(Dec. 15) A West Coast logistics provider and five other transportation companies have answered an industrywide invitation to join the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp., Ottawa.

The DRC plans to provide to Allen Lund Co. Inc., La Canada, Calif., and other transportation firms the same legal troubleshooting services it offers its produce-industry members in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

The Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act, under which most produce-related disputes in the U.S. are resolved, does not cover transportation-related disputes, opening the door for the DRC to provide that service.

The DRC, which offers mediation and mandatory arbitration of disputes between members, said it hoped the move, unveiled at Fresh Summit 2005 in Atlanta, would provide truckers with equal footing in disputes with produce buyers and sellers and simplify the resolution process.

The DRC hopes its invitation to trucking companies will be answered by 226 new customers by the end of 2009, said Stephen Whitney, the corporation’s president and chief executive officer.

Six may be a modest start, but the DRC has yet to market the service, said Fred Webber, vice president of trading assistance.

In addition to trucking companies, retailers also have spoken to the DRC about the program, Webber said. Whether you’re a logistics firm or a retailer, the appeal of the program is clear, he said.

“Many drivers would rather take a load of dirt than a load of produce,” Webber said, citing the fear of potential claims. “We hope this attracts some guys back into doing produce.”

With its transportation program, the DRC essentially is flying solo, Webber said. By contrast, when the corporation itself came into being seven years ago, it had existing standards on which to model itself: those of PACA and Ag Canada.

With the transportation program, however, there was nothing to build on, Webber said. Instead, Webber relied on the trading guideline knowledge he had picked up while working for Blue Book Services, Carol Stream, Ill. Webber left his role as trading assistance director for Blue Book and joined the DRC on Aug. 1.