Produce Transportation with Blue Book Services | Episode 249

Freight 360

June 21, 2024

Ready to master the logistics of produce transportation and uncover the intricacies of freight brokerage? Join us on Freight 360 as we sit down with Jeff Lair from Produce Blue Book to explore the world of produce commodities. We kick things off by discussing the recent heat waves in Chicago and Buffalo and then shift gears to recap the U.S. Open at Pinehurst Course No. 2, where we highlight the stellar performances of Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau. Our personal anecdotes about playing the challenging greens of Pinehurst and the mandatory caddy requirement for Course No. 2 offer a fun and relatable glimpse into the golfing world.

Freight broker liability takes center stage as we dissect a recent trial that exposed significant risks tied to inexperienced drivers and safety violations. Jeff shares insights on a massive warehouse fraud operation involving 15 fake LLCs in Peoria, Arizona, revealing the critical importance of accurate tracking in freight brokerage. We also discuss a real-world example of a GPS tracking error corrected by Quikskope’s verification tools, emphasizing the tools and strategies essential for maintaining integrity in logistics. As we move into the peak “dads and grads” season, the logistics of the sweet corn market become a focal point, underscoring its role in summer celebrations and the meticulous planning required to keep produce fresh.

The episode culminates with a deep dive into the seasonal dynamics of sweet corn and watermelon transportation, offering practical tips on maintaining their quality during shipping. We explore the year-round availability of domestic corn and how brokers can leverage these opportunities to build stronger business relationships. Jeff enlightens us on the crucial pre-cooling and storage methods needed to prevent damage and claims, especially during the bustling watermelon season. Whether you’re a broker, carrier, or just curious about the produce industry, this episode is loaded with actionable insights and expert advice to help you navigate the complex world of produce logistics. Don’t miss out on this informative and engaging discussion!

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Show Transcript

See full episode transcriptTranscript is autogenerated by AI

Speaker 1: 0:19

Welcome back everybody for another episode of the Freight360 podcast, episode 249. We're coming up on almost a milestone. That'll be next week, but today we're going to be joined by a special guest. We're going to talk about a couple more produce commodities, as we have in the past with Blue Book Services. We'll get to that in just a moment.

Speaker 1: 0:41

If you're brand new here, as always well, I guess not. As always, if you're brand new here, make sure to check out all the other content. And for those who are not brand new here, as always, please continue to share us with all of your other colleagues, coworkers, friends. Anyone that might be interested in freight brokering or is new to the industry wants to learn. We have a massive back catalog of tons of different topics and content. that's our website. You can find a searchable library there and, while you're there, check out the Freight Broker Basics course If you would like an educational option. It'll teach everything from how to get your brokerage started administratively and then tactically, how to grow it, build customer relationships, network with carriers and even grow your business by hiring the right team members. So, without further ado, we've got Jeff Lair with Produce Blue Book back with us. Jeff, in the Chicagoland area. Welcome back. How are you doing, sir?

Speaker 2: 1:37

Doing well, awesome. Happy Tuesday to you guys there and great to be back on with you.

Speaker 1: 1:43

Yeah, it's good to have you back. I'm actually curious. We don't normally well. We talk weather every now and then, but how is Chicago? Is Chicago really hot this week? I know a lot of the country is like getting like it's 90s in Buffalo right now. I got to figure Chicago is probably dealing with something similar, or am I way off?

Speaker 2: 2:00

No, you're on, Spot on, we're in the, we're in the nineties here this week it's it's almost summer, um, but yeah, we're, we're warm.

Speaker 1: 2:09

Yeah, for sure, For sure Ben.

Speaker 3: 2:17

South Florida. How are you looking Cooler than I think you. I was talking to my buddy in Pittsburgh this morning. He said it was like in the mid nineties. Most of this week it was only in the mid eighties. So I mean like, uh, I eighties, but yeah, I mean like we're not crossing 90 all week. Uh, yeah, like next week we're in like high seventies to mid eighties, like it's not bad for this time of year. No complaints coming from me.

Speaker 1: 2:39

All right, fair enough. I golfed yesterday and I'm in a men's league on Monday nights and it was sticky, it was you know how, like it's humid and the sun's beating down and, like you, just, it just feels kind of gross. But at the end of the day you're golfing. Speaking of golf, yes, pinehurst course number two, right the US Open.

Speaker 3: 3:04

What's your take?

Speaker 1: 3:05

man. I got a couple of shots. Jeff, did you watch by any chance? Did you follow any of it or see any of the drama?

Speaker 3: 3:11

Yeah, take Jeff's. I'm on, jeff. I'd like your take first.

Speaker 2: 3:15

Well, obviously there was a lot of scoring but then a lot of non-scoring here, with Rory McIlroy and missing putts, and boy, it seemed like he had it and then he lost it and DeChambeau kind of gave it up a little bit there too, right, yeah, so it was a very interesting finish. I mean, I thought McIlroy for sure was going to win it. I think a lot of people did Lo and behold, he loses it. Then he takes off for the hills afterwards without doing any interviews, which is disappointing, I'll tell you this.

Speaker 1: 3:56

I've played Pinehurst before. I went there for a buddy's bachelor party a couple years back. My flight was delayed so I didn't play course two, which is where that tournament takes place. But I played three and four. Um, and they're very similar where it's sandy, a lot of vegetation and those greens, like they're. Are they crowned? Yeah, it's there, yeah, it's, it's no joke.

