Are you planning to apply fall fertilizer in the weeks ahead?

If so, Steve Kubsch, GROWMARK senior manager of private fleet and asset management, urges farmers to place orders at least a day or two in advance.

That’s because the ongoing shortage of truck drivers could cause some logistics issues once the fertilizer delivery season ramps up.

“The driver thing is a real issue,” Kubsch said on the RFD Radio Network’s Profit Watch. “I think the industry-wide shortage, the American Trucking Association will tell you we currently have a shortage of about 60,000 drivers.”

The shortage is anticipated to climb to 105,000 by 2023 and up to 160,000 by 2028.

“We see the average age of drivers in the 54-55 range,” Kubsch said. “So, we’ve got people retiring on one end and no one coming into the game from the other. The CDL schools have been closed since the start of COVID and are just getting back at it again. That took a lot of new blood out of the game.”

GROWMARK planned ahead for the season and has fertilizer products in position and its fleet ready to go.

“As we get ready for fall, we’ve done some enormous planning,” Kubsch noted. “We think we’re ready for a successful fall on fertilizer delivery and applications.”

Two big wildcards for the season, though, include keeping truckers healthy and on the road and Mother Nature’s impact on the length of the application season. Unseasonably warm temperatures through the second week of October delayed anhydrous ammonia applications.

Those applications are recommended once the soil temperature drops below 50 degrees and continues trending downward.

“We may feel good about it today, but at some of our Manito Transit locations we’ve been dealing with drivers who get COVID,” Kubsch said. “We have a plan for that driver and suddenly he’s quarantined for 10 days. That can impact what’s ahead and create some additional challenges for us.”

The time available for applications this fall is also key and remains reliant on weather conditions.

“Last fall we had a great window (of 45-60 days),” Kubsch said. “We hope that happens again. But, if it happens in seven-10 days, it’s going to be a challenge. Make sure to get your orders in one to two days before. Where it’s challenging is same-day orders,” which puts additional stress on the logistics system.