Allen Lund Company's Nora Trueblood Discusses the Produce Industry's Necessity for Transportation
LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE, CA - Produce and trucking is like peaches and cream: they work better together. Many industries have worked to shorten distribution routes, like adding plants close to metropolitan cities. Since it’s hard to grow strawberries in Nevada or Alabama, however, long haul trucking has always filled the bill for many produce commodities.
After opening his first office across from the produce market in downtown Los Angeles in 1976, Allen Lund identified growing regions across the nation and began to open offices in Oregon, Washington, Florida, Georgia, and Texas. The formula was not just the growing regions, but also identifying the right folks to open those offices and give them the support and tools to be successful—all the while stressing the importance of developing relationships with growers and carriers.
Over the years our industry has experienced vast changes that now present a fairly different fabric across the country. Transportation, regulations, hours of service, ELD mandates, changes in emission requirements have all had an impact, as has the issue of marketing the career of truck driver to millennials. Produce long-haul drivers are always in demand. While the driver shortage is well documented, mostly for asset based and short haul carriers, the produce industry has long been the wheelhouse of owner operators and small fleets. These are the hard-working drivers that become experts in produce which makes communication with growers/shippers invaluable. Tracking and documenting load temps, handling produce, recording HOS, etc., are all areas of education required for a successful driver. There are thousands of these drivers that have built strong businesses based on the availability of produce throughout the growing regions of the U.S.
There are continuing challenges to our industry. While much of the nation was used to having access to fresh vegetables and fruit only seasonally, we now find that the general public demands access to seasonal produce year-round. Retailers reacting to that demand have pushed growers to provide year-round fresh products. This demand also affects the 12 months a year job market for the long-haul produce driver. The farm-to-table movement has encouraged more locally grown produce with shorter hauls to the end consumer. And let’s throw in immigration and finding experienced produce workers—an added challenge on top of paying a living wage.
We are seeing growers develop relationships with options in Mexico so that they may expand their brands to year-round availability, which now adds the challenge of the cross border of product. A straight forward TX to MA run may now include product coming in through Nogales or McAllen, warehousing, consolidation, and trucking to the final destination. This means drivers with certain knowledge, as well as warehousing and logistics providers offer a more sophisticated supply chain. What role will the development and utilization of greenhouses play into this picture?
Produce and transportation have been business buddies since wagons delivered farmer’s goods to local towns and there is no end in sight to the evolution of our industries. The expansion of growing options, multi-country agreements, career challenges, immigration, government input on engine manufacturing and emission requirements will continue to challenge us all but there is no better relationship than the grower/shipper, logistics providers and the truck driver. It harkens back to the original ALC plan…find the right locations, develop strong relationships with growers and carriers, and you must have the right people running ALC offices. Mr. Lund would be thrilled as his first career was that of a truck driver, and in fact, up until his death earlier this year, he always referred to himself as “just an old truck driver.” Blessings to those “old truck drivers,” our industry is dependent upon their hard work!