Choosing a motor carrier to get fruits or vegetables from a grower-shipper’s cold room to a retailer’s distribution center can be a challenging process. But brokers say they are up to the task and can help shippers or receivers save time, money and headaches.

“We’re doing all the footwork that they don’t have to do,” said Vicki Gable, business development coordinator for Glendale, Ariz.-based Bigelow Truck Brokers, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Reaching out to a broker requires a lot less work and due diligence on the part of a shipper, she said.

“The broker pretty much takes it all on,” she said.

Brokers choose carriers from a list of those that have proven themselves and have earned a strong reputation in the industry, she said.

The broker does all the tracking, sets up appointments for pickups and deliveries and communicates with dispatchers and drivers to make sure the process stays on track, she said.

A shipper can simply contact a broker, explain his needs and get on to the next order of business rather than spending up to four days vetting carriers, she said.

Del Fresco Produce Ltd., Kingsville, Ontario, deals with trucking companies and brokers that employ their own owner-operators, buyer Danny Pulcinelli said.

Pulcinelli contacts whichever company has the equipment he needs at a given time, he said.

The broker he contacts will keep him updated and will be accessible around the clock.

“That’s the way it’s got to be,” he said.

Shippers or receivers must ask themselves what their core business is, said Mark Miller, director of corporate communications for Crowley Maritime Corp., Jacksonville, Fla.

If it’s not transportation, they’re better off letting an expert arrange their shipments, he said.

“You have loads that need to get moving,” said Nelly Yunta, Crowley’s vice president of sales, marketing and customer care.

Having a brokerage house that can help customers move their cargo from ports or airports is an important service Crowley Maritime offers, she said.

Even customers who have their own fleets of trucks often call on Crowley Maritime when they have an overflow of product to deliver and need more vehicles, she said.

Checking out the qualifications of a carrier is getting more difficult, said Kenny Lund, vice president of support operations for Allen Lund Co., La Canada Flintridge, Calif.

“Brokers can do it more efficiently,” he said.

With new regulations in effect from California’s Air Resource Board and new federal hours of service requirements, it helps to have a broker handling carrier transactions, he said.

Brokers give shippers and receivers access to more carriers and can help with claims management and claims reduction, Lund said.

Most produce is hauled by owner-operators or businesses with fewer than 10 trucks, Lund said.

“A broker is really the only way to access that marketplace.”

In choosing a broker, reliability is important, Gable said.

“You really need to get to know them and know how long they’ve been in business,” added Lund.

Talk to their references and make sure the broker is experienced handling produce.

“Many, many brokers get into produce and then get out,” he said.