A race against time: How TQL ships fresh fruits and vegetables during produce season

From apples to avocados, TQL’s shipping expertise built upon fresh food  

Allow us to tell you a story about our founder. As a former produce buyer, he worked with freight brokerage firms on a daily basis.

He was bothered by poor customer service and a lack of integrity in the industry. He envisioned a logistics company that treated people right, delivered freight efficiently and provided quality customer service, 24/7/365.

That dream became a reality when he started Total Quality Logistics in 1997. TQL started with a heavy concentration in produce and has since built a 25-year reputation of exceptional service and industry expertise.

Produce transport has helped TQL become the second-largest freight brokerage in North America and one of the largest global third-party logistics firms.

Produce transportation is a cornerstone of what we do, and we’d like to tell you more about it.

Welcome to produce season

Produce shipping season has arrived, and with it the demand for freight capacity to move harvested fruits and vegetables.

The goal is to move these perishable commodities with efficiency and timeliness, a process TQL has honed. We moved more 288,540 produce loads in 2022 alone. Of our 3 million loads last year, 553,890 loads were temperature-controlled.

Produce season starts in February and ends in July. Those are the months produce in different geographic regions ripens at the same time. (And why we have shipped over 1.5 billion pounds of oranges so far in 2023.)

That produce is shipped throughout the country so that grocery stores, restaurants and food companies and more have fresh food. Urgency and time-sensitivity accompany this freight transport due to the sensitivity of the goods.

Leaving produce in an unrefrigerated truck, for example, could quickly lead to spoilage.

Reefer, or refrigerated, freight is most commonly transported by trucks and also intermodal rail. Cargo is stored in insulated containers to keep cool. Most fruits and vegetables need temperature controlled freight solutions to stay fresh, which is why 85.4% of reefer loads are produce.

Preparation is key

TQL puts experts in place to handle produce transportation. We require our Logistics Account Executives (LAEs) to undergo an in-depth produce certification process.

The 15-week training course includes account management and logistics training. LAEs become certified by successfully completing eight custom modules created by in-house experts with a combined 70 years of experience.

The training, coupled with support from our award-winning Learning and Development Team, helps our sales teams navigate produce shipments with skill.

That’s just the start when it comes to managing produce freight. TQL’s dedication to perishable commodities comes in the form of expedited shipments, multi-pick and multi-drop capabilities, load tracking, dependable nationwide capacity and unflagging coverage and service.

We pride ourselves in being geographically comprehensive. Our expertise includes our Mexico Team, which directs shipments of fresh food to the United States – including avocados. Mexico supplies 90% of the United States’ avocado imports.

There will be challenges, this we know

Part of produce season shipping is the availability of produce.

Mother Nature and world events have taken a toll on crops and created shortages in 2023. Avocados and oranges have been reduced to limited shipments while corn, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes could face similar fates.

Losses in farming acreage, disease, invasive insects, weather and natural disasters deeply impact produce inventory, quality and price.

We stay on top of these trends to best accommodate our customers. With expertise in the chaotic nature of the season, we nimbly navigate complexities with honesty and open communication.

Salvage and sustainability strides

Did you know that 40% of all food ends up in landfills? It’s a statistic many companies are trying to lessen through corporate responsibility efforts.

TQL is dedicated to sustainability and keeping food out of landfills. Through our Moves that Matter program, we transport donated loads at no cost to nonprofits and communities in need. From disaster relief supplies to fresh produce for those who don’t have access, we help nonprofits worry less about the logistics and more about serving the community.

Since 2020, we have moved 22 million pounds of fresh food to food banks and disaster relief locations through Moves that Matter.

We mentioned that our founder started in produce – an important part of our history and legacy. TQL is proud to offer comprehensive solutions this produce season and beyond.

Back to all posts