3 Items Freight Brokers Must Consider Before Hauling Produce

RFX handles almost any kind of freight you can think of. From cars to Christmas trees; poultry to toys and everything in between. We move over-dimensional freight, LTL, rail, ocean, short-haul and long-haul.  We pride ourselves in having a salesforce of independent freight agents that each specialize in one type of freight, and from the sum of its parts, RFX is a very well-diversified company that can offer many services.  Through all of this, we maintain our roots as a refrigerated motor carrier, and the name Refrigerated Food Express means that it is an inevitability that we immerse ourselves in the produce industry.  Independent freight agents who join our brokerage firm often seek to develop a new venture in produce hauling. Some are experienced in produce and some are not. For those that are experienced in produce, we assess their level of risk based on the factors below, remind them of the pitfalls of hauling produce, but inevitably place our trust in them as experienced professionals in the industry. For those who are just wanting to get started, we ask them to examine the following areas of their business before jumping into the world of produce:

 1.  Review your carrier-base:  Probably the most important item to consider. Do you currently have, and are you capable of maintaining strong relationships with a core group of motor carriers? Do these carriers have experience hauling produce? Do you plan to use these carriers to haul produce or will you be dependent on the spot-market to find trucks? Perhaps one of the most challenging areas to consider is the motor carrier’s insurance policy, as often times the details of an insurance policy is not made readily available. However, for a commodity as risky as produce, it is important to request a copy of the policy (not just the insurance certificate) from the motor carrier. Examine the details of the policy and seek out any areas of exclusion. Many insurance companies will create exclusions for high risk commodities such as produce, but you would never know this by reading the insurance certificate. It is not enough to assume the motor carrier is trustworthy and reputable. A motor carrier’s cargo insurance policy can be an area of unforeseen risk exposure, especially if the carrier doesn’t know their own policy from front to back.

2.  Sensitivity Level: Obviously, not all produce is created equal. While RFX does haul produce, we generally shy away from berries of any kind due to their high level of sensitivity. Compared to other foods, berries tend to decay faster and have a high risk of damage if exposed to extreme temperatures. Onions and potatoes are less sensitive to extreme temperatures, but  they must be shipped in a vented van or a flatbed trailer with a tarp so that the air can reach them while being protected from moisture.

3.  Origin: Where is the produce coming from? Understanding where the product was grown and how it reached your truck is an important part of the claims prevention strategy. Was the product loaded directly at the farm? If so, there is a common misconception that a trailer refrigeration unit is designed to cool down product that has been loaded hot. When in fact, a refrigeration unit is only designed to maintain the temperature at which the product was loaded onto the trailer to begin with. If produce is loaded hot from a farm, there is a good possibility it will remain hot in transit, causing decay. Another origin of concern is a port. If produce is coming off of a boat, the motor carrier is now one step removed from the true origin of the product. The more parties involved in a shipment of produce, the more risk is assumed for that shipment.

Whether you are just starting out in managing produce freight or you are a veteran, it is important to review your company policy on transporting produce. It is also important to speak with your carrier base, no matter how strong your relationship with them may be, to ensure that they have policies in place for handling produce freight. It is especially important that the cargo insurance policy does not have exclusions for produce and other agricultural commodities. For more information on ways to protect your business while transporting produce visit bluebookservices.com/produce or unitedfresh.org.