What It’s Like to Work with Temperature-Controlled Freight

Jan 7, 2022

Temperature-controlled freight is one of the logistics industry’s most challenging branches. Carrier reps working exclusively with perishable goods are responsible for the swift delivery of fresh produce and other goods while keeping the cargo cooled to ideal temperatures through every stage of the transportation process.

We sat down with a trio of seasoned carrier reps on the FCL team to discuss the nuances of getting fresh goods from A to B, what to look for in a good reefer carrier, and the advantages of partnering with FCL for temperature-controlled freight opportunities.

Getting to Know FCL’s Temperature-Controlled Freight Experts

Like most in the world of logistics, many of FCL’s best carrier reps came from a range of backgrounds and were not necessarily even looking for a role in the transportation business.

Adam Johnson got his start working manual labor in warehouses, while Chris Martin was approached by a friend while working in advertising. Logan Burdick started his logistics career just after graduating college with a degree in psychology. All three found their way to the high-pressure, high-reward sub-industry of temp.-controlled logistics and found a niche they could succeed in for years to come.

“I didn’t have anything planned with my psychology degree,” Burdick said. “A friend had started with a large asset-based carrier in Indy, and he told me they were hiring. I always planned to live and work in the Indy area, so I began as a dispatcher/freight planner for owner ops and company drivers alike.”

The role of a carrier rep is complex, with dozens of day-to-day challenges forcing reps to constantly adapt to new conditions. For each of FCL’s experts, communication and relationship building are the key to surviving a landscape that never seems to sit still for long.

“My job is to develop relationships with carriers,” Martin said. “For me, that kind of embodies my role as a carrier account manager. I am there to be an advocate for that carrier.”

What Challenges Arise When Refrigeration and Preservation Are Top Priorities?

When it comes to produce, entire shipments can be rejected as spoiled if not handled with the utmost care at each phase of the delivery process. From loading, shipping, unloading, storing, more shipping, and finally receiving and stocking, there are a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong with any freight requiring an optimal temperature range. For carrier reps, keeping goods cool throughout this entire process is only where the real logistical maneuvering begins.

“There are many things that are out of your control as a broker when it comes to product availability,” Johnson said. “With the market the way it is, keeping carriers that will charge below the market is scarce. You have to do everything in your power to make them happy and continue hauling for you. Anyone can just go out there and post a load and cover it for a market rate — it’s the broker that has a relationship with a carrier that will charge a below-market rate and provide better service than most market carriers that is the most valuable type of broker in this market.”

Working with the Right Team Makes All the Difference

This particular subcategory of the logistics universe carries with it an extreme amount of consistent pressure to get things delivered with precision — or risk an entire load being rejected. According to Martin, this ever-present high-stakes atmosphere is among the most rewarding and the most challenging aspects of the job. To Burdick, the compensation isn’t bad either.

“Refrigerated, while definitely being one of the most challenging modes, is also one of the most profitable,” Burdick said. “I enjoy seeing a hard-working driver get paid what he or she deserves while also providing impeccable service. It makes us look good with our customer, which leads to future business with both the carrier and the customer.

The responsibilities of a temp.-controlled carrier rep include not only finding the fastest and most cost-effective shipping lanes for shipments of perishable goods but also pairing commodities with other compatible shipments based on their respective temperature requirements, routes, time of year (different produce may be “in season” closer to home than in other parts of the year) and speed at which they need delivering to their final destination.

Characteristics of a Good Temperature-Controlled Carrier

Vetting reefer carriers is one of the most crucial aspects of the logistics business. Experience in hauling refrigerated freight goes a long way, as does maintaining clean facilities and up-to-date licenses and paperwork. It’s critical to know the signs of good carriers (and the red flags for potential scams).

“The most important characteristic a carrier must have to me is honesty,” Johnson said. “In an industry with so many things out of everyone’s control, transparency is key. As long as a carrier is honest with me, I know we can find a solution that will work out and keep all parties involved as content as they can be.”

Along with the necessary honesty and transparency, the FCL reps all agreed on a common thread connecting every good carrier — clear communication.

“For me, the biggest factors when choosing who I want to establish a carrier relationship with are communication, accountability, and honesty,” Martin said. “Clearly, we all want nice equipment, lots of drivers, and so on. I have had the same carriers hauling for me for eight years now — some are owner-ops that have one truck, some are companies that have a much larger fleet. I just need my carriers to be honest, accountable, and keep me informed on what is going on.”

Why Reefer Carriers Should Partner with First Call Logistics

The temp.-controlled freight industry requires a thorough understanding of the specific shipping requirements for dozens of common commodities — requirements our experts use to guide their decisions and ensure quick and easy payments when jobs are completed.

“At the end of the day, nobody wants to haul freight for free,” Johnson said. “With First Call being backed by Horton Fruit, offering 24-hour quick pay options, and averaging 21 days to pay carriers, a carrier will get paid in a timely manner working with us. We are an up-and-coming brokerage with good and honest people that are not in it just to make the most money — we care about our carrier partners and want the relationships we have with them to be mutually beneficial.”

Join First Call’s Fast-growing Carrier Network Today

Fleets big or small, First Call Logistics takes pride in treating our carriers the best in the industry. Our growing carrier network is the backbone of our company and we strive to provide all the tools needed for a seamless experience. To learn more about First Call’s dedicated and transactional freight opportunities, flexible payment options, and 24/7 carrier support, contact us today.

The 3PL You’ve Been Looking For

Building and managing cost-efficient supply chains is a full-time job. First Call’s rare combination of in-house assets, expert problem-solving and track record of stellar customer service makes us the 3PL of choice for carrier partners looking to make the most of their miles.

“First Call always paid on time and would get me back-hauls whenever possible which was great.”

– Wayne, Carrier

More Resources for FCL Carriers:

Get the latest supply chain news and updates directly to your inbox.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.