Most of the perishable food produced and consumed in the United States depends on refrigerated trucking at some point during its supply chain journey. Refrigerated trucking—transporting food or other temperature-sensitive products using a truck or tractor-trailer that is temperature controlled — is essential to our daily lives. In sheer numbers, the market size of refrigerated trucking hovers around $12 billion and is forecasted to be near $14 billion by 2030.
With that kind of money and pressure to perform on the line, shippers must find a reliable trucking company to ensure those shipments reach their destination in the best condition. This blog looks at the advantages of refrigerated (reefer) trucking and what factors might help influence which reefer trucking company you choose. It also presents some of the most popular reefer trucking companies and examines crucial areas you might want to compare potential partners.
Advantages of Refrigerated Trucking
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of refrigerated trucking. Since the invention of mobile refrigeration units in the 1930s, shippers have used reefer trucks to transport essential items to grocery stores and restaurants. Here are some of the advantages of using refrigerated trucking:
The greatest benefit that refrigerated trucks offer is the ability to maintain the correct temperature and conditions, such as humidity, throughout the shipment’s journey. There is always a demand for fresh products. While fresh produce would not survive if the trip were in a dry van, they can easily arrive at their destinations in just-picked quality thanks to a refrigerated truck.
With a refrigerated truck, far less product is going to waste because it is spoiled. This translates into increased productivity with less time spent dealing with rejected loads and freight claims. In this time of increasing focus on the environment and improving sustainability, preventing spoilage and waste is a significant step.
Fewer spoiled products lead to more savings for all parties involved in the supply chain. Shippers avoid costs associated with replacement stock, freight claims, or disposal of harmful products in landfills.
While dry vans cannot haul goods that need to be refrigerated, reefer trucks can haul both refrigerated freight and dry products. If the products are compatible, it can even transport both in the same haul. In addition to keeping loads from spoiling, refrigerated trucks also protect them from theft, damage, and weather conditions during the trek.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Refrigerated Trucking Company
When looking for a refrigerated trucking company to transport your products, you should consider several factors to determine which company best suits your needs.
You want a partner with experience and expertise in transporting the products you are reefer shipping. Transporting fresh produce, flowers, meats, and dairy, to name a few, is not a one-solution-fits-all proposition. It’s best to find a partner with the knowledge and processes to manage the safe transport of your temperature-controlled freight to ensure it reaches the destination in top quality.
Scope of Trucks & Capacity
Does the potential partner have a diverse fleet of trucks that can accommodate your cargo and provide sufficient airflow throughout the supply chain journey? Major trucking companies have their own fleet of refrigerated trucks and drivers, so they often have suitable capacity readily available. Ensure there is accountability because some smaller owner-operators often deal with a limited pool of vehicles and drivers, making reliability and the ability to communicate a greater challenge.
Reviewing potential partners’ histories is essential because reliability can differentiate between success and failure. What is the success rate of the company? Are there recurring blemishes in their record regarding on-time deliveries, and are freight claims more frequent with them than others?
Range of Services
While delivery reliability is undoubtedly a significant factor when weighing potential partners, it is also vital to consider the company’s portfolio of services. Many transport companies offer additional services that can help your business — warehousing, processing returns, and kitting, to name a few.
Maintenance and Safety Record
Do not overlook this critical factor. Ensure the company has a regular maintenance program and a strong safety record, as accidents and breakdowns can jeopardize the on-time delivery of any temperature-controlled shipment.
Popular Refrigerated Trucking Companies & Carriers
There are plenty of refrigerated trucking companies and carriers of all sizes, many of which cater to specific types of products to be reefer shipped or specialize in certain geographic areas. Here are some of the more prominent ones:
- Roehl Transport – Started in 1962, this Wisconsin-based company has won the American Trucking Association’s President’s Award four times. The prestigious award is given annually to the company that is judged most outstanding based on its safety record, programs, and community outreach. The company has almost 2,000 tractors, over 5,000 trailers, and 2,500+ workers. With telematic systems in all their reefer trucks, the company monitors deliveries to ensure drivers adhere to the company’s temperature standards.
- Prime Inc. – The largest refrigerated trucking company in the U.S., Missour-based Prime Inc. has facilities across North America. It is an ideal choice for reefer shipping that needs help with logistics and transportation solutions. In addition to transporting delicate and temperature-sensitive perishable goods, Prime Inc. can handle durable construction materials with its fleets of refrigerated and other models of freight carriers.
- KLLM Transport Services – For 50 years, KLLM Transport Services from Mississippi has shipped perishable goods across the U.S. and Mexico. They offer temperature-controlled services for many modes, including over-the-road, regional and dedicated. It has a 98% on-time delivery rate and specializes in hazmat and chemical transport.
- Stevens Transport – This Dallas-based company has won many carrier awards and is an industry leader in reliable and flexible logistics solutions. Stevens Transport offers the most routes across North America with the ability to transport shipments all over the United States and to Mexico and Canada, all under the guidance of a team of multilingual logistics experts.
- C.R. England – Based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, C.R. England is one of the biggest companies in the country. With a wide variety of trucks and a massive network, C.R. England can accommodate all forms of cargo. Their services also extend to Mexico.
Comparing Refrigerated Trucking Companies & Carriers
Deciding on the right refrigerated trucking company is challenging, and there are plenty of options. Here are three critical areas in which you can compare companies:
When considering cost, you have to balance that with the service. The most expensive trucking company choice may not always be the most prudent. When comparing all of your options, it’s crucial to consider what you need when reefer shipping your product and what a company has to offer. Bigger companies might be able to give breaks with a larger volume of shipments, but some smaller owner-operators might be willing to reduce the price because they need to lock in loads to keep competitive. Whichever you choose, ensure you get everything in writing — the scheduled pick-up date and time, estimated delivery date, additional costs, etc.
Quality of service
A company’s quality of service can include an abundance of areas. Do they deliver on time consistently? Are their deliveries arriving in top quality consistently? Can they be reached when concerns arise? Do they provide specialized services? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you have found a possible partner for your shipments.
When heading into a business relationship, one of the fundamental problems is whether or not a partner can be relied upon when things are going well and when things aren’t going well. Looking at a company’s reputation can help sway you when comparing companies. Talk to others in the industry who have used that company. Look at their percentages for shipments arriving on time. See if there are more than a few complaints against their services. An exemplary reputation can be the final checkmark for choosing a company.
Let Hwy Haul Help You Do the Heavy Lifting When It Comes to Reefer Freight
With multitudes of choices and so many matters to be concerned about, choosing the right refrigerated trucking company is a task that requires heavy lifting. Doing your homework on each company’s quality and delving into their standing in the industry and then figuring out which one will work financially can be time-consuming. But the benefits of using refrigerated trucking and finding the right partner to do it with are worth the work. Another beneficial relationship can be working with Hwy Haul, one of the world’s leading digital freight platforms for fresh produce. With Hwy Haul, refer shippers can be directly connected with truckers with Hwy Haul assuring reliable capacity, touchless load booking, real-time visibility, actionable data insights, and dedicated support. If you are ready to work with the best, sign up now on our website.