March 4, 2020

As we near the end of the winter and (hopefully) bid farewell to the snowfall that comes with it, we are eager to transition into produce season. While it’s a stark contrast from the harsh winters from the beginning of the year, both produce season and produce shippers face their own set of unique challenges when transporting loads.

As seen in the table below, one of the main issues food shippers run into is prolonged load and unload times. To garner this data, we took a look at the average load and unload times of our entire food shipper customer base from a reefer, frozen, and produce perspective. These high load/unload times can lead to many issues, such as disgruntled carriers and inconsistent “shipper of choice” strategies.

To take a closer look at these issues that are most prevalent to food shippers, we sat down with three of our largest food shipper customers to get an inside glimpse into their shipping best practices, tracking processes, and more.

In order to ensure our customers’ anonymity, their answers were recorded in the following order within each question:

1: Large National Food Distribution Company

2: Dairy Manufacturer

3: Frozen Food Manufacturer


What is the average length of haul for the majority of your shipments?

1: We move over 5,000 shipments per week, which range from short local runs all the way to cross country shipments. Overall, our average length is about 500-800 miles.

2: 750 miles

3: 783 miles


What are your average load and unload times and how do they affect your supply chain processes?

1: It’s normally 2 hours for load and unload. We put a lot of effort into making sure a load is set up for success before it even starts.

2: For our own facilities, we are proud to say that there is little detention that we have with the carriers as we typically have them loaded or unloaded within the allotted 2-hour time window.

3: Loading and unloading normally takes 2 hours.


How do you track loads?

1: FourKites

2: Our TMS software and FourKites.

3: By email and phone calls.


How are you affected by volatile markets due to weather?

1: Very little. There are occasions where a huge hurricane can cause delays, but overall we’re not affected much.

2: A majority of the freight that we move is from one distribution center to another so weather can play a large factor in product getting to the end customer.

3:  The weather has caused some delays in the past when we shipped from our plants into grocery distribution centers or third-party cold storage facilities.


How are you affected by seasonality?

1: Not affected. We commit freight to carriers and in return, they service the lane(s) year-round.

2: We do have some seasonality and plan for that during our business planning process.  Fortunately, we typically don’t have large swings in our volume, so we are able to predict seasonality fairly well.

3: We aren’t affected much. The only times we’re really affected is on spot loads.


What is your load lead time for tendering? How are urgent shipments tendered?

1: 7-10 days, sometimes more and that’s all by design. This timeline gives the carrier provider an ample amount of time to schedule a truck.

2: Our average tender time is between 4-7 days.  Fortunately, with the longer lead time for load tenders, we don’t have a lot of urgent shipments. If there is an urgent shipment that we do have, it is posted on the spot market board and sent through our TMS like any other tender.

3: It’s normally 2 or more weeks on average, and we tender urgent shipments in the same manner as a normal load.


What are some factors that may lead to a load rejection? What factors does FSMA have in that process?

1: Poor pallets and loading by the shipper as well as poor packaging are the main ones. Incorrect ship tarps are an issue as well.

2: Since we are a food manufacturer, FSMA plays a large part in any of our decisions to reject a load at one of our facilities. Common rejection reasons for our shipments would be that the original seal was broken with no reason given, a load shows up with no seal, or temperature abuse.

3: Occasionally, we run into non-FSMA compliant trailers, wrong equipment, and hours of service violations.


What are some issues you may see when it comes to multi-stop loads?

1: If one stop takes too long to unload, it can cause the carrier to miss its next appointment and have a cascading effect.

2: Long delays at some of the receivers which then leads to a domino effect for the rest of the stops not making their appointment. Fees are often times an outcome of the aforementioned delays at previous stops when shipping multi-stop loads.

3: Loading/Unloading times, which affects subsequent delivery appointments.


How have ELD inefficiencies and the ELD mandate in general affected your business?

1: No real effect, a majority of our carriers were already ELD tracking before the mandate.

2: Our transit times have now changed as we know that a driver cannot drive as much as they have in the past. We have reduced our max transit time per day to be 425 miles.

3: We’ve seen an overall increase in freight cost due to the ELD mandate.


If you are interested in learning more about our customized solutions for food shippers, contact us here.