Freight rates have been a hot topic in the floriculture and perishable industry across the United States recently. Growers have expressed their concerns about having to pay high rates to get theirproducts to the market. Tough regulations and a shortage of truck drivers are the major causes for the high rates. On top of that, the devastating mood swings of Mother Nature have resulted in more logistical challenges.

Shortage of truck drivers
Firstly, all over the country, there is a shortage of truck drivers, resulting in higher rates. "When that happens drivers demand more pay and employers are under pressure to raise wages and give more benefits", explains Ornamental finished and young plant growers Dough Cole of DS Cole who is based on the East coast of the country in Loudon (NH).

Stricter regulations
Besides that, the federal government has enacted stricter regulations on drivers'hours, making the cost of moving product more expensive. "It was no secret that drivers would often cheat on their log books - the books they carry to record their hours driving, their break times and their 'off duty' times", explains Cole. "They would record less hours driving than their real times to be able to put in more working hours without inspectors being able to catch them. Now all heavy trucks must have equipment that electronically logs the driver’s miles, routes and hours of driving. This means that in general a driver will get less miles per day and overall making the cost of moving product more expensive."

The rates of carriers such as FedEx and UPS seem to have gone up considerably. "We are told that FedEx rates are going up approximately 6% this year", says Cole.

CalFlowers' FedEx program
And these higher rates also count for Californian growers, who are supplying their flowers throughout the country. But fortunately, CalFlowers has put together a program with FedEx to help these flower growers move their boxes of cut flowers. "By working together and building mass, CalFlowers members are making progress in keeping their delivery costs down." With discounts over 69%, CalFlowers' FedEx program allows Qualified CalFlowers members to compete effectively in the national market. Click here for more information about the CalFlowers' FedEx program.

Logistical challenges due to Mother Nature
On top of all this, the devastating mood swings of Mother Nature made logistics even more challenging. The mudslides in California of two weeks ago, for example, led to extra logistical challenges for the state's growers. "Highway 101 is closed from Carpinteria to Santa Barbara, making pick-up and deliveries extremely difficult. However, farms were able to ship their flowers south to Oxnard for state and national distribution", said California Cut Flower Commission CEO Kasey Cronquist, who has been in touch with a number of farmers in the Carpinteria Valley. Fortunately, Highway 101 reopened last Sunday, reports the LA Times.

The industry also suffered from the series of hurricanes that had affected the southern states of Texas and Florida and as a result, trucks had been used in a logistical capacity for relief work. Cole, for example, is seeing delays in the shipments of plastic pots and other products coming to them from the Midwest. "It seems that those producers are having difficulties in getting trucks scheduled."