This summer is shaping up to be one of the hottest — for food logistics that is. After a long hiatus, restaurants and hospitality vendors are firing up the grills, bracing once again for the heat of the summertime rush.

An uptick in business is just what the food service industry wants to see and, as orders begin to ramp up, it presents an ideal opportunity for them to capitalize on enhanced network optimization via inbound LTL consolidation.

Freight consolidation is a specialty of temperature-controlled food logistics leader Trademark Transportation. The St. Paul, Minnesota-based third-party logistics provider gathers multiple frozen and refrigerated inbound shipments, saving companies time and money with single deliveries instead of many.

Trademark’s freight consolidation program serves food service companies across the Midwest and beyond, with an inbound footprint covering 23 states plus the District of Columbia.

Cross-docking occurs primarily in Chicago, where widely scattered food shipments are pooled together and then distributed via linehaul to food service distribution centers; consolidated shipments are usually back on the road within a day.

According to Larry Dandrea, Trademark Transportation account executive, the program’s average shipments consist of three pallets weighing 3,600 pounds. He said that eight to 12 purchase orders are on each trailer load.

“Our food service customers faced a terrible situation [last year] … but they expressed gratitude towards us because of our system,” Dandrea said. “We were able to slow down in-transit shipments and place them in temporary storage until at least the dust settled over a period of a couple weeks or so. They were then able to determine whether they wanted to take the product in or return it to the shipper.”

Whereas last year’s struggle was fighting against the depletion of inventories, Dandrea said the challenge for its food service providers now is to have enough inventory to fully service the high demand of all customers resuming normal operations.

“For a customer, let’s say a food service DC, this means that they’ll receive a load or multiple loads with all of these purchase orders on them versus receiving loads from eight or more different LTL carriers,” Dandrea said, describing how consolidation reduces the number of trucks on the road, ultimately cutting back the number of slots needed at DCs.

Karl Bratnober, vice president of Trademark Transportation, said, “Capacity is already tight; it has been so for quite some time,” Bratnober said. “There’s an influx of freight moving into the food service companies right now that I think will continue to affect capacity and create a shortage of refrigerated trailers.”

Food service providers can achieve further savings by negotiating the cost of transporting more desirable single stop truckloads from pool point to DC. “It’s an opportunity for buyers to create some predictability and to maximize their inbound trucks,” Bratnober said.

Both Dandrea and Bratnober said they’ve received great feedback from consolidation program customers, especially those who faced much uncertainty at the height of the pandemic. 

“One of the things about the consolidation program is that it delivers assurance and stability; it’s not a part of the volatile spot market,” Dandrea said.

He added that the consolidation program also lends flexibility to customers’ inventory procurement and complements private fleets, helping them achieve greater efficiencies. Dandrea explained that it offers food service providers the ability to expand and contract their procurement, all while continuing to keep customers supplied without having to purchase an unnecessary quantity. It also helps smaller suppliers who otherwise might not have a competitive LTL option to deliver their products to food service clients. 

“Food service companies are beginning to take more frequent shipments from suppliers as restaurants and warehouses begin reopening, which means more less-than-truckload freight,” Bratnober said. “Trademark’s encouragement to food service companies is to create efficiencies by receiving a single line haul and to reduce costs by maximizing truck space to handle individual shipments.”

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