remove 85% of the particular matter produced.
But the filters cost at least $8,500 and have been plagued by performance issues, so few operators have chosen this route, Lund said.
“It’s simple economics,” he said. “Coming out of this recession, they don’t have the financial wherewithal to comply with some of these rules.”
In surveying the hundreds of small owner-operators that Alan Lund contracts with to haul produce, only 25%-30% meet the CARB regulation, Lund said.
“So if you’re 25% compliant, how do you eliminate 75% of the trucks and move half of the U.S.’s produce? And how can the state (of California) regulate interstate commerce?”
Although CARB doesn’t have the authority to stop truckers, it teams with the California Highway Patrol, said Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs and communications for the Western Trucking Alliance, Upland.
In addition, CARB’s two dozen or so inspectors focus on areas where large numbers of truckers congregate, such as the Flying J Truck Stop near Barstow, to perform spot inspections.
Rajkovacz said he’s already heard anecdotal stories of out-of-state truckers refusing to haul into California because of the regulations.
Not only can CARB ticket drivers of non-compliant reefer units, but it also can fine shippers, truck brokers and even produce receivers for knowingly using non-compliant truckers, he said.
The state already has made headline by fining an Ontario, Calif., egg producer $300,000 for using non-compliant units.
New Jersey and Oregon also are exploring similar rules, Rajkovacz said.
As a result, Lund said he is working with the United Fresh Produce Association to put together an industry task force to try to address the issue.
The revised national hours of service regulation, expected to become effective July 1, would increase the amount of rest truck drivers would be required to take in many cases, said Steve Lohman, North American transportation manager for Chiquita Fresh North America, Charlotte, S.C.
Drivers who have put in 60 hours during seven consecutive days or 70 hours during eight consecutive days would be required to take off 34 consecutive hours before hitting the road again.
But those 34 hours now will have to include two periods between 1-5 a.m. — something that didn’t used to be required.
If a driver finishes in the morning, the rest period could extend to as long as 51 hours before he could legally climb behind the wheel again.
But if the driver doesn’t come off duty until the evening, the period could be as short as 34 hours.
In the case of Chiquita, Lohman said about 80% of the loads are picked up or delivered during the morning.
Lohman said he’d heard industry estimates the new rest provisions could extend overall trucking times by up to 10%. So he examined Chiquita Express’ routes, which included 48,000 loads last year, and found the impact would be about 12.5%.
The impact most likely will be felt more by long-haul routes, where drivers routinely max out allowable time on the road, Lohman said.
Although it’s too early to tell what impacts the revision will have, he said it could possibly cause freight rates to increase.
“It could mean more trucks and more drivers to move the same amount of freight,” he said.
This rule comes on top of existing driver shortages.
Lohman suggested working with your carriers to forecast your freight needs, which will help reduce spot-market capacity needs.
He also recommended making long-term commitments with carriers and exploring ways to consolidate loads with nearby shippers with similar loads and markets.