Truckies struggle to cart grapes

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 11:41 05/04/2013

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The hot dry summer, which delivered a dream season for grape growers, is causing headaches for transporters and wineries during harvest.

Yealands Estate owner Peter Yealands said yesterday that warm weather had consolidated ripening, creating a major influx of grapes into the wineries at the same time.

He expanded his winery intake area last year, increasing capacity to process 1500 tonnes of grapes a day. But they appeared to have been caught short with not enough trucks available in the region to transport grapes from the vineyards to the winery, he said.

"We've got nine harvesters operating, but there seems to be a shortage of trucks around - everyone is fully maxed-out."

Renwick Transport operations manager Jacky Smith said transport was an issue every harvest but appeared to be worse this year because of the compacted vintage.

Owner-operator truck drivers travelled from all over the country to work during harvest but it was tight for two weeks in the middle of vintage, when sauvignon blanc ripened, she said.

"I hate to think how many phone calls I'm getting day and night from people needing transport, that I have to turn away," she said.

"We're only a third of the way through vintage, but in another seven to 10 days that really intense period will be over and hopefully things will go back to normal."

TNL Freighting branch manager Dennis McKinley said the trucking requirements for harvest this year were "far exceeding" what had been indicated to them pre-harvest.

Many clients were starting to see all their varieties coming in at the same time, he said.

"We've got 44 units and they're stretched right out. Everything is coming in at once."

Heagney's Brothers Transport owner Peter Heagney said the tight harvest put pressure on manpower and equipment.

"We try and help people out where we can, but have to look after our contract customers first," he said.

The biggest holdups were usually at the wineries, because they weren't big enough to handle the volume of grapes.

"Trucks basically become another storage facility when the wineries are chocka block with a huge volume of grapes coming off at the same time."

Villa Maria winemaker Jeremy McKenzie said it had been an intense few days since harvest started ramping up.

"Everything's pretty full on right now because of the compressed harvest. The truckies are all under the pump."

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- The Marlborough Express

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