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Refrigerated Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) shipping is a specialized transportation service to maintain specific temperature conditions for perishable goods. Unlike traditional LTL shipping, refrigerated LTL utilizes temperature-controlled trailers with refrigeration units. These units ensure that products such as food, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural goods remain at the optimal temperature range from pickup to delivery, preserving their quality, safety, and integrity. In this blog, we’ll explain what refrigerated LTL is and the major industries driving demand.

Refrigerated LTL vs. Dry Van LTL

While both Refrigerated LTL and Dry Van LTL share the purpose of transporting goods from one location to another, they differ significantly in their capabilities and applications.

  • Temperature Control: The primary distinction lies in their ability to regulate temperature. Refrigerated LTL maintains specific temperature ranges, typically between -20°F to 70°F (-29°C to 21°C), ensuring the preservation of perishable items. Dry Van LTL provides no temperature control, making it suitable for non-perishable goods that do not require specific climate conditions.
  • Product Suitability: Refrigerated LTL is ideal for transporting perishable items such as fresh produce, dairy products, meat, seafood, pharmaceuticals, and other temperature-sensitive goods. Dry Van LTL is more suited to items that can withstand ambient temperatures, including packaged goods, electronics, furniture, and clothing.
  • Cost: Refrigerated LTL typically commands higher shipping costs due to the specialized equipment and technology involved. However, the added expense is justified by the ability to preserve the quality and safety of perishable goods, reducing the risk of spoilage or damage.
  • Market Demand: The growing demand for perishable foods, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural products has fueled the expansion of the refrigerated LTL market. As industries seek reliable temperature-controlled transportation solutions, the demand for refrigerated LTL continues to rise. In contrast, dry van LTL remains a staple for general freight transportation, catering to many industries and product types.

The Food & Beverage Industry

Refrigerated LTL finds its stronghold in the food and beverage sector, dominating the reefer truck market. In an industry where logistics costs account for 7-10% of the total product cost, efficient and reliable temperature-controlled transportation is non-negotiable. With the rising demand for chilled and frozen foods due to the proliferation of quick-service restaurants and retail locations, the need for robust refrigerated logistics solutions has never been greater.

The Pharmaceutical Industry

Beyond just food, the pharmaceutical industry is another major benefactor of refrigerated LTL services. The United States leads the charge in drug development, with about 95% of new drugs entering the market originating from its laboratories. This reliance on pharmaceutical innovation necessitates stringent temperature-controlled logistics for medications and chemicals. Moreover, the recent global health crisis has amplified this need, with pharmaceutical companies increasingly relying on refrigerated shipping options to preserve and transport potential treatments for viral infections like COVID-19.

The Agricultural Industry

The agricultural sector forms yet another cornerstone of the refrigerated trucking industry. With the growth in agricultural products and increasing trade, there’s been a surge in reliance on refrigerated transportation. From fresh produce to dairy products, maintaining optimal temperatures during transit is essential to preserving the quality and safety of these perishable goods.

Refrigerated LTL Logistics | Synchrogistics  

Are you looking to streamline your refrigerated LTL logistics with a trusted partner? Synchrogistics offers tailored temperature-controlled solutions to ensure the integrity of your perishable goods. One of our services is LTL consolidations, where we efficiently combine multiple less-than-truckload shipments from different customers into one truckload. LTL consolidation not only maximizes the use of space but also reduces costs for all parties involved. By leveraging our expertise in LTL consolidations, we help you streamline your logistics operations, minimize transit times, and ultimately enhance the overall efficiency of your supply chain. Contact us today to learn more about how Synchrogistics can synchronize your logistics for success.

 


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We’ve heard from people that the trucking industry is currently in a freight recession or even that one began earlier this year. A freight recession typically combines falling shipment volumes with flat to negative pricing trends. What some industry participants (particularly brokers) are likely feeling right now is the pain from a collapse in spot market pricing as a greater supply of trucks chases a more slowly growing shipment market. While the US economy is in transition to a lower growth rate, we wouldn’t use the term “freight recession” yet for the following reasons:

1) Shipment Volume ⇑ September 2022 vs 2021
  • The Cass Freight Index reports September 2022 shipments 4.8% above the same time in 2021: Cass Transportation Index Report.
  • At the same time, the Federal Reserve industrial production index shows that manufactured goods are still expanding… for now.
  • If we weren’t in a freight recession a year ago, it seems unlikely that we are be in one now with higher freight volumes and expanding manufacturing.
2) ATA Truck Tonnage Index ⇑ Highest Level Since 2019
  • The American Trucking Association reports September 2022 for-hire truck tonnage at 5.5% above the same time in 2021. ATA September Report
  • The fact that two independent measurements of truck tonnage (ATA and Cass) show expansion during 3Q22 gives us confidence that the overall number of shipments moved during 3Q22 was indeed higher than a year ago. That’s evidence that the market was still expanding in 3Q22, not contracting.
3) 3Q22 Asset Carrier Earnings Releases ⇑
  • From JB Hunt (intermodal) to Knight Swift (TL) to Old Dominion (LTL), 3Q22 earnings releases from the largest asset carriers had EPS within or above guidance with companies reporting overall volume and price growth in 3Q22.
  • Old Dominion did show negative volumes of 2.6% vs last year, but Old Dominion has a strong focus on yield (i.e., higher prices) with a 17.4% increase in revenue per hundredweight YoY.
  • The BLS Producer Price Index for general freight trucking, long distance was also up 22% in 3Q22. Traditionally large asset carriers have more contracted lanes, and those lanes don’t usually reset until 4Q of a year.
  • Publicly traded companies may be seeing slowing volume growth, but their combined volumes are still above where they were last year. Pricing (especially contract pricing) continues to show strength, both anecdotally (in Old Dominion’s yield growth) and on a macro level (BLS PPI for trucking).
4) High Inventory Levels Saw Growth in 3Q22
  • Across the US economy, inventory levels are at historic highs. Even given that, net business inventories grew during 3Q22 albeit at a slower pace than earlier in the year. Manufacturing inventories levelled off in 3Q22, but retail inventories continued to grow.
  • Trucks are needed to move inventory, so growing inventories across the country means trucks were moving in 3Q22 to supply the goods. While the growth is slowing, the inventory portion of the freight market continued to grow in 3Q22.
5) Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Survey Still Reading Growth
  • ISM in August reported 52.8 followed by September’s reading of 50.9. While the survey still showed expansion, this is the lowest figure in over 28 months.
  • And look at that downward trend…more on that in our next post.
6) While spot market rates have submarined, contract rates continue to show year over year growth…
  • As we mentioned at the top, people may mistake the drop in spot market rates for a freight recession. The below table from DAT (dat.com) certainly makes a convincing case that truckload dry van linehaul spot market rates are falling fast.
  • However, based on carrier earnings reports, contract rates in 3Q22 stayed stable and even increased in some cases.
  • This divergence cannot be sustained for long – spot market rates have their own economic gravity, and contract rates are bound to reflect the drop.

Nobody is arguing that we were in a freight recession in September 2021, so if the things that drive the trucking sector – shipments, inventory levels and manufacturing – are above the same period in 2021 then you’d have to argue that we weren’t in a freight recession as of September 30, 2022. That’s not to say that we don’t have pain and dislocation in certain sectors, just that it hasn’t coalesced into a full-blown hurricane of bad news just yet. However….