By Cain Adams
Trinity Logistics/Longboard Logistics
“Put it on a flatbed.” It’s cheaper.
But for who? Who takes all the risk? Who is driving 3,000 miles with an item called “perishable” on the back and has one layer of protection with a mesh net having two to three wraps looking like a bag of marbles?
How old are the onions? Do they have their skins yet, or are they squishy? Prices are high on reefers, and so we have to move product on flats. We know the risks, and so do the drivers.
Because shipping rates have climbed fast, we are seeing more and more loads being put on flats because they are cheaper. They add more bags per load, and they are usually $1– $2.50 per bag less expensive than reefers. This trend is not new. In many ways, it’s a smart choice. It helps soften reefer capacity, and it softens reefer pricing too. But again, there is more risk for the reward.
Our job is to pick up and drop. We are here to help control the shipping environment the best we can so that product looks the same when loaded as it does when it lands. It’s chasing cats for many days. Seriously.
Does the driver have the tarps just on top? Did they ratchet the straps too hard and crush bags? Do they have 6-ft or 8-foot tarps and not 4-footers? Will they break down or do a restart along the way?
No restarts on any loads, BTW! That’s a sin with onion loads. But a breakdown, on the other hand, is always in the back of our mind when loading a flatbed. Three thousand miles. Do we do it? Yep. We do. We pull triggers. We allow a truck to make that choice. We don’t talk anyone into anything. We present the prize and the conditions. Trucks pony up or they do not.
We are now seeing flatbeds tighter than ever though. We are seeing them ask for reefer rates, and they are getting them. Why? Because that is all there is.
I had a new customer call this week, and he sent me his list of needs. Most lanes were the same as our older customer lanes, and we don’t take on too many new customers. We want to keep our quality up, and we watch who we load. This week we got our older customers covered but had virtually zero impact on our new customer’s list.
It’s a total fail to me. Completely deflating to have a great guy reach out and I can’t help him get the job done. It’s exhausting at times calling 110 trucks for one load paying reefer rates, and yet the destination is by far one of the hardest places to drop.
“Bootstraps” has always been a thing my mom would tell me, and so today, I called the new customer. I told him sorry for my failure. I won’t give up on him. I just have to figure out a different way to make it happen.
No matter what, grit has to be in this game. It’s not a game to play if you don’t have the skin. I would never recommend this job to anyone who did not have thick skin. Maybe that is why I love it so much. Everyone from the farmer, the loader, the shed secretary, and the driver has that same skin. It’s almost a right of passage.
We all take accountability, and we move on. There are no hard feelings. It’s either, “Go eat your hat if you don’t like it,” or it’s “Man, thanks for that truck. I needed that one bad.”
This week is a holiday week, and trucks on the West Coast are tight. Wisconsin is on fire and expensive. Rates are insanely high. The hurricane is paying FEMA rates. Trucks are staying in the Midwest and doing shorter hauls.
It’s putting a lot of pressure on the Northwest, and we expect this to be the trend for the rest of the season. We expect trucks to stay tight, and we expect flats to be requested through Oct. 15. Some may ship them through the winter, depending on the low temps.
We are here to help our customers get it done. In the end, people have to get their product, and it’s not our job to complain. It’s our job just to get it done.
We ask shippers and produce brokers to make the right choices. Put great quality on these flats. Same goes for the trucks. If you can handle it, then take the load. If you can’t, then there are no hard feelings. Carry on.
Cheers as always and happy shipping!