Truck rates spike with road checks, demand

( File photo )

Truck rate madness is back, at least for a few days in June.

Rates for produce loads rose more than $1,000 for some destinations in a single week from June 2-9, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

Beyond seasonally increasing produce shipments, industry reports said some independent truckers pulled their rigs from the road for several days in response to the June 5-7 International Roadcheck, which is organized by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. 

During that 72-hour period, commercial motor vehicle inspectors in jurisdictions throughout North America intensify inspections of commercial motor vehicles and drivers, according to the group.

This year’s focus is on hours-of-service compliance, according to the group.


Rate shock

USDA reported truck rates for produce shipped from Southern California to Boston rose from a range of $8,100 to $9,100 for the week ending June 2 to a range of $9,400 to $12,000 for the week of June 4-9.

Truck rates from Salinas, Calif. to Chicago for strawberries rose from $5,800 to $6,800 for the week ending June 2 to $7,100 a week later.

In south Texas, the USDA reported truck rates for fresh produce to Atlanta rose from $3,600 to $4,000 in late May to $5,000 to $5,400 by June 5.

The date of the Roadcheck is publicized in advance and some companies shut down during the period because the heightened inspections can create delays and long lines for truckers, said Kenny Lund, vice president of operations at Allen Lund Co., La Cañada Flintridge, Calif. 

“If a trucker has a load of strawberries and is held up in line for eight hours, it screws up customer service,” he said. 

Produce and trucking industry leaders say the June timing of Roadcheck is problematic because it comes at a time when there is seasonally high demand for trucks.

“It creates a spike every year they do it,” Lund said.

Before the early June spike, Lund said truck rates for produce have been running 10% to 20% ahead of year-ago levels. 

The truck shortage and high rates the week of June 4 were causing wholesalers to prioritize what commodities they truly needed, Ed Lopez, a salesman for Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella, Calif.

Rates typically move higher in June, said Butch Corda, general manager of Ippolito International LP, Salinas, Calif., 

“It’s definitely tightening,” he said. He said rates could be squeezed higher in the next three to five weeks in response to increasing demand.

Corda said driver shortages and compliance issues with the electronic logging device mandate also may play a role in the boost in rates.