Speaker 1: 4:18

So, like when you play course number two, it's like they have stay and play packages, like a lot of the destination courses do. You are required to have a caddy on course two, like it's an option on three and four. So I didn't have a caddy, but the guys that played before I got there, like you had your mandatory and they will tell you like it needs, you need to put your ball here and it's going to end up over there and that's the play. It's not like your standard run-of-the-mill green where like, all right, I'm going to get up and try to two-putt, no jokes. And when you're seeing guys like Rory McIlroy that miss a three-foot putt for their first time ever in their career right, almost 500 that he made and then he misses one that goes to show the level of difficulty for those putts. But I mean, hey, bryson three putted as well on Sunday.

Speaker 3: 5:10

And that was the other thing too right. Was it like Bryson? Probably, I swear. I mean I don't know the stat off my head, but he missed at least a handful of drives. He put in the weeds or in almost you know out. Looked like he was almost not going to be able to get a shot off and he absolutely scrambled and played really well to maintain it. Even his bunker shot on 18, I think they said during the podcast like nobody saved par out of that bunker all week and he saves par par, you know, to clinch the open.

Speaker 1: 5:46

When it mattered the most.

Speaker 3: 5:48

Yeah, for sure you got to give him credit.

Speaker 3: 5:51

Now again, like I just like Rory and I mean I think he's probably more of a fan favorite with Bryson going to live a few years ago and saying some things and kind of took the arrogant stance where lots of people kind of moved away from him so like I wasn't a huge fan for him or rooting for him by any means, but it's really hard not to give him credit for pulling it off the way he did.

Speaker 3: 6:13

And yeah, the other thing too was the stat was Rory McIlroy was 496 for 496 putting inside of three foot before he missed that putt on 18. And to me, like the only reason I give him like a pass for not speaking to the press was, I think, if it would have happened on 17 and it did happen on 16, he missed two four footers, the shorter one on 18 and he missed one on 16. That was like a four footer. If you lose going into the 18th hole, I don't think it's nearly as devastating as having to hole out on 18 to basically clench a playoff and missing that putt. Yeah, like that has got to be the hardest way to lose at one of the most premier tournaments in the world.

Speaker 3: 7:02

After trying to win a major for a decade, he hasn't won one in 10 years 2013 I think was the last time, right yeah, and I think he's recently got divorced and at least some of the news were like he kind of got divorced because he was choosing playing more golf than family and it's like to come off the heels of a situation like that to almost clinch it and then to not. Yeah, I've not seen other than Vandeville was that like 15 or 20 years ago, where he was going to win, I think, the British Open and shot like a 12 on the 18th hole was, I think, the only worst loss I've seen in a major. You remember that? One Like 10 cup? Yeah, do you remember that? Jeff? Back in like the early 2000s.

Speaker 1: 7:41

You're talking about a professional golfer growing up at 12. I just think about 10 cup.

Speaker 3: 7:47

It's almost exactly like what. I'm going to try to find his name, but like it was, I can't remember but it was literally like double digits and he was winning by like two strokes, going into 18. And he like overshot the green and just kept overshooting the green until he ended up with like an 11 or a 12 at like. I think it was like the British open, wow, but yeah, super disheartening Obviously Vandervelde British open 1999.

Speaker 1: 8:15

Yeah, wow, yep. Well, that'll do it. And other sports, jeff, I don't know if anyone in Chicago knows how to play baseball this year. I don't know if anyone in chicago knows how to play baseball this year. I don't like cubs.

Speaker 2: 8:26

Yeah, white socks not looking very good well, yeah, the cubbies are almost at the bottom of the division, I think they are it's okay thanks for that newsflash so they just they've just been not been hitting, and it's been.

Speaker 2: 8:43

It's been hard and painful to watch. Also, pitching doesn't come through in the innings, later in the game when they're up, and then all of a sudden either middle relief or the closer fails. It's a hard season so far here in Chicagoland for the Cubs. The Sox have been in. I think they may have the worst record in the whole major leagues.

Speaker 3: 9:08

It's a great place to see a baseball game.

Speaker 2: 9:13

For sure.

Speaker 1: 9:16

Hockey, ben, you're in your backyard basically. Well, more Lauderdale, so not too far from you, but Florida Panthers, that's next.

Speaker 1: 9:24

Thursday yeah, by the time this airs on Friday, the Stanley Cup could be over. But Florida started off with a 3-0 streak. I think it's 3-1 right now. Yeah, because they lost last year, right, I don't remember Made it to the Stanley Cup. So yeah, there you go. I think got your all your hockey fans out there probably gonna see a. Uh, it's funny. We call like um, there's a joking nickname the florida panthers. They call them like the sabers of the south, at least up here, because you get a lot of transplant like buffalo onions that go down to florida and they like hockey. So they end up going like if they want to go to a hockey game, obviously the Panthers is the closest option there in South Florida and they're a good team. So there you go. Yep, all I got for sports. What do you anything else in sports?

Speaker 3: 10:18

I know you got two things. Yeah, these are without a freak caviar. One was there was a nuclear verdict $47 million against Schneider, and it's kind of interesting how it played out. I'll give you the highlights Joaquin, I guess, was awarded by a jury on June 7th and a wrongful death filed by the family of Jarvis Nance Sr, who was an owner-operator killed in the 17 crash. Jury apportioned 100% of the blame to Schneider and Joaquin. The case is considered a nuclear verdict because it exceeds 10 million 10 million.

Speaker 3: 11:07

The details details on August 17th 2017, jarvis Nance Sr was struck and killed after exiting his disabled truck on Interstate 285 in Georgia.

