Produce Shipping Costs Rise Amid Trucker Mandate

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MCALLEN – Rio Grande Valley produce growers say prices could be on the rise thanks to electronic logging devices or ELDs. The federal government mandated truckers use them in place of paper logs starting on Dec. 18, 2017.

Kurt Schuster manages the finances at Val Verde Vegetable Company. He says they first noticed a difference in cost around the time the law took effect.

"They tripled or even quadrupled. What would normally be a $2,000 ride turned into an $11,000 ride," said Schuster. "One the main drivers was actually in the big freeze that hit the U.S., but these freight rates aren't helping at all."

He says more than a month later the increased shipping costs linger.

"This logging thing is making a three-day trip into a four-day trip," said Schuster. "For example, avocados that are coming from Mexico, it's a very long freight haul and because that the freight price is just going to be added onto that sticker where ever you go."

Jerry Cowart is a Valley trucker and part owner of a local freight company. He says the cost difference comes from the way logs are kept.

He explains some drivers would offset delays by adjusting their paper logs. Those adjustments were sometimes the difference between making a delivery on time.

"In the old days with paper logs, a guy could fudge them a little bit," said Cowart. "You can't say that you were in Falfurrias at 10 o'clock in the morning when that electronic log said that you were still in McAllen, Texas."

Truckers and produce companies are working together to balance out the costs.

"They'll have to either load it a day early or make him deliver a day late," said Cowart.

Though doing so may only create more costs along the way. Schuster says consumers could pick up the tab.

"The truck is on the road longer, they're burning more diesel, they have to keep product cold longer, so rates are just going to stay higher," said Schuster.

The rule was created to make sure drivers get enough sleep making the roads safer. Cowart says he thinks it's doing exactly that.


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