The produce industry is facing more supply chain challenges than ever before. But, with any challenges, there are usually opportunities and solutions. This is true for the produce industry. Perhaps the biggest supply chain challenge is the availability of trucks and drivers. Peak produce seasons exacerbate the trucking shortage. Produce is perishable and many of the trucks transporting the produce must be equipped with reefers (refrigerated units) for the transportation of temperature sensitive cargo. During peak seasons, truckers with reefers are in short supply.
The pandemic has further tightened the supply as the produce industry has also had to compete for trucks with the medical and pharmaceutical industries which also need refrigerated vehicles to transport COVID-19 vaccines.
But, it is not only trucks that are in short supply, there is also a scarcity of drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires that drivers be 21 years of age or older to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce. The rules are more lenient for intrastate commerce in most states with 18 year olds able to drive commercial vehicles. Aware of the driver shortage, the FMCSA has launched a pilot program to study the feasibility, benefits, and safety impacts of allowing a driver under the age of 21 to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.
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