Speaker 3: 11:11

Witnesses claim that Joaquin, driving a Schneider tractor trailer, swerved across multiple lanes, forcing another vehicle to veer into the emergency lane and hit Nance. So the tractor didn't hit the victim swerved, causing another vehicle to hit and cause the fatality, it said. While he did not directly strike the victim, the jury found him and Schneider fully liable for Nance's death. And the interesting thing was this was this is what I guess came out in discovery in the trial that the driver had only two months of experience as a truck driver before the crash. His employment's record showed multiple safety violations, including heartbreaking and stability control issues. So, to any mind, referencing our CSA issue, where we're reading and understanding these violations and why they're relevant, this is a good instance. Schneider's predictive analytics software had allegedly warned that this driver was likely to be involved in a crash soon after he was hired, and also after working for Schneider for seven months. He was fired when a random hair follicle screen test came back for methamphetamines.

Speaker 1: 12:19

Yikes, that's pretty wild, yes, and you think like if you, if you put this into context, a verdict of that amount, you have to remember where the lawyers are looking and it's who has the deepest pockets.

Speaker 1: 12:33

And this is not to like downplay the liability or what actually happened with the driver, but it raises the discussion of when you are a freight broker and a customer presents a contract in front of you that has clauses that treat you like a motor carrier. These are the kind of things that you can get pulled into. Yes, right, so this is it's a it's a takeaway again tragic story and you know nobody wants to see news like that, but it's the reality of of the industry that we live in. And if you are a brokerage and you've got big insurance policies and you sign a contract that addresses you as a motor carrier in some aspect, or if a judge can make the argument that you're acting as a motor carrier or having possession of the freight or, you know, controlling that driver in some way, shape or form, this is the kind of stuff that you could be looped into.

Speaker 3: 13:30

So yeah, for instance, if the brokerage would have directed that driver to take that interstate, they likely could have been looped into it. That's exactly kind of how that plays out, yep. The other interesting note was it said we had a stolen load. Cops apparently found it in Peoria Arizona warehouse where they had 32,000 square feet of stolen property Legitimate warehouse. It was renting space to these bozos. Cops said they took the warehouse on Tuesday. Then it says scratch that the whole warehouse on Tuesday. Then it says scratch that the whole warehouse was fraud. The sergeant we're talking to said this is the biggest one he's seen 15 fake LLCs and the FBI is involved. So again, another instance of fraud where they were. Actually some of it was recovered, clearly significant amounts of it. However, it's going to be interesting to see how and who was involved and how that actually played out, because that is a significant one for sure.

Speaker 1: 14:34

Wow, yeah, it is wild to me. I try to think to myself how does somebody come up with these scam ideas Whether it's a double brokerage ring or a cargo theft ring and uh, it's an entire market, like it is literally an entire market. We're playing defense every single day in our industry. So stay vigilant, use the right tools that you've got out there. We had, um, get this. We had a. This is like real world freight brokerage stuff today.

Speaker 1: 15:05

So obviously we've talked about Quickscope on this show. They're a partner of ours. We've had the team from them talk about their tool and their product of how to verify carrier identity. You know, live during the transaction. So we had a load this morning where a carrier was sent to GPS link. They connected their Samsara ELD and they connected the wrong driver's truck to the tracking. So in the system we're showing this driver's 90 miles away.

Speaker 1: 15:36

Thankfully, using Quickscope, the correct driver and the correct truck was verified at the pickup with their right DOT number was released, the pickup number to get loaded and otherwise the customer would have been. I mean, keep in mind it was the right carrier, just the wrong truck in their fleet. But it identified a tracking issue. Like we thought the driver was an hour and a half away and the reality is the right person did show up, so something like that. So basically, the takeaway here is there's tools out there and there's technology out there that will help you stay vigilant and safeguard your customer's freight so it doesn't get stolen or put on the wrong truck or whatever the case might be. So take advantage of what's out there. Did you know, did you ever have a situation like that where, like they connect the wrong driver's GPS or set it to the wrong driver?

Speaker 3: 16:26

the link. Yes, I've had it happen, not recently, but for sure. I've had that and seen that and had to resolve it. So it does happen. You get the wrong driver phone number, cell phone, you send the tracking link and then all of a sudden you're like wait a minute, this guy's nowhere near where he should be. Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 1: 16:43

Well, that's all I got for news.

Speaker 3: 16:45

Cool, let's jump into some produce stuff here.

Speaker 1: 16:47

Jeff, we're going to talk sweet corn and watermelon today, but we're going to start with sweet corn, correct? Yes, correct.

Speaker 1: 16:55

It's that time of year, right, it's what they call the dads and grad season right, it's the kickoff of all the summer get-togethers and cookouts and sweet corn and watermelon both. But sweet corn specifically is always a big item this time of year for parties. And you can boil it, you can grill it, you can do all kinds of stuff. But take us through. What does the sweet corn market look like? What do you got for us today? Can do all kinds of stuff, but take us through.

Speaker 2: 17:24

What does the sweet corn market look like? What do you got for us today? Sure, well, thanks, and I chose these two commodities specifically. As you said, we're in the season right now really running from. It's really been spring, depending on where you are in the United States through the summer, and just good opportunities for your listeners to consider pursuing shippers and potentially buyers of sweet corn for for loads. But you know, sweet corn has been been actively selling out of florida and it's wrapping up now because it's getting too hot. And then, as we turn the page, here we're in june and july, the rest of these summer months, as well as the fall. We got California shipping sweet corn. Colorado will start in July. We've got your Midwest states like Minnesota, ohio, the East Coast, new Jersey, pennsylvania and Georgia all rocking it with Sweet Corn right now and then in the latter months of the summer, july, august, even into September, and then even Canada, north of the border, it's going to be doing Sweet Corn here they already are. Can I share a fun fact with?

