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Red River Valley
Potato growers losing business due to truck shortage
Potato growers from the Red River Valley region are enjoying a bumper crop this year, with many farmers recording record yields. The problem now, however, is getting those potatoes to market. A truck shortage in this region is escalating and has meant a slowdown in the amount of product that growers can get to customers across the United States.
"There has been a 32% increase in the amount of potatoes grown this year compared to last," said Ted Kreis, of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association. "It's been one of the largest fresh crop harvests in many years. This has been hampered by the truck shortage in the Red River Valley potato region. Resources have been stretched due to natural disasters earlier this year, which diverted trucks elsewhere. Additionally, new regulations have come out which limit the amount of time truck drivers can spend on the road. As a result, freight rates are higher and shippers are having to deal with that."
Shipper says E-logs to blame
The first phase of the government's regulations to have E-Logs, or Electronic Logging Devices, installed on trucks will go into effect next month. The devices are designed to monitor and record a truck driver's hours of operation and shut down the vehicle when their allotted time is up. The intention is for a safer driving environment, but according to one potato shipper, this regulation has exacerbated the truck shortage in the Red River Valley area.
"We started noticing the problem in summer when we started shipping the potatoes out in July and it's gradually been getting worse as the season has progressed," said Ron Gjelsness, of Nokota Packers in North Dakota. "We feel the new E-Logs regulations that are coming in have put truckers off from coming into the region as they usually have to deadhead from either Minneapolis or South Dakota. The computers monitor their driving and idle times and limits the hours they can spend behind the wheel. Once their hours are up, the truck effectively shuts down. Some of the truckers are saying they almost have no time to even get off the road."
Shortage leading to late deliveries
Suppliers have said that since the E-Logs have been more extensively used, they have experienced an increase in the amount of late deliveries. Gjelsness said some customers are now looking elsewhere for their produce and it has also hurt independent, local trucking companies.
"We have seen freight rates increase due to the truck shortage as well as an increase in the amount of late deliveries stemming from the increased transport time," he said. "Customers are not happy, leading to them looking elsewhere for supply. Suppliers are losing business and it's not just potato growers, but all the producers in the region. Some of the local, independent trucking companies say they might go out of business."
"The E-Log legislation will come into full effect from December," Gjelsness continued. "We're hoping that the legislators monitor the effects on business and consider repealing it if there is a clear demonstration of adverse affects to the industry. At the moment, we have to keep struggling with it every day."
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