Agricultural producers are facing more transportation issues as it relates to trucking challenges. The cost of shipping has been steadily increasing over the past year. Additionally, there are reports of overall trucking shortages compounding the issue. Ag exporters have had a tough time dealing with overall transportation issues in recent months. Congestion at U.S. ports and the limited availability of shipping containers have made it difficult to get agricultural products to export markets.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that trucking rates are continuing to increase. According to the most recent truck rate report, shipping rates for getting ag products out of California to other markets were among the highest in the country. Rates for shipping lettuce and other cruciferous vegetables coming from Santa Maria are as high as $11,100 when being sent to destinations such as Boston and New York. The rates for the same 48- to 53-foot refrigerated containers reflected a high of $10,400 less than two weeks prior.
Refrigerated spot rates for produce loads leaving the Kern District, Oxnard District, Salinas-Watsonville, Santa Maria, and the South District range between an average of $8,724 and $11,829. By comparison, the most expensive spot rate for ag products leaving California last year at this time was $6,900. USDA’s Fruit and Vegetable Truck Rate Report for May 4 takes into account various types of cruciferous vegetables, carrots, strawberries, citrus fruit, avocados, celery, and multiple types of lettuce.
All five regions of California detailed in the report are experiencing a shortage of truck availability, adding another layer to overall trucking challenges. Shortages are also being recorded in Florida and Louisiana, along with areas of North Carolina and Washington. Slight shortages are also being seen in areas of Georgia, Idaho, and Texas. Much of the shortages in truck available is due to a lack of drivers. Some of the potential causes have been listed as fears related to COVID-19, unemployment benefits and stimulus money, and competition with other job opportunities.