Speaker 1: 18:39


Speaker 2: 18:40

Yeah, sure.

Speaker 1: 18:41

So many of the listeners know I'm from Buffalo, new York, and we border Canada and it's so when you I love the, the seasonal availability tool on protospubliccom or the under the know, your commodity section, and it's funny when you look at like yeah, you mentioned like Florida earlier in the year, and then it comes up to like Northeast New York in the late part of the year, just based on the climate. But we have the Northeast New York in the late part of the year, just based off the climate. But we have there's a saying in Western New York at least knee high by the 4th of July. And that's how tall your corn should be by the 4th of July. And again, obviously, if it's only knee high, I mean corn stalks will grow, you know, six, seven, eight feet, sometimes higher. But yeah, we get it in season end of summer and into the fall and it's definitely a big fall staple. So knee high by the 4th of July. That's your fun little fact from Western New York.

Speaker 2: 19:29

Yeah, I've heard that expression too. It's a good one. So it's good to look at that here in another couple of weeks and see where. Where's the corn at and when can I expect this? See some of it on my, my plate, for sure, my plate.

Speaker 3: 19:41

For sure it's. One of my favorite things in the summer is getting it, you know, from a roadside stand that was picked that morning. And a couple other interesting facts. One I like knew this as like an anecdote, like you were saying, like all my dad and his friends, like when we'd barbecue in the summer, like, oh, you got to get it fresh that day. It loses all its sugar if you keep waiting, and I was curious how quickly that actually happens. And sweet corn can lose up to 50% of its sugar content within 24 hours if left at room temperature, right. So one relevant to shipping, for sure, and two relevant to Jeff's point your plate. The longer you're waiting to eat that from when it's picked, the less sweet it tastes. And I mean that's one of the best parts of corn is getting it fresh picked, because it just tastes to me completely different than if you get it at a grocery store a couple of days later and leave it in your fridge and cook it.

Speaker 1: 21:45

Yeah, and brings up, obviously, like your storage packing, how it's maintained to keep. To try and keep that, because you said at room temp, right, ben, it'll lose it.

Speaker 3: 21:55

Yeah, at room temp, it loses 50. And it says storing at refrigerator obviously slows that conversion between sugar to starch. And it says if you keep it at 32 degrees fahrenheit, the loss of sweetness is significantly reduced and you can consume it within a few days.

Speaker 1: 22:11

So yeah, so, and we're sure this I'll read it right off of uh. Producebookcom says hydro cooling and or vacuum cooling can be used after harvest with ice or with top icing to maintain moisture. If ice is applied, storage temps should be slightly warmer than the usual recommendation of 32 to 34 fahrenheit, up to about 36 if it drops below 31. Freezing injury maker. In addition to freezing, ice crusting can inhibit adequate air circulation. So this is like where it's extremely important, especially this time of year, for proper pre-cooling for a reefer unit. And you don't want them, you want to make sure reefer units in well, you know well working condition because one degree right units and well, you know well working condition because one degree right, that one degree, that little difference between you know 33 degrees or just over 32 to just below 32 is when freezing will occur and that's where your ice uh damage can happen. So uh, and that, just that just screams claims uh all day long.

Speaker 3: 23:08

So how long do you think the longest ear of sweet corn ever recorded was? How long?

Speaker 1: 23:15

Like a Guinness Book of World Records.

Speaker 3: 23:17

Yeah, it was in Shenyang. A single ear, one single ear.

Speaker 1: 23:23

18 inches, or am I way too small there?

Speaker 3: 23:26

Jeff, you're within the ballpark 20 inches. Both a little over 15.55. It's huge In 2011. That is a normal.

Speaker 1: 23:37

They're normally like what.

Speaker 3: 23:38

Eight to 10? Yeah.

Speaker 1: 23:40

I mean they fit in a gallon pot right, yeah that's true.

Speaker 3: 23:44

So it's got to be less than a foot give or take.

Speaker 1: 23:49

All right, sorry, jeff, we kind of stole the stage from you there for a second. What else you got on corn for us?

Speaker 2: 23:54

All good and so you know, for Blue Book and Produce Blue Book subscribers, if you subscribe to our services, there's just a great opportunity for sweet corn, both sellers as well as buyers. So there's over 270 buyers of sweet corn published on producebluebookcom that is accessible as a subscription service. And then sellers there's over 230 sellers. So just all good news for people as they look for opportunities for loads to consult with both the seller and the buyer. For your listeners benefit there.

Speaker 1: 24:39

I love it. I'm actually. I logged into my account to see Ooh the, the advanced. I don't know how well, how in the loop you are on the website. The advanced search is a new tool there. Yes, sir, oh, I like it. I haven't logged in in a few weeks.

Speaker 2: 24:56

Yeah, that's recently been updated, as of April 1. So it's just a new way to search for respective companies and get a list for whatever you're looking for.

Speaker 1: 25:10

Yeah, I mean, I'll speak from personal experience here. Whatever you're looking for yeah, I mean I'll speak from personal experience here. Like a lot of the, the brokerage that I that I work for, we've got a bunch of independent agents and this is the probably the number one tool that I recommend that we we have them use when they're looking to prospect some new business is um various produce commodities. So um it's. It's really really impressive. Sweet corn I found 397 total companies. Yep, I love it very good. Um, sorry, back to you, jeff, anything else on uh corn that's, that's it, you guys.

Speaker 2: 25:49

That's what I got for sweet corn, all right ben, you got anything for the?

Speaker 1: 25:52

any other fun facts about corn maize as we all learned in fifth grade right.

