Penske Beats the Heat with These Cold Chain Strategies

Woman in supermarket buying ice cream

Within the cold chain, every degree counts, and maintaining temperatures can get challenging as summer temperatures rise. That is especially true in areas with hot climates, such as Arizona, Florida and Texas. Penske Logistics and Penske Truck Leasing work together to help meet the needs of leasing and logistics customers.

"The combined strengths of Penske Truck Leasing and Penske Logistics allow us to really compete in the market with high quality and grow the business," said Tom Scollard, vice president of dedicated contract carriage for Penske Logistics.


Scollard said the right equipment can help ensure products stay at the required temperatures. "We work very closely with Penske Truck Leasing's purchasing group and their equipment engineers. Penske's vehicle supply team has so much depth of knowledge and knows how to get the right spec for the application," he said, adding that it is essential to spec the right refrigeration unit, insulation and floor based on the commodities that will be carried.

Scollard said it is important to balance the right kind of insulation and the right thickness with the needed space. "You're constrained legally as the trailer can only be 102 inches wide on the exterior, and the more insulation you're putting in there, the more space you're taking," he said. "Penske Truck Leasing has the intellectual capital to make sure we get the right equipment. They do this for thousands of customers across the country and a variety of different applications."

Penske uses curtains inside the trailers to help keep temperatures low when doors are opened and closed. Bulkheads are also used within the trailers to separate zones for more precise temperature control and minimize excessive cooling where it is not needed.


Keeping refrigerated equipment in top mechanical condition is critical to maintaining temperatures throughout the cold chain. "As we get into the warmer months, our Penske Truck Leasing shops are making sure the units are all receiving their preventive maintenance and any kind of mechanical repairs are done," Scollard said.


Scollard said technology enables Penske Logistics to remotely start the pre-cooling process prior to loading and monitor the trailer temperature throughout transit. "We know if we have a problem with a unit or if the driver needs to take precautions to get the temperatures down to where they need to be," he said. "Sometimes it could be helpful to slow down deliveries, so the temperature gets down to where it needs to be to maintain the product."

Technology also captures temperature data in real time during transit, records the data, and reports it so customers have the records for safety compliance.

Within the warehouse, Scollard said Penske follows strict standards that the customer sets and closely monitors temperatures inside the building as well as on the docks to ensure they're in compliance. "Warehouses are highly in tune with protecting the quality of the food and food safety."


Customers ultimately schedule their delivery windows, but in areas with extreme heat, Penske tries to make deliveries during cooler parts of the day. "We're either there very early in the morning or late at night," Scollard said.


Penske Logistics invests heavily in training to ensure drivers, as well as employees within the warehouse, are aware of their responsibilities to protect the product throughout its transportation and delivery. "We establish rigid processes and procedures," Scollard said.

For example, drivers try to use the side doors on a trailer rather than opening the rear doors as it can help maintain temperatures better. Drivers also watch to ensure they don't get too much humidity inside the trailer. "It gets down to training the drivers, so they understand the operation of the unit and avoid it going into defrost cycle during the middle of their route," Scollard said.

Scollard said protecting the cold chain takes work. "It is a lot of responsibility. People's health is our top responsibility, and we're also responsible for our customers' brand and our brand. All of those things are in jeopardy if there is any failure in the truck transportation supply chain," he said.