A trucking shortage is causing grief for local potato farmers who say it’s becoming difficult to deliver their products out of state during prime shipping season.
“We are definitely feeling the shortage,” said Myron Ayers, sales manager at Double-N Potatoes in Burlington. “It’s changing our sales.”
The shortage stems partly from commercial drivers striking over a new federal law that requires drivers to use an electronic device that automatically logs miles and hours driven. The law goes into effect in December.
Drivers are also scarce because many are delivering supplies to hurricane-damaged communities in Texas and Florida, said Tony Wisdom of Skagit Valley Farms.
“It’s taking a lot of trucks to move relief supplies,” Wisdom said. “When they are hauling lumber and water they can’t haul potatoes and Brussels sprouts.”
He said truckers taking supplies to damaged areas often had to sit idle for days because the infrastructure wasn’t in place to offload supplies.
Skagit County grows 12,000 acres of potatoes, according to the 2016 county agriculture statistics by the Washington State University Skagit County Extension. The $60 million industry is the most lucrative crop in the county, according to the statistics.
“It is the largest economic driver of agriculture in Skagit County,” said extension director Don McMoran.
He said potato growers are at the peak of their shipping season.
Ed Taylor, owner of Taylor Driving School in Burlington, said he’s helped local potato farmers deliver produce to nearby storage sheds.
“It’s a serious problem,” he said. “I’m averaging a couple guys a week just to haul potatoes to a shed because they can’t find other drivers.”
Commercial truck drivers are protesting the new electronic logbook law because it will cost time and money. Taylor said it could add about 15 percent more time to deliveries.
Truckers can legally drive up to 11 hours a day. The new electronic logbook will make it impossible to drive more than that.
Ayers said Double-N Potatoes has lost one California sale because it could not find a driver to haul its potatoes. He said the new law will add an extra day or two for deliveries when shipping to California.
The trucking shortage so far hasn’t caused Double-N Potatoes to lose products.
“It’s quite frustrating,” Ayers said. “We are a farm company that is a grower-packer. We are busy enough farming.”