William B. Cassidy, Senior Editor | Feb 13, 2014 9:44AM EST
Averitt Express is extending the “cold chain” for customers and expanding its refrigerated business. The trucking company will use specially designed containers to move pallet-sized temperature-controlled loads in dry van trailers.
The “Cold Box” should speed refrigerated less-than-truckload shipments that Averitt otherwise would keep in cold storage until they could be consolidated into a fully loaded refrigerated trailer. Consolidating refrigerated pallet loads can add days to LTL transit times, said Phil Pierce, executive vice president of sales and marketing.
“Shippers want next-day, second-day and third-day service,” said Pierce. “They haven’t been able to get that” with refrigerated cargo “unless they put two skids on a full truckload trailer and pay truckload prices.”
Averitt will use the Cold Box developed by Ken Broussard of Climate Controlled Containers to move pallet-sized refrigerated shipments 500 miles next day, Pierce said. The Cookeville, Tenn., company said it is the first LTL carrier to use the Cold Box.
Equipped with satellite-based GPS technology, the battery-powered container lets Averitt track the actual cargo, not the trailer, as it moves through Averitt’s LTL terminal network, said Chuck Odom, vice president of global development for the carrier.
“If the door is opened, we’re alerted by e-mail and by phone,” he said. “We know the temperature and variation, the battery level and where it is at all times.” The box also eliminates the need to use dry ice to cool smaller loads.
“We’re replacing a lot of dry ice shippers who have to use 350 pounds of dry ice for a three-day journey,” said Pierce. “And you don’t have to burn anything.”
Handling temperature-controlled LTL freight is a down-to-earth use for technology developed for a very different freight market. “The original box was designed to fly,” said Pierce. Broussard founded his company in 1999 with an eye to offering his own refrigerated transportation services, but then shifted to selling the containers.
Approval for use of the containers in air cargo operations is still pending, but Odom said there is plenty of room to deploy them over-the-road. “The primary verticals are life sciences, health care, biotech, pharmaceuticals, medical surgical supplies and vaccines,” he said, pointing out that using Cold Box containers, Averitt could ship different products with different temperature requirements in the same trailer.
The Cold Box uses a forced-air heating and cooling system powered by a rechargeable battery system. The container holds temperatures ranging from 10 degrees below zero to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 150 hours and can be recharged from a standard power outlet, according to Averitt. The units are designed for dual 40- by 48-inch pallets, and stand about 82 inches high.
“The boxes will stack side by side in a 53-foot trailer, and definitely help with cube,” said Pierce. “The payload will justify the space they take up in the trailer.”
If the Federal Aviation Administration approves the use of the battery-powered Cold Box in cargo planes, Odom sees an opportunity to integrate domestic refrigerated LTL service with Averitt’s international business.
“We’d love to see it, because we have global customers and it is a large market,” he said. Averitt could also transload freight at a port terminal from temperature-controlled ocean containers into the smaller boxes for LTL delivery inland, he said. “There are some new verticals for us here.”
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