The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a capacity shortage as many carriers with cold containers are busy moving vaccines and saving lives. This means shippers will need to be more proactive when planning their temperature controlled shipments such as fresh produce and perishable foods. As winter is known to be a harvesting season, springtime traditionally marks the start of the fresh produce shipping season. During this time, refrigerated capacity is tight, and this year it is expected to be even tighter.
POST-COVID19 ERA: PRODUCE MARKET CHALLENGES
COLD CAPACITY SHRINKAGE
Fresh produce can only be transported using refrigerated trucks. Because of high truck demand in this period, the temperature-controlled capacity is tighter with freight rates increasing by as much as 30%. While tight capacity is nothing new during the produce season, this year temperature-controlled containers are in extreme shortage. Just recently, the United States rolled out its largest vaccination campaign with 400 million doses signed up for distribution. It means that a large percentage of refrigerated trucks are busy with urgent shipments for vaccine distribution.
It is an ongoing issue in the trucking industry, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, more of the older drivers have resigned due to safety concerns. According to an updated ATA report, driver shortage can double by 2023 with almost 110,000 vacant positions compared to 60,000 in 2018. Amid social distancing rules and infection concerns, enrolling and hiring new drivers has been a challenge. For instance, the LTL trucking industry now is lacking around 20,000 drivers. Another impactful factor is a recent Alcohol and Drug Clearinghouse, with more than 46,000 drivers being put out of service due to violations.
SWITCH TO E-COMMERCE
This season is a true challenge to small grocery shops and fresh produce distributors, as more and more customers are switching to online grocery shopping. Now, shippers are exploring new ways to market and deliver crops to their customers. A rapid switch to the e-commerce business model puts additional strain on capacity crunch, as the main channel of selling produce requires more shipments and deliveries. According to Business Insider, online grocery adoption will reach 55% of US consumers by the end of 2024.
PRODUCE MARKET TRENDS: TIPS FOR SHIPPERS
As a response to the current market conditions, farmers are reducing the production of the majority of crops or adjusting their farming and distribution plan. Here are a few key trends that are emerging in the produce market and can help get farmers and produce shippers through the season.
The key to successfully navigating the produce shipping season is understanding the truckload demand and specifics of regional distribution. If you plan to work with high-quality carriers, start navigating the market in early spring. Also, fresh produce is typically harvested in the southern states, so these areas will be the busiest during peak season. Create a proper shipping strategy to help you define the market trends and successfully ship your food and produce.
TAKE CARE OF THE PACKAGING
When it comes to shipping food, a lot depends on how you pack and protect your products. The look of your products is what makes them attractive to customers, and that’s why providing proper packaging has a direct impact on your business. Apart from the visual perception, it’s critical the food you’re shipping comes fresh and unspoiled. Make sure all the packages are properly sealed, boxed, covered, or stacked to minimize the damage while in transit.
BOOK COLD CAPACITY
Since temperature-controlled, or refrigerated trucks are usually handled by full truckload carriers, you absolutely want to use the best options out there because of time-sensitivity and uncertain market conditions. Shipping perishable food products is challenging since your goods have to be delivered in excellent condition. Keeping products fresh is only possible with proper temperature control and high-quality equipment. When looking for a carrier, make sure the company is compliant with the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. This year it can be especially complicated to compete for cold capacity in light of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
SHIP PRODUCE SAFELY WITH PLS Logistics Services
PLS Logistics Services has a proven experience in moving produce shipments. You can rely on us for the competitive rates, refrigerated capacity, and high-quality service.
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