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Transport generally marks the passage from one stage of the post-harvest system to the next.
Transport, whether traditional or mechanized, is needed to move the agricultural commodities:
In many parts of the world, farmers and peasants live far away from any road on which grain can be transported to places of collection, storage, or marketing.
Therefore, products are often carried in small quantities over very bad roads or footpaths. This entails long transport times and high costs per unit of product transported, leading to a substantial decrease in incomes. This does not encourage farmers to increase their production.
Indeed, increasing production requires small fanners not only to develop storage buildings but also to readjust the local road network to the needs of product transport.
To alleviate these disadvantages, the road network would have to be improved to permit development of a small-scale transport system to meet the needs of the most distant production areas.
In places where the road network is undeveloped and agriculture is traditional, products are generally by transported people, donkeys, camels, and sometimes horses: oxen are more often used as draught animals.
Otherwise, pickup trucks, buses and taxis are often used to transport products to the collection, storage and marketing places.
In places where most goods are transported by people or animals, it is not unusual for farmers to have to travel 30 or 40 km to take their grain to collection, storage or marketing places.
Often there is a rental system (animals, small trucks), with rates that vary according to the season, the condition of the roads, and the distance.
Where efforts are made to popularize the use of oxcarts and simple wheelbarrows, such initiatives meet with a certain success when the equipment can be easily made by local artisans. On the contrary, when imported parts (axles, wheels, etc.) cannot be locally repaired, such efforts end in failure.
For road transport, tractors with trailers are generally used in the field, while on the road goods are transported on trucks of varying capacities.
It has not been possible to standardize the dimensions and capacities of trucks, because of the variety of transport requirements and the number of companies that manufacture chassis and bodies for these types of vehicles.
This being said, where the road system permits and the storage and marketing organization require it, there is a tendency to use big dump-trucks with cargo capacities of dozens of tonnes.
Purchase or rental of trucks
The choice between these alternatives should be made after an analysis of the needs, that is, an estimate of the quantities to be transported and of the type and number of vehicles necessary, depending on the characteristics of the routes and the frequency of travel.
On the one hand, the rental option offers various advantages:
On the other hand, the other option has its attractions:
Nevertheless, renting seems to be the simplest and most economical method.
But if buying a vehicle appears to be the best solution to the transport problem, there is, on the one hand, the question of selecting the vehicle best-adapted to the situation with the best quality-price ratio. On the other hand, the most economical means of financing or making this purchase must be found.
In selecting the type of vehicle, it is first necessary to define its specific functions, and thus the features desired: its load-bearing capacity in terms of the weight and volume of the products to be transported; its size and shape in terms of the type of products; finally, its technical features (four-wheel-drive vehicle, for instance) in terms of the condition of the road network.
It is obviously more economical to pay cash when purchasing a vehicle, but several possibilities exist for loans to be negotiated with banks. This can permit the simultaneous purchase of several vehicles necessary for the transport of products, rather than the purchase of a single vehicle paid for in cash.
The possibility of buying a second-hand vehicle should also be considered, although it should always be supplied by the seller with a guarantee for a certain period.
In any case, the purchase of a vehicle should not be seen as an isolated operation, but considered in the context of an overall programme for the production and distribution system of the products.
Programming road transport
The transport system must be as economical and effective as possible. This implies strict planning for the use of vehicles, according to transport priorities of certain products, establishment of certain schedules, and availability of personnel.
Note that it is desirable to keep some flexibility in the planned programme, to provide against unforeseen circumstances.
It is best that one person be clearly in charge of this planning: drivers or transporters can address their suggestions and requests to this person in order to improve scheduling.
Good transport planning must take account of the location of collection points, processing and storage centres, and markets, of the distances separating them, and of the quantities of products to be loaded or unloaded at each point.
In addition, a route plan should be prepared for the drivers, in order to reduce distances and calculate transport time as closely as possible.
This is especially important when collecting harvested crops, in order to avoid theft or deterioration of products awaiting transport to storage centres.
Like every other kind of management, supervision of vehicle upkeep tries to find the happy medium between two extremes: putting vehicles in the garage on working days, or making no repairs at all in order not to lose a single working day.
In fact, both the technical and the economic aspects of the question must be taken into account.
The purpose of upkeep is to maintain the vehicles in good condition, to reduce to a minimum the possibility of mechanical breakdowns, to reduce the costs of using the vehicle, and to prolong its lifespan to the maximum.
Two types of upkeep must be distinguished: routine upkeep, which consists of regular checking on the condition of the vehicles, and emergency upkeep when an unexpected repair is needed.
Costs of road transport
There is a tendency to reduce the overall costs of transport to the cost of fuel.
In reality, this is only an additional cost, and a small part of the total cost. Total cost is made up of fixed costs (those connected to the vehicle's papers and a potential driver's salary), to which are added the costs of use: fuel, oil, and upkeep in general.
To these must be added the cost of depreciation of the vehicle, which increases with its age.
Finally, it should be noted that the costs of use vary according to the distances travelled, the salaries paid, and the way in which the vehicle is driven; the fixed costs are invariable.
Depreciation cost depends both on the market and on how intensively the vehicle has been used.
To get a precise idea of transport costs in a given situation, a systematic estimate must be made of the costs of the vehicle per tonne or per quintal of product transported, taking account of all the above factors. This estimate should be repeated at least once a year.
An analysis of transport costs should be made when deciding between purchase or rental of vehicles.
Transport costs have an important bearing on the sale price of a product. Thus losses during transport must be reduced to a minimum.
Loss means the difference in weight between the quantity loaded and the quantity unloaded.
But in addition to this loss in quantity, there is a loss in quality when the product undergoes changes during transport.
It is therefore important to reduce the transport time while performing an effective service capable of preserving the condition of the products.
Various factors can be at the root of losses in both quality and quantity.
Bags that are roughly handled during loading or unloading can tear, causing leakages of products during transport.
Driving too fast, or in vehicles that are in poor condition, can also cause product leakage.
In certain weather conditions (e.g. rainy season), products can deteriorate if they are transported without protection.
Furthermore, loads left unsupervised can be stolen.
Various solutions can be applied to the problem of losses, both as concerns the vehicles themselves and as concerns the handling of the products.
Flat-bed or low-sideboard trucks must be fitted with a framework roof, and their sides covered with tarpaulins that can be rolled up or removed, in order to give protection against rain, and provide proper ventilation for commodities with a high moisture content.
Although the structure and condition of the vehicles are important factors in transport, it is equally important to pay particular attention to handling.
During the loading and unloading of vehicles, as much use as possible should be made of two-wheeled trolleys and bag-lifts in order to reduce manhandling.
Care must be taken to load and arrange bags properly in the vehicles, avoiding crushing the lower layers, and placing the bags on pallets to permit air to circulate. The attention to be given to these operations depends on the characteristics of the product and on its moisture content.
If loading is to take place at several locations, the bags must be loaded in inverse order to that in which they will be unloaded (the last bag loaded will be the first unloaded).
Other means of transport
In many countries, large quantities of goods are also transported by rail, and this has the advantage of generally being cheaper than road transport.
Rail's biggest disadvantage is that it almost always entails an additional transport operation on departure and arrival, unlike road transport which provides "door-to-door" service.
Over great distances, and where tile means exist, it is generally preferable to transport cereals by rail or by ship.
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