Consumption of overseas items, such as bananas, traditionally declines somewhat in the summer. "From February to May, we are usually at full capacity in this area, as a lot of fruit is consumed and therefore transported during these months. Due to the persistent cold weather, the transport volume of bananas, for example, is still at a high level. Now, however, the tomato harvest is also gaining momentum, which is why I would rate our current order situation in fruit logistics as very pleasing," says Tobias Möckel (pictured below) from Göttingen-based logistics company Rofracht GmbH.
The company is dedicated to transporting selected agricultural products, such as bananas and pineapples, kiwis, European tomatoes and potatoes, and cauliflower from Brittany. "Due to the war situation and the accompanying inflation, logistics costs have risen considerably. It was particularly important for us to find a way with each other and pass on the additional costs appropriately to our existing customers. Since we also place a lot of emphasis on the quality of our service and just-in-time delivery, our order volume has increased significantly despite inflation and the economic downturn. For exotic fruits, I would rather classify the volume as stable to slightly declining, which in turn is also due to the inflation-related buying restraint in this price segment."
Expansion of existing business segments
Rofracht GmbH transports both fresh domestic produce, such as potatoes and apples from the Alte Land, and imported goods, such as cauliflower from Brittany, from A to B. Möckel says, "We're not focusing so much on opening up new markets, but on expanding existing business segments." The market environment in logistics has changed fundamentally over time at Rofracht, he says. "For example, we used to deliver Spanish strawberries to the urban wholesale markets, whereas nowadays, we increasingly deliver the bulk to the central warehouses of the leading food retail chains. Just-in-time delivery, as well as accessibility, are gaining in importance. In this respect, service requirements have become more demanding."
In contrast to the cost increases, the concise driver shortage is extremely difficult to manage, Möckel continues. "This has also been noticed in that we have been able to cushion the increased diesel costs to some extent through the diesel floater. However, the truck drivers, but also, for example, the truck costs (purchase, tires, maintenance, etc.) have not become cheaper. This is also the issue we will face in the coming years."
Germany's so-called 'truck generation' is gradually retiring, and new blood is unfortunately scarce, he said. "Many of our customers also want drivers who can speak either German or English, which is also necessary in view of the freight forms and temperature checks. We also try to set ourselves apart here with short payment terms, regular transports, good planning capability, as well as cooperation based on partnership."
Sustainable truck drive in the foreground
In the longer term, the topic of sustainable truck propulsion is also moving more and more into the foreground, according to Möckel. "In my opinion, e-trucks need to be tested even more in local transport. Regardless of the current energy crisis, we have the problem in Germany that energy costs are generally too expensive. LNG fuel has also been able to establish itself through the toll exemption."
Working with a partner, Rofracht GmbH opened an LNG fueling station on its premises last year. "We also already have a few partners in the fruit sector who rely on this fuel. Furthermore, I see very great potential for hydrogen trucks in the future, although the energy costs for production also currently play a significant role in this area," Möckel concludes.