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Seeds of Success and Shipping Live Plants

Brandon Coburn, co-agent of B&B Transportation

A successful business relationship is like growing a garden. Just as plants require certain essential elements to thrive — sunlight, water, nutrients and pollinators — a relationship also needs the right conditions to make it bloom. If any essential element is missing, either a garden or a relationship can wither away.

Co-agent of B&B Transportation, Brandon Coburn, says he’s the green thumb in the third-generation agency, which includes his co-agents Mitzi Baker and Bruce Burford, Jr. They know something about sowing the seeds of a successful business relationship.

The Landstar agency helps supply the eastern half of the U.S. with millions of plants and flowers each spring by providing transportation solutions to a large farm in Miami that sells to retailers. Coburn says, to make that happen, the agency tends to its customer and business capacity owner (BCO) relationships all year to ensure they are ready to successfully deliver this time-sensitive freight.

One of the things that has helped B&B Transportation grow is the agency’s dedication to planning. Just as a good gardener prepares the soil before planting season, B&B staffers make sure they have everything needed before a single plant leaves the farm dock.

“It’s critical we have the right logistics plan, the right equipment and, of course, the right people,” says Coburn, who is also the chief operating officer and director of sales for the agency.

The right equipment means vented vans, like those in Landstar’s trailer fleet. Vented vans are standard 53-foot, enclosed trailers, with a vent window in the back door that can be opened or closed. An open vent allows air to flow, so plants inside the trailer stay cool.

The right people means Landstar BCOs who are educated about plant transport and have enough experience to keep the plants alive. It’s critical that BCOs hauling plants understand that the living cargo must be kept cool – and the trailers must keep moving so airflow does not stop.

“One thing you cannot do with a load of live plants is sit overnight or let them sit in a hot trailer. You will end up with a trailer full of dead plants,” Coburn says. “Plants need additional securement and care, as they’re an expirable product.”

He explains that BCOs hauling his customer’s freight need to know how to properly load and unload the plant racks and pallets, and be able to handle multistep shipments with five to 20 stops for a single load. 

That’s accomplished with attention to detail. Coming up with the right plan means being ready before the season even starts, including pre-planning the most efficient routing and making all expectations clear with the customer and BCOs.

 “Our ability to support our customer is critical to the success of their business,” says Coburn. “Spring is a huge plant season. We move anywhere from 250-800 loads inside the two- to four-month delivery window. When we are really rolling, it can be up to 20 loads each day. That’s a ton of volume.”

Making that happen successfully takes preparation. “Not only do we coordinate with the customer,” Coburn says, “we make sure to have the right BCOs in place, trained, and headed to South Florida at just the right time.”

To find BCOs ready and willing to take on the task, B&B Transportation sends the call out early and often — through handouts made available at Landstar’s field operations centers, email blasts, and load board and social media posts. The agency’s goal is to reach BCOs who might be interested in knowing the requirements and getting advanced notice about when plant season is coming, and when freight will start moving.

“We will get BCOs out and keep them driving for at least two months, depending on how hot or cool the weather is,” Coburn says. “We have owner-operators experienced in live plant delivery who have been running for the three years we’ve handled this freight. Some have been delivering plants and flowers for almost a decade, starting when this account was handled by another agent.” 

Coburn says before they were the customer’s go-to for spring deliveries, long-time Landstar Agent Larry Klemenz had delivered for the plant production farm. Klemenz originally brought the account to Landstar more than a decade ago, and when he decided to retire, he felt strongly about keeping the customer serviced by a Landstar agency.

Knowing that the account required several people in operations to be dedicated to it over a busy three-month season, Klemenz reached out to his Landstar area sales manager, who then introduced him to several Landstar agents he thought might be interested in taking over the business. Ultimately, it was Klemenz's positive history and experience with B&B Transportation and their team that led to the transition of the business.

The two agencies entered into a short-term agreement to transfer the specialized knowledge needed to service the plant farm, and to maintain the customer relationship that had been cultivated. Klemenz served as a consultant for the initial transition, and after two years, B&B was solely servicing the account.

Not only does Coburn manage the delivery of live spring plants, he uses them in his own yard, becoming a customer of his customer. “Of course, I plant their plants in my yard at home, especially when we’ve been such an integral part of delivering them!”

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