Spring is upon us and that means one thing to those in the reefer business: Produce Season! And the 2021 produce season is thus far shaping up for a wild ride. Multiple factors from Covid-19 and severe weather to prevailing driver shortages and shifting demand patterns have disrupted supply chains and their supporting transportation modes. Refrigerated transportation has not been immune to these disruptions.
Michael Whitehouse, Senior Sales Executive at Comet National Shipping, says “I am noticing a real tightening in capacity that has significantly increased long haul reefer lanes. Nogales to Michigan, for example, has shot up 50% just over the last month. As we move forward into the 2021 produce season, I do not see prices coming down significantly.” And produce season is really just getting started!
Relationships are key during times like this. As capacity tightens, and prices go up, service levels can be very hard to maintain. For shippers, having an experienced reefer broker who can not only vet carriers and find capacity, but also hold them drivers accountable for timely pickup ups and deliveries is critical. And for carriers, an experienced reefer broker can help ensure a quick turn with minimal wait times while also helping secure that next load for optimal utilization.
There is an abundance of reefer freight right now, whether it be apples from Washington, oranges from Florida, blueberries from Maine, or cucumbers from Arizona. Reefer carriers are getting top-dollar, and can choose to be picky when selecting loads. Shippers should be as proactive as possible, be willing to pay a bit more than expected, and have a good idea beforehand of what they are willing to pay for a load. That can allow brokers to they quickly secure the right capacity. Carriers need to be mindful that in the long run the market will balance, and capacity will adjust to match demand. As Michael notes, “Good times are here for the carriers but prices will eventually return to a more normal level. Some shippers will have long memories of who helped them with fair rates. Remember, you reap what you sow.”