Truckload carrier CRST is fielding teams of company drivers to haul long-haul temperature controlled freight from Southern California to the Northeast.
Starting Dec. 1, CRST will deploy 25 trucks in its coast-to-coast Temperature Controlled Team Service and plans to shift dry van teams to reefer as needed. The company will cater to produce retailers and producers, as well as manufacturers of drugs, beverages and other temperature-sensitive products.
The goal is not just to throw trucks into a new line of business, but create a new model for long-haul perishables shipping, consultants working with CRST said.
Intermodal transportation experts Tom Finkbiner and Theodore Prince are working with the Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based carrier to launch the TCTS service. CRST’s goal is to win shippers that currently depend on owner-operators with guaranteed capacity, faster service and pricing competitive with single-driver rates.
Team drivers can make the trip from the West Coast to the Northeast in 60 hours, Finkbiner and Prince said, as opposed to up five and a half days for a single driver.
“It’s not just adding capacity, it’s changing the supply chain,” said Finkbiner. The faster team service improves utilization, driving down costs per truck, he said.
Refrigerated capacity is readily available on the market, Prince said, but costs can vary widely even within one week during a peak shipping period.
CRST will guarantee shippers that use the service regularly “surge capacity” during peak perishable seasons, he said. “The value proposition for the shipper is that you’ve got 52-week capacity and assurance of capacity in a surge,” he said.
CRST sees a chance to move into a business dominated by owner-operators as higher operating costs and stricter enforcement of safety rules tighten that market.
“Given what’s going on with hours of service and CSA, the owner-operator model is becoming more difficult to sustain” in perishables shipping, Finkbiner said.