The hard part about produce salvage after a truck spill on the freeway isn’t the sorting and moving of the material. Not if you have the manpower. And the hard part is not getting the manpower to the scene in the required 30- 45 minute time frame. Not if you know who to call. The hard part is not the drivers on that stretch of freeway – even California’s craziest motorists brake for several tons of cantaloupes.
The hard part is the CHP. The California Highway Patrol doesn’t like anyone on their road when there is a problem. They try to get the county bulldozers out to clear the lanes, so if you want to salvage anything you have to be fast while also being very diplomatic.
The carrier called about 8:30pm saying they had a truckload of cantaloupes overturned on the westbound 210 north of LA and they wanted to salvage as much as possible. Our man lived close by and got to the scene within minutes. He reported that the load looked pretty good even though it blocked all four lanes.
I called a produce buyer we use for salvage in situations like this. He got there fast with two trucks and about 20 laborers – I know because I was already at the scene myself helping to calm some extremely irritated officers of the law. Once help had arrived we set up daisy chains to move the fruit. The produce buyer, our adjuster and I worked the heads of the lines sorting good fruit from bad as it went to the trucks. The CHP were nearly ballistic by this time, calling CalTrans every few minutes demanding bulldozers. Meanwhile, we calmed them somewhat by showing them we were making progress. Fortunately we got one lane clear and that gave the officers something to do and some traffic to move.
It took us about two hours to clear the freeway of melons. The salvage was worth over $5,000 and the carrier was very pleased. Our morale was out 20 the roof as a result of a job well done. Our produce buyer made a profit and his guys got work, so everyone was happy.
Well, almost everyone. As we left I could hear one of officers on his radio demanding: “Where the #!@&% is that #!@&%# bulldozer?!?”
Maybe it does take a bit of an attitude to keep the traffic moving in Southern California.
California Cargo Specialist