International customers may see possible delays in receiving their products due to multiple freight shipping issues arising in the United States, according to Brookside Agra, a global business based in O’Fallon, IL that manufactures and distributes all-natural specialty feed additives and agricultural, environmental and animal health products. Brookside Agra’s products are used in more than 96 countries around the world for a variety of global industries.
“There are several variables at play right now in the United States related to shipping,” said Chad Vaninger, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Brookside Agra. “We value our international customers and are working in the best way possible right now to deal with any potential shipping issues that may arise, and keeping our customers informed of the shipping situation. We are also advising customers to place their orders earlier, by as much as a couple of weeks or so, to better ensure product delivery.”
Freight forwarder for Brookside Agra, Jennifer Ostroga of Hancock International Corp., says the biggest hurdle in freight shipping today is securing truckers due to the controversial Electronic Logging Device (ELD) law. Under the new federal law, truckers are required to digitally track their hours of service using a monitoring device that plugs directly into the truck engine’s control module and tracks when the engine is running, the odometer, GPS location, and other data. Truckers found in violation of Hours of Service laws (14 on-duty hours with 11 hours spent behind the wheel, followed by 10 hours off the clock) are subject to strict disciplinary action that includes time off the road. The new law is focused on preventing drivers from falling asleep behind the wheel and causing accidents.
“Luckily, we have one very loyal trucker near Brookside Agra’s main plant who provides great service and rates. Hancock is being hardest hit with truckers in the northern part of the United States. All truckers are booked out at least 2-3 weeks in advance, so if anything goes wrong under this new law, we are looking at hefty delays,” said Ostroga.
Freight forwarders are also faced with one of the hottest freight markets in years, which means U.S. truckload carriers have the luxury of picking and choosing the most profitable loads and lanes they want, leading to tighter contractual truck capacity. While freight demand remains high and profitable, attracting and retaining highly-qualified, over-the-road professional truck drivers to fulfill the demand remains a huge challenge for trucking companies, which are also competing with low unemployment, alternative careers and an aging driver population.
A third challenge facing freight forwarders today is the uncertain role that new tariffs will play in the U.S. economy. Some U.S. companies have already begun initiating layoffs, pay cuts and shutdowns due to new tariffs placed on goods. More U.S. businesses are waiting to see how possible new tariffs could affect their bottom lines, while freight forwarders are doing the same; waiting to see how the tariffs affect shipping demand.
“The tariff situation is totally up in the air,” said Ostroga. “We are all hoping that the tariff situation will work itself out with time. We just hope it’s sooner than later.”