Speaker 3: 25:56

Yeah, a couple other ones. I mean I was I knew it was been around obviously for a very long time, but it originated in Central America over 7,000 years ago and I mean that is a very long time ago. I mean I didn't know there was much recorded history going back that far. So I mean that to me was pretty amazing, compared to watermelons, which we're going to be talking about only goes back to like 700 AD, so it's got like an additional 5,000 years of being used, you know, as a crop that we eat over watermelons and here's a takeaway for brokers too.

Speaker 1: 26:33

If you're prospecting um, as Jeff mentioned, and if you use the know your commodity tool and definitely um, become a subscriber for blue book um to get full access to all these companies. This is a commodity that domestically, is available year round, right? So where a lot of the commodities that we've highlighted or to go out in our newsletter each week will be imported. In some of the winter months, corn is 12 months a year, different parts of the country. So this is where you can diversify your book of business. While you might be actively quoting customers at one time a year, you may be just building relationships with other folks in the corn business at that same time of year because they're located in a different part of the country where their seasons don't line up. The other thing, too, is in um 15 years or so in transportation, I've never once uh, I'm sure they happen, but I've never once dealt with a corn claim.

Speaker 3: 27:27

So where melons, I definitely have, uh, berries, other points so this one was interesting too was each strand of silk on an ear of corn corresponds to a single kernel. For a kernel to develop, pollen must travel down the silk strand to fertilize it. So for every kernel there is one strand of silk. The other was three different types of sweetness uh, standard, sugary, enhanced and super sweet for types of sweetness, standard, sugary enhanced and super sweet for types of sweet corn.

Speaker 1: 27:58

Interesting. Sweet corn is ready for harvest approximately 18 to 22 days after silking, when the ear is fully formed. Size and length vary so that gives you a rough idea of the lead time for shipping on that commodity versus silking. Fun new fact I didn't know that's what silking meant. Ears fully formed All right, cool. So that leads us to watermelons Again. It's that time of year, right? You ever have like a watermelon seed spitting contest when you guys were a kid who can spit the furthest fun times? Yeah, what do we got for watermelons?

Speaker 2: 28:39

so this is the juicy commodity, no pun intended, right? Actually sweet corn is juicy too if you get a good year, right, um. But watermelons, you know, is another thing that's moving right now. Depending on where you are in the United States, seasons kicked off in the south, in Florida and Alabama, and now we're turning the page to shipping out of California. Florida is going to wrap up here July. You've got Georgia rolling and it keeps just moving up. The east coast, maryland, um, new york, the carolinas, is our huge shippers of, uh, watermelons, and also texas is a big watermelon grower shipper, and also you're getting some still out of mexico. So of those are big areas right now that watermelons are moving in the United States.

Speaker 3: 29:37

Hey, Jeff, on that point. Right there I pulled some of the stats on the regions for what you just said to give listeners an idea of where this is. Freight wise right and shipments this is from Dean Croke over at DAT came out this week. In a remarkable turn of events, watermelons have surged ahead to dominate the national truckload tonnage in the past 30 days Excuse me, a position typically held by potatoes this time of year.

Speaker 3: 30:05

Watermelon production in Florida is 11% higher year over year, accounting for 53% of the watermelon shipments last week. Mexico, 34% of the volume, is next with production 17% over last year. Texas, 13% of the loads last week, reporting 19% higher volume. The trend is expected to continue as Florida season peaks, followed by increased production. As you said, jeff, georgia, california, indiana, north Carolina in the subsequent months. And according to the USDA, California, indiana, north Carolina in the subsequent months. And according to the USDA, mexico is also a large watermelon supplier, with around 62% of shipments crossing through the US by Nogales, arizona and the Tucson Freight Market, followed by Progreso, texas and the Rio Grande Valley region and McAllen Freight Market. Interesting.

Speaker 1: 30:53

Valley region and McAllen freight market Interesting Watermelons are one one for me that like cause they're um storage temp. Let me see I could probably pull it right up in here. Uh, 59 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit Watermelon can be stored for two weeks. Lower temps below 55 may add another week. Um chilling injury can occur if temps fall below 45 for any period of time. So when you get some of these um temperatures that are, uh, not close to freezing but still require some temperature control, this is where um and I know I alluded to claims earlier I have seen claims with watermelons happened because a broker or a carrier tried to squeeze pennies out and use a vented van instead of a full reefer unit and it got too hot. I've seen it where they try to combine two different temperature type of commodities and it gets too cold for the watermelons type of commodities and it gets too cold for the watermelons. So, yeah, definitely, I mean it's not the most claim prone produce commodity that's out there, but it's really important with this stuff.

Speaker 1: 32:03

You know, you have to remember too, when you're dealing with a reefer driver or a reefer carrier, they're not always like hey, we're melon experts experts, or hey, we're potato experts or specialty. They are refrigerated truck experts. That's what they know, that's what they do. But the commodity that they're going to carry is going to vary. And don't forget, sometimes these drivers are, you know, they're not taking a 10-hour reset between every load. It could be they're dropping off one load and then they're going to drive an hour and go pick up their next load and start driving. And the temperature needs to. It could be it has to warm up right, or obviously prequel, they have to cool it down. So just another shout out there to make sure you're verifying the correct temperature. The reefer settings, these kinds of things should be listed on the bill of lading. It never hurts to double and triple check the requirements and the settings from one commodity to another. I mean there's hundreds of different produce commodities that are out there and if this is a niche that you're operating in in the reefer market, it's pretty much impossible to remember every little nuance and detail about every single thing just off the top of your head.

