While the North American produce season doesn’t typically pick up a full head of steam until March each year, it’s never too early to start planning for this event in the logistics landscape.
What is the produce season?
As the days begin to grow longer and temperatures start climbing towards the tail-end of winter, the transportation industry gears up for its first major event on the calendar – produce season. From the months of February through July, the highest volume of fruits and vegetables will be harvested and transported to stores and other end destinations across North America, starting around mid-February with imports from Mexico to the U.S. During this season, heightened refrigerated truck (reefer) rates, tighter reefer capacity and general rate increases may occur across the spectrum as North American transportation kicks back into high gear. Produce shipments account for a sizable portion of NA volume – as reported in our 2019 Logistics Calendar piece, FTR Transportation Intelligence says 154.5 million truck loadings of food and kindred products were shipped in 2018, up 5% from 2017, and it’s projected that truck loadings of food will rise an additional 8% to 166.9 million by 2020.
Recommendations for shippers:
Be Aware of Peak Seasons – Different produce will hit peak production levels at varying points throughout the year. During these times, shippers can expect fluctuations in capacity and pricing as different products – such as bulk-whole strawberries or orange juice – come into the time of the year when the largest quantities of a given fruit or vegetable are being shipped. Being aware of peak produce seasons can help you determine when it will be beneficial to secure capacity ahead of time for your products.
Utilize Intermodal – North America is still experiencing a capacity crunch in the Over the Road (OTR) sector, with a particularly tight market for bulk-tank truck movements persisting into 2019. Shippers can add capacity to their operation by taking advantage of intermodal-rail shipments, using ISO tanks for bulk-liquid movements and food-grade containers for bulk whole-product movements. Intermodal shipments take trucks off the road, and can be cost competitive with your current OTR operations.
Plan Ahead – It’s easy to underestimate the impact that produce season will have on your transportation network. When the months of February and March roll around, start expecting longer lead times, occasional delays, decreased capacity and increased rates. Planning shipments and securing capacity ahead of time will help you ensure that your products get where they need to go on time.
If your organization needs assistance preparing for the strains of produce season, or if securing additional capacity and improving the efficacy of your logistics operation, please contact us here to speak with an Odyssey expert.