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Snake Season

I knew he thought I was crazy, and I knew he heard me, but he just kept pedaling up Reliz Canyon. So, in a little louder voice, “Sure wish we would see a rattler lollygagging across the road today!” What you want that for? Yep, I knew what was slithering through his mind.

My husband thinks the only good snake is a dead snake. I’m with him on that for sure, but I prefer to use my own pictures on my posts whenever possible, so as I have been gathering a few images here and there, it just seemed like it would be extra cool to have a real snake picture to accompany the few things I want to say. While we never saw one, I can’t be sure one didn’t see us!

It’s snake season here in the Salinas Valley. All the usual signs that it’s time to start watching for the rattlesnakes that lurk among the springtime California poppies are here. People start sharing recent sightings, the nursery shelves are full of snake repellent and the vet is sending reminders to get the dogs and horses their venom vaccines.

Depending on who you talk to, there are at least two common pieces of advice that should keep a person safe for the next few months. Some will say that it’s best to be knowledgeable about how to identify a rattlesnake. Snakes do have a worthwhile purpose in their habitats in keeping the gopher riff-raff in control (despite my husband’s disbelief that anything that creepy could serve the common good, so the random disposing of all snakes is not wise.

But you have to get pretty darn close to a gopher snake before you can really confirm that it is not a rattler. The subtle differences in the patterns and markings on their skin make it difficult to know for sure from a safe distance, so one needs either good eyes to see the head or sharp ears to hear its rattle, IF he decides to shake it.

The other way to be safe is to just be aware of the most likely places snakes hang out and stay away. There are different times of the day where they are more active and likely to be hunting or moving towards their favorite sunny spot, so being aware of these little habits can be helpful in avoiding ugly encounters with this reptile.

There is much to learn and say about rattlesnakes. But honestly, they really creep me out, so just reading about them has caused me sleepless nights and wary daytime trail rides and hikes. They can be anywhere, from under the truck, in the hay, nestled in the crevice of rocks, and lots of other places that can be unexpected.

So how can a post about rattlesnakes be relevant and maybe even helpful to people (freight and carriers alike) needing good transportation services?

Easter is here. This is the holiday that traditionally marks the beginning of ‘peak season.’ It’s not quite in full swing, like Mother’s Day and for sure Memorial Day weekend, but nevertheless Easter typically starts the time period when shippers and receivers hope that their winter efforts at securing capacity will pay off. And on the other side, carriers anticipation for attractive freight opportunities begin to be realized.

It’s actually very exciting. Anyone who has been in the business for even a short period of time can almost feel the season take off. Especially here in the Salinas Valley, there is an upturn of activity all around the city and surrounding farming communities. Harvesting crews, all sorts of equipment such as tractors, field trucks and helicopters make the valley hum with field work.

But just as the beautiful grass covered hills around the valley hide a considerable population of dangerous rattlesnakes, so can the upsurge in moving produce to various destinations throughout the country be fraught with problems for unsuspecting people.

Getting fresh product grown, harvested, shipped and delivered is very complex. As my dad says, there are ‘lots of moving parts.’ This is what is both alluring and almost addicting about the produce business. Time is of the essence, and decisions about getting the product from ‘field to fork’ often need to happen fast. In this haste, avoidable mistakes are often made that may marginalize efficiency for the short term, but in the worst cases, errors become very costly.

That’s where a good helper can be valuable. I am speaking specifically about a truck broker partner, but it’s true that a carrier or produce company that has invested in people who know the signs of danger, or better yet, how to stay far from the pitfalls, will enjoy the ride through the season. They will do so far more than those who ignore the lurking problems that are actually quite common but frequently undetected.

How does this happen? I have to use my snake example again to make my point.

In almost every case, all sources of information about rattlesnakes give equal attention to how to safely be in their environment as well as general facts about them. So educating people on the facts about this reptile needs to include how to share their space. Wearing boots and loose pants, staying out of tall grass, looking before you put your hands somewhere, not threatening or provoking them, all of these are some of the things that one needs to think about as they move around snake-prone areas.

The facts about moving produce are interesting as well. But in our experience, we have seen the most important ones ignored, so that people have sort of ‘walked into’ very problematic and disappointing situations. In the push of getting product to market, the main item that gets the most focus is the price for the transportation. Many of the details that ultimately make the price worth it become buried in the rush to get lots of business done while the market is perfect and there is time to get product to destination in time for holiday shopping.

It’s very similar to having a picnic and taking a hike here in our local Pinnacles National Park. Get the lunch packed, decide the route and let’s go! Short pants and sneakers, amble up the rocks and view the valley...oh yeah, what a day! Except, the reach for the next rock shelf could be sticking your hand on the top of a coiled rattler, and never mind the trail that takes you through a cave that could have a little nest of 8 inch babies, which are supposedly more dangerous because they have no rattles to warn you and they are much more apt to strike and feel threatened faster than aged snakes.

So here’s my warning to you: As the season picks up steam, plan ahead. Know your partners.

If you are a carrier, do your homework, not only on who is paying you, but just as important, evaluate how they treat you at the loading and receiving facilities, how much time they give you to get your load picked up and delivered, is their information accurate BEFORE you start picking up, and if there is a problem, is there someone available to help you?

If you are buying the truck, you may have to pay the market price, but what you should get with that is a carrier who knows how to handle (load, transport and deliver) your product. The company should be asking how and when you would like your updates. So what if they have the latest and greatest technology. Do they know how to use it to not only deliver your load successfully, but also give you the peace-of-mind the entire time they are handling your business? When you ask them to communicate, do you have a mutual agreement about what that means?

There is so much to say about this, but I am already too long. My marketing friends will tell me that this is a ‘3 parter’ for sure!

Bottom line is this: Everybody has skin in the game when produce gets moved. Protect yourself and think about where you are going so that you are prepared for what lies ahead.

And don’t get bit.

Have a great season! Good luck!

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