Refrigerated LTL Shipments: Here’s What You Need to Know


Refrigerated LTL Shipments: Here’s What You Need to Know

One of the most complex transportation modes in the logistics industry is refrigerated less-than-truckload (LTL), due to its complexity and limitations. While many shipping providers are not able to accommodate these shipments, those that can will be better able to service your requests if you are aware of the intricacies of this mode of transportation. Despite its complexities, Trinity Logistics is actively working to expand our service offerings for refrigerated LTL.

What is it?

In technical terms, refrigerated (or reefer) LTL is the process of shipping refrigerated or temperature-controlled freight that does not require the space of an entire trailer (full truckload). A refrigerated trailer maintains the freight at a specified temperature range to prevent the product from deteriorating or becoming damaged. For example, frozen fish would move under a temperature range of 0 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit, while chilled beverages would move under a range of 36 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigerated LTL ships at a temperature range, not at a specific degree – we’ll provide more information on that later.

What makes it different than other modes of transportation?

Refrigerated LTL is a little different than regular dry LTL, and other modes of transportation, because reefer LTL carriers do not operate within the same pickup time parameters.

To put things into perspective, an LTL carrier may be able to pick up just about every day, Monday through Friday. However, a refrigerated LTL carrier has set days that they pick up, depending on the region. For example, if a refrigerated LTL carrier picks up in Los Angeles on Thursdays and Fridays only, then the shipper would not be able to ship anything with them Monday through Wednesday.

The same can be said for refrigerated LTL carriers’ delivery schedules, which also run on a weekly parameter. Meaning that, if a carrier only delivers to Boston on Tuesdays, then freight picked up the week before will only be able to be delivered on the following Tuesday.

Another thing to keep in mind is that shipping LTL means that other customers’ freight will be on the same truck as yours. With reefer LTL, freight that needs to be maintained at a similar range in temperature will be put on the same truck. Shipping multiple customers’ freight on the same trailer is only made possible by this consolidation based on temperature range.

Why is it harder to arrange?

Reefer LTL can be difficult to arrange because it revolves around a very limited and specific time schedule. The schedule that the carrier can offer for pickups and deliveries might not coincide with the shipper’s needs.

Aside from managing shipments within the timeframe offered by the carrier, reefer LTL can be slightly more difficult due to the freight that is hauled. Maintaining proper temperature while in transit can add another layer of complexity to each shipment.

On top of the reasons above, there are a limited number of refrigerated LTL providers in the U.S.

Is it expensive?

Unfortunately, due to the equipment needed, as well as the nature of the commodities being hauled, reefer LTL is almost always more expensive than dry LTL. Carriers need to take into consideration the perishability of the shipment, as well as the costs incurred from maintaining the temperature in the trailer when figuring their prices.

How can I get the best rate?

Working with a third-party logistics company (3PL), like Trinity Logistics, can help you get the best rate possible when shipping via refrigerated LTL. 3PL’s can secure the best pricing through contracts with reefer LTL carriers, as they have high volumes of freight to move.

As an added benefit, working with Trinity can take a lot of hassle out of arranging reefer LTL shipments. Trinity’s LTL representatives can take care of quoting, building, and dispatching your pickups. They can also negotiate rates on your behalf, as well as track your shipments from start to finish. Although this mode is complex and difficult, we are actively working to expand our refrigerated LTL service offerings and invite you to learn more. To get a reefer LTL quote, click here.