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Anyone can say they make the best pizza or burger or, as Buddy the Elf found out, even claim to make the world’s best cup of coffee. Identifying best-in-class products and services isn’t as clear-cut. It varies based on category, segment, and opinions. There is so much at play in refrigerated transportation, in which doing the little things well and paying attention to the details play critical roles in preserving quality. This article covers what best-in-class refrigerated transportation companies do that sets them apart in the industry. 

Understanding the Unique Challenges of Reefer Transportation

Before Frederick McKinley Jones earned the nickname the “King of Cool” for his pioneering efforts in advancing refrigerated shipping technology, perishables could only travel short distances, even with the benefit of packed ice. His efforts made it possible for perishable products to travel farther distances than ever before. 

Technological advances, such as real-time temperature monitoring and innovative processes, and industry leaders continue to combat the unique challenges of transporting perishable products, preserving quality, and reducing loss. Loss of quality and spoilage contribute to food waste in the U.S., which the USDA estimates between 30% and 40%. Best-in-class reefer transportation companies are pivotal in advancing the industry’s capabilities and reducing food waste. 

What Best-in-Class Reefer Transportation Companies Offer

All companies need to deliver on their promises to succeed. For reefer transportation companies, this is twofold: first, to keep their own doors open, and second, to help shippers fulfill their promises to their customers. How companies deliver on their promises sets them apart from the competition, thus adding value to current and prospective clients. 

1. Reliability and Timeliness

Best-in-class companies set themselves apart by establishing stringent service level agreements (SLAs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) that underscore their commitment to punctuality and reliability. These metrics serve not only as a promise to their clients but as a benchmark for operational excellence, ensuring that the delivery of perishables from farm to table or manufacturer to market occurs within the optimal time frame to minimize spoilage and maximize freshness.

To achieve these lofty goals, these companies prioritize advanced planning, route optimization, and contingency strategies to navigate unforeseen delays, whether from traffic, weather, or logistical hurdles. This meticulous attention to timeliness and reliability does more than just get goods to their destination on schedule — it reinforces the trust that clients place in their reefer transport partner, making it a critical differentiator in the competitive landscape of refrigerated logistics.

2. Technological Edge

Visibility within the supply chain is critical to navigating disruptions, especially for food producers and pharmaceutical manufacturers reliant on temperature-controlled logistics. The rapid pace of technological innovations and adoption continues to enhance reefer transportation capabilities. While laggards in this space catch up, best-in-class companies leverage technology to provide value-added service, assurance, and resilience to disruptions. 

  1. Real-time Tracking and Monitoring: Leading companies offer unparalleled visibility into the whereabouts and condition of cargo. This real-time data is vital for anticipating delivery schedules, managing perishables’ shelf life, and providing shippers with peace of mind.
  2. Advanced Routing and Temperature-Control Systems: Optimized route planning accounts for traffic patterns, weather conditions, and delivery windows. Simultaneously, integrated temperature-control systems ensure that perishables remain within their required conditions, mitigating the risk of spoilage.
  3. Automated Systems for Efficiency: Full EDI/API connectivity streamlines operations and reduces manual tasks. It accelerates decision-making and improves booking, billing, and compliance accuracy, driving supply chain efficiency.
  4. Data Analytics and Reporting Tools: With tools like Power BI, companies can analyze data, identify patterns, and extract actionable insights to refine operations. This analysis aids in identifying trends, optimizing costs, and enhancing service delivery.
  5. Customized Tech Solutions: Recognizing the unique challenges of each shipment, these firms employ customizable technology solutions. Whether adjusting to specific cargo needs, providing industry-specific compliance support, or tailoring communication preferences, the technology adapts to better serve clients.

By embracing technology and best practices, reefer transportation companies set the standard for reliability, timeliness, innovation, and customer-centric service. This technological edge enables them to navigate the complexities of refrigerated logistics with agility and precision, ensuring that they remain leaders in a field where the freshness and integrity of the delivered goods measure excellence.

