Finding Trucks, Finding Produce Loads

California presents a paradox for transportation. This time of year, produce flows east in an abundant stream. The state grows almost more lettuce, broccoli, and other vegetables than there are trucks to haul it. Eastbound rates soar, and shippers compete vigorously for transportation capacity.

Then in winter, the tide reverses and motor carriers hauling the goods required for the state's huge population find few outbound produce loads. What loads are available usually pay poorly. Winter in California provides ample proof that every backhaul for one carrier could be the necessary headhaul for a different carrier.

Some motor carriers base their entire business on moving produce out of California. Westbound loads are simply a way to reach the source of the produce that makes up the majority of a carrier's revenue stream. Other carriers provide a mirror image. Their primary revenue comes from meat from the Midwest or from grocery manufacturers in the East. Produce is merely a way to generate some revenue on the return trip for another high-paying meat or grocery load.

In either case, produce brokers play a vital role in the transportation of fresh fruit and vegetables. When the supply of trucks is tight, brokers help shippers find carriers. When loads are scarce, those same brokers help motor carriers find outbound loads.

Some brokers are large organizations with office locations all across the country. Other are temporary, operating from rented office space and following the harvest as it moves north and south along the Pacific coast. Some are huge, strongly financed businesses, while others operate with little more than a call list and a cellular telephone.

Finding brokers on the Internet requires patience. When they are found, the sites are often password-protected. A carrier needs an existing business arrangement with these brokers to search for loads. However, some of the larger brokerages and logistics firms provide web sites that describe their services. A look at those sites follows.

C H Robinson Worldwide www.chrobinson.com is one of the largest third-party logistics companies in North America with a staff of more than 3,500. It can provide multimodal transportation service on a global basis from 132 locations in 39 states in the US plus offices in Canada, Mexico, South America, and Europe. It plays a major role in the sourcing and transportation of fresh produce. In total, the company arranges more than 1.5 million shipments annually for a customer list of more than 10,000. In 1999, C H Robinson generated $2.3 billion. The company offered stock to the public in October 1997. Employees own more than 70% of the common stock.

The web site opens on a page with a short description of the company. Six buttons across a menu bar at the top provide access to other parts of the site. In addition, the main page has two password-protected areas: CHRWtrucks.com and CHRWeCenter. Each has a registration page and a login page. This section also provides a help page for users who forgot their password.

Clicking the About CHRW button opens a pull-down menu with descriptions of the company. Visitors are offered options of What We Do, Company History, CHRW Financial Information, Contact Our Officers, Industry Terms, and an announcement of the American Backhaulers Acquisition. The menu for Customer Services is extensive. It includes Transportation Services, International Capabilities, Customized Logistics Programs, Produce/Sourcing Solutions, Freight Payment Services, CHRW e-Center, European Network, South American Network, and Mail and Print Media Services.

The Carrier Services menu is much smaller, offering only access to Carrier Relations, the CHRW e-Center, and a T-Chek page. The CHRW's Technology button links to an EDI page and to CHRW Online Services. The Investor Relations button leads to a menu of corporate data, including a Business Overview, Corporate Governance, a Stock Quote page, a list of recent New Releases, and a page of SEC Filings.

Click the Work @ CHRW button for a listing of company job opportunities.

The Allen Lund Company www.allenlund.com brokers freight and offers logistics services with 167 employees from 17 locations in 16 states. The company was established in 1976 and has grown to annual sales of $117 million on a shipment volume of 82,000 loads in 1999. Allen Lund matches shippers and carriers for truckload and LTL freight.

The opening page of the web site is fairly text intensive with 14 buttons for site navigation along the left edge of the screen. In addition, the search buttons are duplicated at the top center of the page. Two of these duplicated buttons are the Post Trucks and Post Routes pages. On the Post Trucks page, a site user can post the availability of a single truck, or up to 10 trucks. The user can update a truck posting, take down a posting, or place rollover dates on all listed trucks. On the Post Routes page, a user can post a route, update a route, or take down all listed routes. Posting a route allows a carrier to place a permanent truck availability in the Allen Lund database. These postings are changed only when the carrier wishes to change them.

The Search for Loads button is another of the duplicates, along with Contact Us. On the Load Search page, users can use maps or a form to look for available loads. Searches are organized from state-to-state. Users also can search for loads in a given radius from a selected starting or destination point. In addition, a radial search can be added to a point-to-point search. Registered visitors can search all available loads by trailer type such as vans or refrigerated equipment. This page also offers an automated search to match available loads to trucks already posted on the web site.

In addition to its load search features, the Allen Lund site describes the company's customized Certified Refrigerated Transporter program, which is designed to train carrier personnel how to avoid cargo claims on perishable loads. The video and workbook course requires four hours to cover simple ways to minimize claims, driver rights at loading and unloading docks, proper transit temperatures for different types of perishables, and compatibility of various produce types in a single load.

Clicking the Contact Us button leads to a page listing Lund's 17 offices and their telephone numbers. A link from each location listing leads to a more specific listing that includes the physical address of each office, telephone and fax numbers, a photo of the staff, and a list of employee names. This information is duplicated with the Office Locations button.

Follow the ALC News link for a list of recent press releases about the company and a list of articles written by ALC employees. The Conventions button provides leads to a list of industry conventions where Allen Lund is an exhibitor. The web site also provides a company history and a copy of its mission statement. For employment at Allen Lund, click the Job Opportunities button for a list of job openings organized by location. Jobs primarily are transportation broker or broker's assistant. Resumes can be submitted by mail, fax, or e-mail.

