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ELDs Could Significantly Impact Reefer Market

Increasing demand for more ‘organic’ produce will further complicate the logistics of the fresh foods freight sector in an ELD environment, according to Tom Finkbiner and Theodore Prince, co-founders of Tiger Cool Express LLC, an intermodal refrigerated carrier.

As reported by Fleet Owner, the intermodal experts said small fleets and owner-operators – who provide a large proportion of the freight transportation capacity for fresh foods and produce shipments – are also poised to be the two trucking elements perhaps most affected by the impending electronic logging device (ELD) mandate this December.

In a conference call with reporters this week hosted by Stifel Capital Markets, they both noted that ELDs will result in significantly shorter lengths of haul for truckload operations large and small while lengthening time delivery windows.

“Many shippers … figure [truckers] can cover 650 miles per day in the hours available,” Prince explained. “But most [motor] carriers say 450 miles a day is more realistic. Even 200 miles per day is now considered a good number. That means a five-day delivery now becomes a seven-day delivery.”

That’s a concern when shipping fresh produce as every day of delivery represents $1,000 worth in spoilage, noted Finkbiner.

On top of that, the top two “growth items” in the fresh produce sector – organic and “ethnic” fruits and vegetables – often cannot be grown in large enough quantities at single locations to create full truckload shipments, thus requiring multiple “live loading” stops in order to generate profitable loads.

This leads to perhaps some bending hours of service (HOS) rules to accommodate the time-consuming “live load and live unload” produce-hauling environment as well as cover the long distances typically involved in moving perishable freight from field to distribution centers and/or stores.

“They have a very perishable shelf life, especially for fresh produce,” Finkbiner added.

In a post-ELD environment where easily-amended paper logbooks will no longer exist these carriers will need large rate increases to cover reduced productivity associated.

As a result, Stifel believes the potential capacity shortfall in 2018 and beyond “could be dramatic” for this sector.

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