June 11, 2012

Maximizing its (Minority) Strengths


Tribe Transportation has made its mark

Georgia-based Tribe Transportation may be a mere seven years old, but the company has more than proved itself as a progressive industry leader within refrigerated transport. Touting its minority roots through Owner Carla Joy Cain, a Native American woman who grew up in the industry, the company has become one of the most respected transportation companies in the Southeast. And the company did it during one of the most difficult economic periods in American history.

“Tribe Transportation was strategically founded to help fill the need for supplier diversity within the industry,” explains Matt Handte, executive vice president. “Many larger food distribution companies are committed to support minority-run companies, recession or not. We created the company to provide a choice, but we built the company based on previous industry experience and a reputation of performance. That history, along with Carla’s leadership, has helped us earn customers such as General Mills, Land O’ Lakes, Unilever, Schwan’s, PepsiCo, and Macy’s.”

The company, which has developed a strong reputation in the deep frozen category, has become one of the fastest growing, asset-based minority transportation companies in the nation providing service to the United States, Canada and Mexico. Besides impeccable customer service, Tribe Transportation prides itself in running new, top of the line equipment and technology. They do not cut corners.



The company owns Volvo, Freightliner and Peterbilt tractors and is planning to double its fleet to meet anticipated customer demand. The company also has Great Dane and Utility trailers and is presently expanding their capacity with new Utility 3000R trailers. All trailers are cooled by Thermo King SB-330 refrigeration units. In addition, Tribe recently began incorporating Thermo King TriPac™ auxiliary power units (APUs) into its tractor fleet. The APU allows the driver to shut the tractor down while the driver is on break, but maintains auxiliary systems such as air conditioning. Each APU has allowed Tribe to save up to 8 gallons per day in diesel fuel.

“It was a large initial capital expenditure,” says Handte, “but the payback for Tribe in terms of fuel savings and carbon emission reductions to our environment is significant.”

The most recent addition to Tribe’s fleet are 30 new Peterbilts which came equipped with TriPac APUs, and the company has plans to incorporate more in the near future.

“The equipment we run is vitally important,” says Handte. “It has to be reliable, efficient and technologically-forward, yet sound. I’m a firm believer that we are only as good as the vendors we choose. That’s why we choose to partner with Thermo King.”

The SB-330 trailer units were selected for Tribe Transportation’s fleet because of power. “The units pre-cool fast; they can reach an ambient of -10 F in 35 minutes; and they offer excellent fuel efficiency at the lower temperatures Tribe hauls its ice cream – their biggest volume product,” says Tim Edwards of Thermo King of Atlanta, Tribe Transportation’s local dealership. “They’ve been recording 6/10 of gallon of fuel per hour.”

This industry-leading equipment not only ensures the integrity of the shipper’s product, but also aids the shipper in achieving energy savings goals that many sustainability-conscious industry leaders are adopting.



Tribe Transportation understands what equipment is needed to fill customer needs because of its strong focus on relationships. “Relationships are BIG … with customers and vendors,” explains Handte. “We work hard to keep the lines of communication open with customers. The better we understand their business, the better we can meet their needs.

“The same goes with our vendors. Reliability, urgency, new ideas, and a strong network of support are essential to this business. Thermo King does all that well. We can count on them locally, but also get contracted maintenance support through its SVC program on all of our routes.”

Tribe utilizes Thermo King’s SVC Platinum program, which provides the ultimate in preventive and predictive maintenance in a customizable format. The program includes a nationwide network; centralized billing; expedited service; comprehensive, 60-point interim inspections; highest quality unit maintenance; 24/7 emergency road service; convenience – same pricing on service and parts throughout Thermo King’s dealer network; and much more.


Forward Thinking

Pushing the innovation envelope and thinking about the future are two additional areas that define Tribe Transportation. The company’s fleet is still very young, but a four year tractor and trailer life cycle has already been decided. In fact, a first batch of trailers will be ‘retired’ from the road soon, only to hit the tracks. They will be converted into rail trailers with a simple conversion of the refrigeration unit’s fuel tank. “Rail is a growing opportunity we are willing to invest in to meet customer needs,” says Handte.

When it comes to innovation, Tribe Transportation was one of the first in the industry to fully integrate technologies like Thermo King’s Trac-King™, which has the capabilities to remotely monitor and report temperatures, real-time GPS tracking, geo-fencing, as well as two-way communication, into one complete transportation management system. 

The company is now integrating the TracKing technology with its own dispatch software, providing a live feed on trailer temperatures and reefer monitoring. A customer portal is being introduced so that customers can view the same information in real time. “We have been working closely with Thermo King to get this done and are excited to offer the value-added service to customers. It’s another way to create transparency and provide the peace of mind that our customers desire,” says Handte.


Environmentally Speaking

Sustainable, environmentally-conscious practices play another big role in Tribe Transportation’s planning and future vision for the industry. The company recently partnered with Unilever on an innovation study to identify more sustainable ways to ship deep frozen products. The research was focused on how to increase temperatures for long-distance transports while maintaining quality through varying altitudes. The first study of its kind, Tribe Transportation will be at the forefront of developing effective solutions to generate fuel savings while reducing carbon emissions and the industry’s overall carbon footprint.

The company’s environmental focus also shows in its equipment choices and even in the incentives offered to drivers. The fleet conversion to the TriPac APU is one example of how Tribe is cutting idle times and decreasing its overall fuel burn. “We are in the process of establishing incentive programs for all of our drivers participating in our fuel optimization program,” explains Handte. “We currently utilize state of the art software programs to route drivers to specific stations, that tell them how much to fill the tank, and more.”


Commitment to the Industry

A certified EPA Smartway Transport Partner, Tribe Transportation is also a committed member of the Women in Trucking Association (WIT), the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council (GMSDC), the Florida Minority Development Council (FMSDC), the Georgia Motor Trucking Association (GMTA), and Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA). “This involvement makes up our brand … all are important to what we are and what we believe in,” says Handte. 

This unwavering commitment to its customers, brand, driver family and industry has yielded amazing results for Tribe Transportation. In maximizing its strengths, the company has maximized its growth through some of the toughest years in the transportation industry. As a result, the company has a very low driver turn-over rate, has plans to hire up to 120 new logistics employees over the next couple of years at its Cleveland, Georgia headquarters, and has positioned itself as a leader in the industry.    


Customer: Tribe Transportation |

Dealer: Thermo King of Atlanta |