Date: Jan 20, 2016

I am pleased to share a guest contribution from John Stenderup, Manager, Grower-Shipper Transportation Services for C.H. Robinson. Mr. Stenderup will focus his blog on what being a shipper of choice means to your company, and why it should matter to you.

As always, I’m available to answer any questions you might have and I will try to address them in my upcoming blog posts. You may contact me at 949.885.2269 or email me at

Let’s face it: it’s hard work to be a produce shipper. As the son of a farmer who grows produce, I have witnessed this firsthand. Nearly every day of the year is consumed by budgeting, forecasting, compliance, planting, harvesting, packing, and marketing. With so much thought and effort going into these activities, why does it seem that transportation is often an afterthought for the grower-shipper? Freight should be a key component of your business planning, considering that it is normally the largest cost, after the value of the product being hauled.  

What if I told you that by adopting a few transportation best practices, you could actually achieve an advantage over your competitors by reducing spend and improving service?

You may have heard the expression “shipper of choice,” which has been thrown around frequently in recent years. It has the sound of an idealistic term, but, actually, it refers to shippers that demonstrate consistent industry best practices at origin, that are perceived as favorable by over the road carriers. 

So, the question is this: Is it possible for shippers to demonstrate qualities that are characteristic of a shipper of choice and, if so, is it feasibly attainable? Until recently, there have been no known studies to evaluate whether or not this was actually measurable. In 2015, C.H. Robinson undertook a study in conjunction with researchers at Iowa State University to determine quantitative attributes that would prove the validity of the theory. Ultimately, the study determined that there were, in fact, specific qualities that would influence a carrier to haul for one shipper over another. 

Through a number of interviews and surveys with truckload carriers, the research team narrowed down three key attributes: dwell time and asset utilization, contract terms and liability, and driver experience. 

Put yourself in the shoes of the driver or carrier:

  • Would you be inclined to offer a better rate to the shipper who takes five hours to load or one hour? 
  • Would you like it if your customer was constantly changing contract terms on you or dinging you for arbitrary accessorial fees? 
  • Would you rather haul for the shipper who requires you to wait in your cab for several hours or the one who provides an appealing waiting area with comfortable accommodations and refreshments?

Remember, most commercial carriers are paid by the mile, rather than hourly. More time waiting at the dock means less miles driven per hour on the clock. Life on the road is tough, which is why a pleasant experience while waiting to load can go a long way. Additionally, carriers want to work with shippers who demonstrate a consistency of best loading practices.

In a loose truck market, it may be easy to find immediate cost savings through the natural competition between carriers, but additional savings and benefits are well within your reach by differentiating yourself from your competitor down the street. Some do it better than others, and I assure you that those grower-shippers who create a favorable experience for carriers are rewarded. 

I strongly urge Western Growers members to read the C.H. Robinson white paper, Do “Favored Shippers” Really Receive Better Pricing and Service?, to gain a better understanding of how to attain such a status. Should you wish to read this white paper please contact either John Stenderup or Tom Oliveri.

My 2016 challenge to you, the shipper, is to approach your freight in the same conscientious manner in which you would approach the production and marketing of your crop and, in turn, make transportation your competitive advantage.

Through the Western Growers Transportation Program (WGTP), C.H. Robinson is committed to continued improvement of cold chain practices for Western Growers members. Our team is trained to help identify opportunities to streamline operations through industry best practices and help your company become a shipper of choice.  


 John Stenderup is the Manager of C.H. Robinson’s Western Growers Transportation Program and is based out of Monterey, CA.  In his role, he oversees C.H. Robinson’s partnership with the Western Growers Association, as well as seven additional grower/shipper associations throughout North America. 

An integral component of John’s responsibilities involves educating the produce industry on transportation industry trends, forecasts, challenges, and potential solutions.  Additionally, his role has a complementary focus on supply chain development for produce shippers, consulting individual businesses on how to improve cold chain efficiency and  better manage transportation spend in a constantly changing marketplace. 

John began his career at C.H. Robinson in 2008 in sales and account management before transitioning to his current role.  His background is deeply rooted in agriculture, growing up on a family farm in Arvin, CA and graduating from Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo with a degree in International Agribusiness.

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