The 2019 produce season saw reduced freight markets due to severe weather and an increase in capacity, which kept freight rates lower than they were in 2018. Though rates have not been as high as last year, overall freight volume increased for the 2019 produce season. With multiple forces at work shaping the ebb and flow of the freight market, it can be difficult to predict exactly where rates will fall for the 2020 produce season.
Regardless, carriers can be proactive in implementing best practices in the coming months to help ensure that the 2020 produce season is a profitable one. Even though the produce shipping season for 2019 has just about come to a close, there’s no time like the present for planning ahead. The fundamental steps you take today in strengthening business relationships and choosing technology wisely can lead to a profitable produce season next year.
Make Sure Your Reefers Meet FMSA Standards
The Food Modernization Safety Act (FMSA)’s rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food was enacted in 2017 and stipulates how food can be safely transported in the United States. The goal of the rule is to prevent illnesses that can arise from contaminated food. The rule was enacted in response to listeria and salmonella outbreaks in 2011 that were caused by how produce was manufactured, processed and transported at the time.
As a result, trucks hauling produce today must meet specific requirements. Under the FMSA rule, vehicles must be clean and cleanable in order to thwart contamination. Specific measures must be taken to prevent cross-contamination with allergens, non-food items, and raw foods. The FMSA rule also requires that carrier personnel be trained in sanitary transportation practices and carriers must document compliance.
One of the most important components of the rule is that produce must be kept at specific temperatures when being transported so that it’s safe for consumers. (Keeping produce refrigerated at the correct temperature can prevent damage, as well.) It’s always a good idea to review these rules, double-check that your trucks are compliant and check your temperatures gauges to make sure they’re in working order.
Develop a Reputation for Providing the Best Service Available
As an owner-operator or small/mid-sized trucking company, you can differentiate yourself from the big carriers with service. Because you have fewer clients than the mega carriers, you’re better equipped to honor special instructions and take added precautions for shippers who need special handling for their freight. If you place a high value on cultivating positive relationships with your customers and become their go-to carrier for time-sensitive freight throughout the year, you’ll be well-positioned for next year’s produce season.
Providing high-level service includes delivering loads on-time, employing staff members who are well-trained and placing a high value on safety. A willingness to use freight visibility tools can also be impactful when forming positive relationships with shippers, brokers, and 3PLs. At one of Trucker Tools’ recent customer advisory board (CAB) meetings, we asked what our broker/3PL customers look for in a carrier partner. They told us that consistent communication, a willingness to use freight tracking tools and a sincere commitment to providing high-level of service are the top qualities they look for when considering a carrier partner.
Download Trucker Tools’ Driver App To Stay in Touch with Brokers, Find Premium Loads
Choosing the right technology to use in your owner-operator or small to mid-sized trucking business can be the difference-maker when it comes to building relationships with customers and increasing revenue. Trucker Tools’ free mobile driver app is a powerful data aggregation tool that provides carriers with information on weather, traffic, rest stops, fuel prices, optimal routes, parking, Walmart locations, weigh scales and more. The driver app also includes powerful load matching and load searching capabilities that can help you nurture relationships with customers in preparation for produce season.
The driver app’s load matching feature can shift your business focus from single transactions to mutually beneficial, ongoing positive business relationships. The Trucker Tools driver app uses processing algorithms and machine learning to analyze historical load data and learn which brokers, loads and lanes that you most prefer. The app’s intelligent load matching allows you to focus on building relationships with specific brokers and 3PLs through repeat business so that when produce season arrives, they turn to you as a trusted partner.
Using the Trucker Tools driver app to find loads also can boost operational efficiency for carriers considerably. Instead of using manual emails/phone calls to contact brokers, shippers, and 3PLs and/or using load boards to find freight, you can use Trucker Tools’ driver app to find preferred brokers and lanes with a few taps on your smartphone. Less time spent looking for freight means there’s more time behind the wheel and for providing outstanding service to your customers.
If you’re ready to download Trucker Tools’ free mobile driver app, visit https://www.truckertools.com/home/mobile-driver-app.html.