Speaker 1: 33:10

So make sure you reference this stuff. Double check it with the shipper where it's this stuff. Double check it with the shipper where it's getting loaded. Double check it with the driver getting pictures at the pickup, showing the condition of the freight once it's loaded on and just a general produce point to mention here. Pulping is a great way to get a documented temperature as well as just any overview inspection of the condition of the product beforehand. This will all prevent the somewhat inevitable claims process that may pop up if something shows up too warm, too cold, bruised, damaged, you name it.

Speaker 1: 33:48

And we've heard stories of the shipper in a produce scenario having a produce commodity loaded too soon before it had a chance to be properly cooled to the right temperature for shipment, which then showed up in poor condition and led to a claim with a, he said. She said everyone's pointing fingers. Well, my refri unit was set the right way. I wasn't able to be on the loading dock when the truck was like you have all this stuff, that happens and documentation is going to be your friend in any of these situations. So it's my take there.

Speaker 3: 35:40

Yeah, you also. I mean that's why I like obviously looking back at produce blue book, cause it's going to lay that out for you. You can see and have your guidelines as you're having this conversation. One of the things that I've seen shipping watermelons is when they're coming out of a farm and they're sitting out in the sun where I'm at, like they're super hot and I've heard shippers go oh yeah, to your point, nate, like just pre-cool the trailer down to like 25 and then raise it back up to cool the commodity while you're driving. And I've seen those happen where the driver forgets to turn it back up. And, to your point, like they're all frost and you have a claim right, and that's why you know these procedures we talk about, like you pointed out, pulping product should happen every time they're loading any produce to make sure that the inside commodity like you got a truckload of watermelons and we're baking in the sun that is kicking off some serious heat into the trailer until they're back down to the right temperature.

Speaker 1: 36:35

Do you want to take a quick second to just talk through pulping, Because I know you've dealt with this a lot in the past and I've dealt with it with. You know the claims process, but for anyone who's maybe this is new to them, they don't know what pulping is or how you check temperatures and conditions of produce. Let's just take a quick second, take a knee and talk about pulping.

Speaker 3: 36:52

Yeah, I mean, just think of it like anytime you go to the doctors, anytime you go to see a physician, they take your temperature and they write it down. It's the same thing you're doing with the cargo you're putting in the truck. You're sticking in a probe, just like you would put in your oven to see if your meat's cooked, to determine the inside temperature of the produce. You're moving and we see that I've seen this a lot in lettuce too, where they don't pre-cool it enough because it gets shipped to them. Sometimes, like an hour ago it gets delivered and they're like, oh, we'll just leave it on the dock and put it in the next truck. Well then the truck's an hour and a half late and now that lettuce is warmed up it's not at the temp that you're going to put in the trailer. So it changes everything Like the trailer should be transiting your produce at the temp it was keeping it at that temp to deliver it at that temp.

Speaker 3: 37:41

The trailer shouldn't be changing the temperature. And that's what you're verifying at pickup to make sure your driver puts the liability where it should be. Did the shipper do what they were supposed to and did the driver do it? That draws a line between, when they're picking it up, of making sure the internal temperature and that shipper had it stored at the correct temperature. They didn't just dump it in the truck and hope you fix their issue.

Speaker 1: 38:04

Yeah. So I was going to say if you, yeah, if you're grilling and you use a thermometer, right, you just stick it in there, get that. That's exactly very much like that. And lettuce, like you mentioned, um, I have seen it happen. It's probably like a year ago last time I saw this where, like, a driver showed up with their reefer, still cold from the previous shipment and it was too cold, and the lettuce towards the front of the trailer, where the reefer unit with the reefer unit itself is slapped to the front of that trailer obviously. So that's the first place where that cold air is coming in down the vents. And it ended up being, yeah, sure, by the time that they had delivery, the unit was at the proper temperature, but there was, like I think it was like 12 or 15 percent of the lettuce in the front of the trailer was frozen and damaged.

Speaker 1: 38:55

Um, and you know part, when you're doing a claims process, if there's a usda inspection, you're gonna a lot of times the picture you're gonna see is like that, that metal probe, it's like a thermometer right up against the like in between the the leaves of lettuce, to see, hey, this one's reading at 30 degrees, right, it's below freezing where you know the other ones are reading at a different temperature, or if everything's reading at the right temperature at delivery but you see, frozen, like you know, evidence of frostbite or whatever it might be. That could then be handled by. Hey, did we, did we pulp it and put that probe in there at the pickup? Have you ever had Ben this is for you have you ever had a driver complain that they weren't allowed to be on the loading dock or see the condition of the produce being loaded on?

Speaker 3: 39:46

I'm sure I have, but nothing's coming up to like recent memory. But I mean, I'm sure there are instances of it and if that happens your driver should note that on the BOL and walk over and go hey, put your initials next to this. You know, mr Loading dock worker, whoever is there, make sure they initial that, they literally and write that yourself, like I asked the driver, like write that in in pen. You know, driver was not able to monitor or verify pulping. They would not allow me. They initial it and that at the very least absolves you of some liability because you've shown in writing and their writing that they verified. You tried to do what you were supposed to to mitigate that risk. They told you not to. And I want to kick this now over to Jeff, because, like I send most of these issues over to Blue Book to mediate right, which is one of the things they offer with the membership, because it's great to have that third party review in these scenarios. I mean, what are your thoughts on that, jeff?

Speaker 2: 40:46

Yeah, so you know, on something like that I echo what you just said, ben, and I think too, it's a service that we provide here. As far as you know, if you're on a dock and you have a certain situation like you just described and you're not be proactive and reach out to us and our training assistance team here, that you have this service available to you to help you walk through a situation like that.

