CHANGING and growing probably are two words that best describe Kelle’s Transport Service Inc at this moment. The Salt Lake City, Utah-based refrigerated carrier has been doing plenty of both recently.

The most visible change was the move to a new and larger headquarters terminal in September. Kelle’s Transport now occupies an eight-acre site that also served as the original headquarters for C R England Inc in the 1970s. The address of the new headquarters terminal is: 977 West 2100 South, Salt Lake City UT 84119.

On the growth side, Kelle’s Transport is steadily expanding its refrigerated fleet operations and logistics services. The carrier currently serves customers across the United States and into Canada with a fleet that includes 325 tractors and 505 refrigerated trailers, and more equipment will be added over the next year. KTS Logistics continues to expand its network of refrigerated and dry freight core carriers.

“To keep up with the needs of our customers—many of them Fortune 500 companies—we have to continually change and grow,” says Kelle Simon, president and chief executive officer of Kelle’s Transport Service. “We had completely outgrown our previous headquarters terminal location following the consolidation in 2015 of another refrigerated fleet that we had acquired a few years earlier. Following that consolidation, we were packed in so tight that we could barely move.

“With the move to the new location, we doubled the amount space. The new property came with a 10-bay shop. We added a 13,000-sq-ft office.

“We’re going to need the extra space in the new location as we grow our fleet over the coming years. We are definitely in a growth mode. We’re buying 130 new tractors in 2017 and 100 new refrigerated trailers. Fifty of the new tractors are for fleet expansion as are 55 of the new trailers.”

Ground up

Simon built the operation from the ground up starting with a single used tractor in 2002. Within 11 months and after many long days, he was able to acquire 30 trucks and operate the company with consistent profitability each month.

Three years later, Simon had increased his fleet to over 50 trucks with revenues exceeding $6 million. At the end of 2008, Kelle’s Transport Service was operating 100 trucks and 175 trailers with revenues exceeding $17 million. At the end of 2010 the carrier was up to 130 trucks and 197 trailers with revenues exceeding $24 million. The fleet and revenues continue to grow.

Simon grew in the transportation and logistics industry. Born and raised in Utah, he started in 1976 as a technician and mechanic for Dick Simon Trucking, his father’s namesake company.

His desire, however, was to be a truck driver. In 1979, he began his career driving for his father. He eventually accepted the position of vice-president of maintenance and purchasing where he worked for 16 years.

Dick Simon Trucking was sold in 1999, and Kelle Simon left to start his own trucking operation. He is a hands-on fleet owner who still drives a truck when needed and has his office in the operations center.

Refrigerated specialist

Kelle’s Transport truly is a refrigerated trucking specialist, and 97% of the cargo is food related. Customers include some of the biggest processors, distributors, and retailers of refrigerated and frozen food products. The list keeps growing.

In an effort to better serve the increasingly diverse customer base, the carrier launched KTS Logistics in 2009. “At Kelle’s Transport, we struggled at times to handle surges in freight,” Simon says. “KTS Logistics was created to accommodate the overflow freight. KTS Logistics ensures best-in-class service by working with highly qualified carriers. We continue to grow our logistics service through reputation with both core customers and new customers by delivering best-of-class service.”

Key features of KTS Logistics include:

•  Dedicated network of more than 500 refrigerated and dry freight core carriers;

•  A professional logistics team managing those carriers as an extension of Kelle’s Transport to customers;

•  Giving customers solutions for even the most challenging freight;

•  Delivering a 99% on-time service level;

•  Ensuring each load has the right carrier with the right service;

•  24/7 load tracking;

•  Carrier scorecards;

•  CPC comprehensive carrier background check on partner carriers;

•  CPC monitor on all current carriers CSA scores, insurance, and authority; and

•  Carriers paid in an average of 21 days.

To meet its customer-service objectives, KTS Logistics has state-of-the-art transportation management systems in place. This includes web-based load tracking through McLeod Software. “We’re able to monitor truck capacity across the system in real time,” Simon says.

Longhaul trucking

The logistics operation gives Kelle’s Transport the ability to focus on what it does best—run as a longhaul truckload carrier. Average length of haul for the fleet is a thousand miles.

However, Simon acknowledges that his company is seeing changes in food distribution patterns. “Customers are moving their regional distribution centers closer to their markets,” he says. “Three of our top 10 customers have done that. We’re using more local drivers. We’re also doing more relays and drop-and-hook, which is getting drivers home more frequently. We’ve had to become smarter in driver hours-of-service management.”

Kelle’s Transport started out in 2002 using just lease operators before transitioning to primarily company drivers in recent years. Recently, the carrier has begun rebuilding its independent contractor corps to provide more growth flexibility.

Fleet specs

The newest company-owned tractors in the fleet are Freightliner Cascadia Evolutions with 72-inch raised roof sleepers and the FlowBelow aerodynamics package. The Detroit DD15 engine features some of the most advanced engine technology in the industry and is rated for 505 horsepower with 1,650 lb-ft of torque. The engine is paired with Detroit’s DT12 12-speed automated transmission with e-coast, creep mode, and hill start modes.

Like the rest of the fleet, the new trucks were specified with Omnitracs on-board computers. “We been using Omnitracs for electronic driver logs since 2009 with very little driver pushback,” Simon says. “We taught drivers and dispatchers to do a better job of trip planning and that made a difference. The Omnitracs system works well with our McLeod fleet management software.”

Driver features include Premium air-ride high-back seats, premium wood dash instrument panel with driver message center, Espar auxiliary heater, Carrier auxiliary power unit, electric power inverter, refrigerator, and dual tinted and screened sliding windows in the sleeper.

Dual aluminum fuel tanks each hold 100 gallons of diesel. SAF Holland no-lube fifthwheels are standard equipment for the carrier. Running gear includes Detroit tandem drive axles, Michelin X One tires, and aluminum disc wheels.

“We plan to add the new HALO tractor tire inflation system from Aperia Technologies,” Simon says. “I was impressed with the system when I saw it at this year’s American Trucking Associations Management Conference & Exhibition. It is a bolt-on system that can be installed by our local truck dealer.”

Utility Trailer supplies all of the 53-ft refrigerated trailers in the fleet. The newest trailers have Carrier Transicold’s X4 7300 with remote temperature probe mounted near the rear door of the trailer. Special equipment includes the ibright trailer/refrigeration unit monitoring, tracking, and geofencing system sold through the local Carrier dealer: Carrier Transicold of Utah.

Trailer specs include two inches of insulation in the walls, three inches in the floor and ceiling, and four inches in the nose and doors. Fiberglass-reinforced plastic wall liners have integrated wear bands to protect against forklift damage. Air flow inside the trailer is managed by Insulated Transport Products’ Tube Chute. Cargo security is provided by the Enforcer locking system from Transport Security Inc. Trailer running gear includes Hendrickson’s Vantraax air suspension/axle system with Tiremaax tire inflation.    ♦