In addition to information about Allen Lund, the web site offers a page of links to organizations and companies such as The Blue Book and The Red Book and trade associations such as the National Onion Association, the National Private Truck Council, and the Produce Marketing Association. The page also provides links to The Weather Channel, Yondar Truckstop locations, Cat Scale locations, and the Federal Highway Administration road conditions page. A link to ATA's No-Zone highway safety web site also is provided.

Web Enhances Road Service

FleetNet America LLC www.fleetnetamerica.com is executing breakdown recoveries via satellite/Internet combination messaging. This is being done in conjunction with Data-Tronics Corp, an affiliated information technology company, and several FleetNet customers.

Testing and final development of this technology were completed in late 1999. It is being used as the standard procedure, 24 hours a day, for properly equipped customers. The company's client/server and mainframe processing environment, consisting of multiple servers and communication links, is conducive to adaptation for almost any communication needs. FleetNet plans to expand the use of this protocol by including other diagnostic capabilities, all centered on an SAE J1708/J1587 port connection to the ECU in the power units.

FreshLoc  Tracks Freshness from Farm to Fork

FreshLoc Technologies Inc's www.freshloc.com FreshLoc food safety system automatically monitors and alerts grocery industry personnel to potentially dangerous temperature fluctuations and other problems that can harm products and businesses. The FreshLoc system can be used to monitor conditions in stores or in long- and short-haul delivery vehicles. FreshLoc's main advantages are:

* Totally wireless-adds flexibility to change facility layout.

* Automatic alerting-users can find out about potential problems while they still can remedy them.

* More accurate records-should regulatory questions arise, FreshLoc instantly can provide complete and precise records of any or all monitored areas.

* Labor savings-employees won't have to spend time manually logging temperatures and maintaining those records.

* Versatility-users can monitor information or print out reports as often as they desire.

* Easy installation-does not disrupt store, warehouse, or truck operations.

EPA Refrigerant Compliance Training 

Online Registration is open for Environmental Support Solutions Inc's www.environ.com online EPA Refrigerant Compliance Management Training. This training is based on the training program ESS conducts throughout the United States. Course benefits include:

* Become a trained refrigerant compliance facility manager.

* Develop policies and procedures for employees and contractors.

* Learn how to document and track refrigerant properly.

* Develop a plan specific to an organization's needs.

* Earn CEU credits.

This program is self-paced; however, sections have been structured to allow students to participate in on-line discussions with the instructor and other students. Full interaction with the instructor is possible by posting questions on a bulletin board, e-mailing directly to the instructor, or by interactive discussions via a web-based training forum. As an introductory special, participants can receive Refrigerant Compliance Manager '99 Software for 50% off the regular price.

This course has a $295 registration fee. To register, go to www.environ.com/training refrig.htm. For additional questions, phone 800-289-6116 ext 8 or e-mail [email protected]

Technology Road Show Starts 

PNV Inc's Technology Road Show truck was unveiled at the recent National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) Convention and Exposition.

The primary goal of the truck's two-year Technology Road Show will be to educate long-haul truck drivers about how the Internet can enhance their business as well as increase information, communication, and entertainment options. The truck will be set up for two to three days at a time at PNV-equipped truckstops and trucking industry events nationwide.

The Internet-ready truck pulls a 53-ft trailer, which includes a classroom equipped with eight laptop computers as well as three PNV Internet kiosks. The show is being sponsored in part by Thermo King, Cummins Engine, CAT Scales, and Chevron. Several trucking fleets have sponsored a driver recruitment station within the trailer including Covenant Transport, Arnold Transportation Services, Jevic Transportation, and US Xpress.

Truck Down Service Provider

Truck Down www.truckdown.com offers a way for carriers to get disabled units up and running quickly with a service provider directory for the commercial transport industry-and it's available free of charge.

Transportation companies log onto the company's web site whenever a service solution is required. The user follows on-screen instructions to answer the questions "Where are you down?" and "What kind of service solution is needed?" to access Truck Down's database of more than 22,000 service providers cross-referenced to 250,000 North American cities, towns, and villages. Service providers then are listed in order of proximity to the location specified.

The carrier can choose from more than 35 service categories. Provided are towing companies, OEM dealer networks, heavy-duty truck and trailer repair centers, truck-friendly lodgings, equipment rentals, police emergency numbers, permit offices, and vehicle inspection centers.

 ALK Associates Improves PC*Miler Software

ALK Associates www.pcmiler.com has released the PC*Miler 14 line, an enhanced version of these routing, mileage, and mapping software products. The PC*Miler 14 database features 657,000 North American road miles, and 13,500 additional locations for a new total of 308,000 accessible locations. It updates all 13"-6" height restrictions in the United States highway network; adds most recent road openings, name changes, and construction updates; and has all five-digit US ZIP codes for 2000, including an update of ZIP code placement for 100 US metropolitan areas.

Enhancements have been made to the PC*Miler 14 Add-On Data Modules. These include 17,000 additional Standard Point Location Codes for a total of 112,000, and 45,000 additional six-digit Canadian postal codes for a total of 780,000. With more than 40,000 named highway interchanges and 4,000 truck stops, PC*Miler provides customized database management, hub mode routing, route optimization, and specialized equipment routing. For full information, contact ALK, 1000 Herrontown Rd, Princeton NJ 08540.

Used-Truck Web Site Debuts 

Ryder System Inc www.usedtrucks.ryder.com has launched its new used-truck web site, located at www.usedtrucks.ryder.com. Offered in both English and Spanish, the web site is designed for sale of light-, medium-, and heavy-duty trucks, ranging from pick-up trucks to tractors and trailers. Users also can obtain financing, insurance, and extended warranty quotes online.

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