Speaker 1: 41:20

Yeah, Just like resolve dispute of loads. Right, I mean we say that and you know it's in the ad, read it's in our newsletter. It's a huge, it's a huge selling plan, it's a huge value that you guys offer is having that third party. I mean you guys have been around for 100 years, right, I mean my brokerage will remember, obviously, ben and I, big, big fans and members as well um, but it's, you're right, it's absolutely the number one go-to because you guys are the experts when it comes to, um, how you know this is what right looks like and here's what happened. And because of this is what happened, we feel that blame would fall in this party or maybe it's a joint. This person could have done this different and this person could have done this different, but absolutely agreed. And then the other thing I want to add in Ben shipper loading count, and I know we talked about this with Mike from FreightClaimscom last month.

Speaker 1: 42:13

If a driver is not able to verify the quantity or the condition of the freight, if it's shipper load and count right. A lot of times it's annotated on the BOL as SLC that whoever loads the truck is going to initial on the BOL their section, that it's been fully loaded. Here's the quantity and the commodity and et cetera, and SLC ship, reload and count. It's good to know that and to document it. But also this is a great discussion point for prospecting. When you're talking to a customer you want to ask stuff like this, like hey, what does the process look like for you guys? You could talk about driver assist and how it's loaded. Is it ship or load and count? Is the driver able to access the dock? These are questions that tell your prospective customer that you're not just a fly-by-night broker who's going to say I got trucks in the area. You literally care about their operation internally and what their world looks like every single day and you want to know this kind of stuff so you can properly plan and coordinate for drivers to show up. You could communicate with your drivers to prevent these issues as they pop up.

Speaker 1: 43:17

I remember when I worked for Conway Freight and I'd be on the dock and inspectors would go around and pop stuff open and you know you might have something that would ship or load and count and then you find out that the actual amount that was inspected is not the correct amount. So we know it's not our fault because we have it documented as the because they were a carrier. Yeah, we had it documented that. Well, we accepted this load based on a ship or load and count, meaning that we didn't actually verify this was the amount they're blessing off on it. We inspect it, find out it's short or whatever, and then we document it and that you know, pretty much gets the claim or you know the OS and D over short damage claim off of our plate and we've covered our butt Right. So just a great discussion point for prospecting that I wanted to add in there.

Speaker 3: 44:08

That's huge, for sure.

Speaker 2: 44:09

A couple more details on the, on the beautiful watermelon commodity too.

Speaker 1: 44:13

Yes, back to watermelon. Sorry about that, we'll go on. We'll go on rabbit holes.

Speaker 2: 44:18

Just the availability of both buyers and sellers of watermelon in Produce Blue Book. As far as sellers go, there's over 480 sellers. There's over 480 sellers, so a lot of those are grower shippers of watermelon, which is a good amount of companies and prospects to consider. The other side of it is buyers transportation brokerage or trucking?

Speaker 1: 45:10

Definitely Fun fact. I just found on Produce Bull Book Seedless watermelon. So this comes down to like your quality of the product upon receipt. Seedless watermelons with seeds are scored as a defect when they have more than 10 mature seeds visible when cut into four equal sections One lengthwise cut and one cross-wide cut. So I didn't know that a seedless watermelon was allowed to have some seeds but not more than 10 visible seeds.

Speaker 3: 45:42

Here's a couple of interesting things. I misquoted this earlier. Tomatoes were actually going back to around 700 AD. Watermelons go back 5,000 years to, apparently, the Kalahari Desert of Africa, which I would not have guessed is where the first recorded watermelon harvest occurred. The other was, to your point, seedless watermelon was first developed in 1939 by a Japanese scientist. Not genetically modified, was cross-breeded with different types of watermelons. The other interesting thing I found was was how large do you think the largest recorded watermelon is per pound? What are your guesses?

Speaker 1: 46:22

I feel like this is surrounds me like the biggest pumpkin contest, but I'm going to say like 300 pounds Jeff.

Speaker 2: 46:31

I go about half of that, 175. I go about half of that $175.

Speaker 3: 46:36

$350 by Chris Kent in Tennessee in 2013. That's insane. And have you ever seen the square watermelons? Have you ever seen pictures of those?

Speaker 1: 46:45


Speaker 3: 46:47

So in Japan farmers grow I saw an image of this, but I didn't know how or how long they've been doing it but in Japan farmers grow square watermelons by placing the young fruit into a square shaped mold and then this quirky square shape makes them easier to stack and store and ship. So they basically put the little watermelons and they grow to fit the shape of a box and they pull them out and it just looks like a cubed watermelon.

Speaker 1: 47:13

That's crazy hey, optimal, optimal storage and transportation, all right for sure?

Speaker 3: 47:21

and did you also know that watermelons have been grown in space? In 2021, seeds were sent to the international space station station to study how they grow in microgravity.

Speaker 1: 47:34


Speaker 2: 47:41

Anything else on watermelons, jeff? No, I think we hit a lot of good talking points, a lot of good facts, a lot of good guidance for everybody to just take in and opportunities.

Speaker 1: 47:51

Yeah, I'll give kind of a general. You know, here's your actionable items, things, things to take away from this, things to think about, considerations when it comes to anything in produce, whether it's sweet corn, watermelons or another commodity and we talked about a lot of it. But just to kind of to recap, your harvesting times and your shipping times are going to vary throughout the country and varying depending on the commodity as well, right? So think about this in your prospecting and your planning. Different produce commodities have different temperature requirements, different handling requirements, reefer settings. The demand for these goods will change throughout the year, based off. You know, we just mentioned it's the dads and grad season, the 4th of July around the corner, you know. Same thing we talk about with Christmas trees, right? You're not going to prospect Christmas trees in February, right? You think about the planning season, for that is the months leading up to when people are going to want to purchase a Christmas tree.