3. Communication and Transparency

Best-in-class companies offer tailored communication options for customers’ varying wants and needs. They offer dashboards with visual alerts and status updates, eliminating the need for lengthy email exchanges and telephone tag. Expect 24/7 support when you need it, but most importantly, expect proactive communication. If something occurs with your shipment, a best-in-class reefer transportation company will let you know before you find out elsewhere and provide you with the course of action and potential impacts. 

4. Deep-Dive Expertise

Americans eat more than 30 billion pounds of beef annually, while adults over age 21 each consume nearly 30 gallons of beer yearly. This winning combination is brought to you by refrigerated transportation. Reefer transport goes way beyond backyard grilling necessities. Lifesaving medicines, paintings, and electronics require temperature-controlled environments. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for the numerous products that require different temperature ranges, humidity levels, packaging, sanitation requirements, labeling, and handling. Experts in this area understand the unique requirements of each product they transport. 

5. Comprehensive Service Portfolio

Companies that excel in refrigerated transportation service delivery will diversify into other transportation services as they grow. Remember, Amazon started off selling books. The experience and excellence in reefer transportation speak volumes, but the ability to handle other transportation requirements shows a savvy strategy geared toward long-term success. 

The transportation market ebbs and flows much like other markets. During these times, companies diversify into other lanes such as dry van, flatbed, or hazmat transportation. This well-rounded skill set can prove valuable in attracting talented drivers and deepening service offerings with shippers. 

6. Compliance Mastery

Navigating regulatory changes and a commitment to compliance and safety mitigate the health and safety risks of goods requiring refrigerated transportation. The trucking industry is already heavily regulated, and transporting perishables adds another layer of complexity. Due to the complexity of maintaining FMCSA compliance, many carriers rely on software solutions to ensure vehicles and drivers remain in service. 

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) partners with several other agencies, such as the FDA and CDC, to ensure food safety. The FDA also oversees other cold chain products, such as cosmetics, drugs, and biologics. 

Failure to comply with regulations can put drivers and equipment out of service, which is extremely costly for carriers when considering lost revenue and possibly future business. Best-in-class companies understand these repercussions and will implement robust training, software, and effective recruiting practices to ensure compliance and simplify the process.  

7. Green Practices

The logistics industry accounts for an estimated 60% of global emissions. Best-in-class companies understand this impact and are willing to make meaningful changes to create a more sustainable future for the transportation industry. Adopting zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) such as battery electric or hydrogen power is one strategy best-in-class companies employ to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Cooling systems on reefer trucks increase the environmental impact, but companies like Carrier continue to innovate in this space with sustainable refrigeration and energy savings. Integrating rooftop solar panels can harness the sun’s power and help power refrigeration units, lessening the impact further. It’s not all about fancy hardware; even small improvements can significantly impact the industry’s impact on the environment. Refining processes, efficient routing, and consolidation all contribute to more sustainable logistics. This space has a lot of opportunities to improve, and best-in-class carriers implement changes that produce the greatest result without impacting efficiency or quality.  

The benefits of adopting sustainable practices in refrigerated transportation extend beyond the environment. Consumers want to spend their dollars with companies that act sustainably. Nearly 80% of respondents in a survey highlighted sustainability as an essential factor in product selection. Working with a best-in-class carrier emphasizing sustainability can improve a shipper’s brand by highlighting sustainability improvements and actions. 

Selecting Your Reefer Logistics Partner

Now that you know what to look for in best-in-class refrigerated transportation transportation companies, you can align your needs with your shipping strategy. Whether it’s sustainability or technology, you can identify your top priorities, which will help you throughout your search and the negotiation process

Delivering Best-in-Class Refrigerated Transportation Services with LGI

Best-in-class reefer transportation companies master the unique challenges of reefer logistics through precision, technological innovation, and an unwavering commitment to quality and reliability. A commitment to excellence, communication, and sustainability sets them apart from the rest of the pack and drives competition and continuous improvement. Choosing the right reefer logistics partner means aligning with those that excel in operational efficiency and are committed to sustainability, innovation, and the success of their clients.

At Logistics Group International, we carefully vet our network of 15,000 approved carriers. We back this up with our “no give-back policy,” meaning your freight will get delivered no matter what if you book a load with LGI. Contact us for a free quote and see how we can improve your refrigerated transportation logistics.