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May 2014

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20 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE www.joc.com MAY 2014 COOL CARGOES Despite predictions of consolidation, reefer trucking remains the province of small carriers T RUCKING IS A notoriously frag- mented business. The Department of Transportation estimates there are 500,000 trucking companies in the U.S., with 97 percent of them operating 20 trucks or less. "The DOT says 90 percent of trucking companies have six trucks or less," says Kenny Lund, vice president of support operation for Allen Lund Co., a trucking and commodity broker. "The refrigerated trucking sector within U.S. trucking is even more spread out. I'll bet 90 percent of the trucking companies have three trucks or less." Within the specialized niche of carri- ers that haul fresh fruits and vegetables, the company size shrinks further, Lund said. For years, the conventional wisdom has been that the refrigerated trucking sector, especially the produce niche, is about to undergo systemic change and contraction with aging owner-operators simply walking away from the business, causing a significant capacity shortage. "There are a lot of reasons why it is hard for the smaller companies," Lund said. "The owner-operators are the driv- ers, so the new hours of service rules hit them harder. Without a corporation backing them, it is harder to replace old equipment to remain compliant with pol- lution laws, especially in California." A nd m a ny ow ner- oper at or s s ay increased regulation such as proposed electronic logging devices will drive them out of the business. Despite long-held predictions, however, the expected con- solidation doesn't seem to be happening. Last fall, some drivers in the reefer trucking business did leave the industry, according to Mark Montague, an industry analyst with DAT Solutions. "What we started to see last October was that the restart rule was particularly hard on the smaller trucking company owners, espe- cially in the produce business," he said. STAYING SMALL

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