Speaker 1: 48:49

So do some backwards planning there and think about all the questions that you can ask in a good prospecting call with your customers, right? Whether it's how they load it, how they pulpit, documentation, procedures, proper storage and temperature settings, things of that nature. These questions like when you're prospecting, it shouldn't feel like a sales call. And, ben, I think you guys did a great job when you talked with Saurav on the last episode about like take off the used car salesman hat right, and you just want to have a conversation and be genuine and just legitimately talk to them about how they do their business.

Speaker 1: 49:26

A good prospecting call should be a lot of questions and you gather in a lot of knowledge and then you can do an analysis after the fact and that's where you can help yourself find a solution for that customer, whether it might be a good network of carriers that you've got in your brokerage or maybe a project they have coming up that you want to try to work on. But ask a lot of questions, take notes, ask the right questions too, and these are definitely the right questions to ask when you're dealing with a produce customer. So there's your little takeaway there, that's great Consultative selling.

Speaker 2: 50:02

What did you call it Consultative?

Speaker 1: 50:04

selling. I like that. I thought you said quantitative selling, but consultative selling. I like that, yeah.

Speaker 1: 50:11

One last note on reefers. This is just more one-, one level reefer units. There's something called a reefer download where you can actually get a printout or a download of the data and it shows it like a graph, the same way that, like DAT, is going to show you rates over time. It's going to show you the temperature sensor for that reefer unit, what temperature it was set at and what the actual recorded temperature was over time. So you might see a spike when they're at the loading dock and the doors are open, which is normal, but if you see a spike mid transit, that's typically where you'll find there might have been a malfunction or some kind of issue with the actual settings on that reefer.

Speaker 1: 50:53

So if you are ever in the unfortunate event of a claim and you're going through that claims process and presenting all of your information, that'll be one of the key data points, or bits of evidence, if you want to call it that that will be involved is how did the reefer unit actually perform during transit time? You know before, during and after transit so you can figure out. You know before, during and after transit so you can figure out. You know who's at fault, what went wrong, when it went wrong, et cetera. So fun little 101 takeaway on reefers for you. Good stuff, ben. You got anything else in the reefer produce world?

Speaker 3: 51:31

Not off the top of my head, I mean that covered everything I had prepped in the chamber for this one.

Speaker 1: 51:37

Jeff, anything fun coming up this year with Blue Book? You guys got any conferences coming up or any exciting news?

Speaker 2: 51:43

You know we're continuing to attend a lot of different conferences here. In July we'll be out at an organic produce summit in Monterey, as well as a food service conference. The big one is in Atlanta. It's the Global Fresh Produce Summit in Monterey, as well as a food service conference. The big one is in Atlanta. It's the Global Fresh Produce Show, and if any of your listeners have not been to that, I'd encourage them, if they're on the East Coast or east of the Mississippi, to consider going. It's just a who's who of everyone in the fresh produce supply chain, from grower shipper all the way to retail and also transportation companies. But it's just a good perspective of the breadth and the depth of the industry that we serve. So I'd say that one. That one would be the one on the calendar circle. It's going to be the 17th through the 19th of october in atlanta nice.

Speaker 1: 52:31

now let me tell you this. So there's, um, there's been conferences that, uh, I conferences that I've had folks in our company that they're like, yeah, you know, I wanted to go, I never registered or they were sold out, whatever. And we've had folks that just they found out where the hotel was that everyone was staying at, they booked a room and they hung out at the hotel bar or restaurant, like five, six o'clock in evening, because that's where everyone's going to roll to and they can start to develop a relationship and have conversations. Hey, how's the conference? You know, what are you guys doing here? Where are you from? What's the company? And you can have a lot of really good conversations at these trade shows and conferences, whether you're having them during the actual conference hours during the day or just like the networking stuff in the evening Super valuable.

Speaker 1: 53:13

Or just like the networking stuff in the evening super valuable. That in-person time with anybody customer-related, in my opinion, goes very, very far. Obviously, the only prospecting you do shouldn't just be trade shows. It's not the most efficient way but it is very effective. So I like to always recommend if you're in a niche commodity, there's likely some sort of event, networking style event or a trade show somewhere in the country throughout the year, and I recommend get to it. Produce, there's a ton of them all over the place. I remember we had like a potato one in Niagara Falls like 10 years ago. That was basically in my backyard and very, very valuable to get somebody in, you know, in front of those folks. So good stuff. Well, we appreciate you coming on again, jeff, and we'll have you on again. What? Twice more this year, a couple more times, a few more times.

Speaker 2: 54:03

Give or take. Yeah, it's always good to be with you guys and just have an opportunity to do an episode for your listeners and, again, produce Blue Book is the resource for anybody in the fresh produce supply chain, including transportation brokers, truckers, to use and tap into for everything that we discussed today.

Speaker 1: 54:24

Awesome. Producebluebookcom. That's the way to get there, and if you guys are subscribed to our newsletter, it comes out every Tuesday and Thursday. There is a link right in there we put it right in front of you for Blue Book, so check it out. Visit them online. Protospilbookcom there's a Join Today button right at the top right. It's a nice big blue button, so hit that and become a member. So, ben. Final thoughts.

Speaker 3: 54:52

Whether you believe you can or believe you can't, you're right.

Speaker 1: 54:57

And until next time go Bills.

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Freight 360
Freight 360

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