Seafood Express is a full-service, temperature-controlled shipping company based in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, serving the North American market. The company has a fleet of nearly one hundred trucks and refrigerated trailers, and provides exclusively temperature-controlled full-load freight.
Established in 1977, Seafood Express was founded by John McLeod as a seafood transport company shipping fresh and frozen fish from Atlantic Canada to Boston, Massachusetts. From there, the trucks would carry loads of fresh produce from the New England Produce Centre back to the Canadian Maritimes. In 1986, William Keith purchased the company from McLeod’s estate – at the time, the company consisted of fewer than ten trucks and focused entirely on seafood.
Today, seafood represents only about ten percent of the company’s business, with the remainder comprising a wide range of fresh and frozen food and other products that require temperature-controlled transport. The company has also expanded into intermodal container shipping, dedicating a fleet of fifteen trucks to exporting containers of fresh potatoes from PEI to New England and New York, and importing container freight from Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
The container division has become a major component of the business. “It was my father that started the company and brought it to where it is today,” says Vice President Andy Keith. “I’ve only come into the company within the last five years, so it’s really his doing that’s brought us to where we are today. He’s still working with the company and still very much involved. He and I are growing it together.”
Together, the father and son team are building a thriving transportation company that has seen consistent growth despite numerous challenges. Today the company employs roughly 35 office staff based out of a single terminal in Charlottetown, PEI, and roughly eighty drivers operating a fleet of ultra-modern Freightliner & Kenworth trucks, trailers by Utility & Wabash Trailers, and ThermoKing & Carrier refrigeration units.
The company ships freight throughout North America but its primary focus is on a route that it calls “The Triangle.” It ships product from the Maritime provinces down the eastern seaboard, as far south as Florida, depending on the time of year. From there, the routes return northwest to Toronto and Mississauga, and sometimes to Montreal, before returning east to where it all started.
“The majority of our lanes run there,” explains Keith. “If the right load takes us to a different location somewhere in the states we’ll definitely go there; it’s just a matter of making sure we connect the dots and run as few empty miles as we can. We also have one regular route that goes to California right from our back yard in Charlottetown.” The company’s intermodal / container division runs between PEI and Moncton, New Brunswick and to the HALTERM and CERES ports in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the port in Saint John.
After 28 years in its current location, the company is now in the process of building a brand new state-of-the-art terminal down the road from its headquarters. The facility from which it is presently operating is built on a property with just under three acres of land. It consists of office space and a two-bay maintenance shop that is fully staffed to manage all of the company’s preventative maintenance work. The new building site will be almost triple that size, the available office space will more than double, and the maintenance facility will more than triple in size from the current two-bay set up to four bays. They will all be much longer drive-through bays, and an indoor wash-bay will be added as well.
For staff and drivers, the new facility will feature a full 24/7 driver lounge featuring free Wi-Fi and cable TV, a kitchenette equipped with all the essential utilities, a full fitness center, and modern locker rooms complete with showers. “We ran out of space where we’re at and we’re growing,” says Keith. “It’s time to upgrade.”
The company’s extensive preventative maintenance facility is responsible for manufacturer-recommended maintenance, full equipment inspections that meet DOT regulations and service intervals, and pre- and post-trip inspections. This facility improves the reliability of the equipment and reduces the number of breakdowns and issues that can occur during transport. As a result, the company is able to provide customers with confidence that their products are safe and will arrive undamaged and on time.
Providing staff and drivers with a lounge and fitness facilities is one of the ways that Seafood Express strives to make a comfortable working environment for its employees. The company’s leadership truly values its drivers and makes a significant effort to keep them safe and happy. “We are putting a lot of things in place to benefit our drivers,” says Keith. “That’s really important to us. We want to make this the best place to work for all of our staff and drivers because that correlates to customer service. When your drivers are happy, comfortable, and feel respected, they’ll deliver the service that our customers expect, which is 100 percent satisfaction.” Seafood Express is committed to its employees, and they in turn are committed to customers, and to the company’s overall success.
Further to providing employees with the best possible workplace experience, Seafood Express is an innovative company that embraces the leading edge of new technology, employing the latest and safest equipment. For example, the company first implemented an electronic logging system for its fleet more than four years ago, well ahead of many competitors. All new trucks have a built-in auxiliary power unit and forward- and inward-facing cameras to protect drivers in the case of an accident. The trailers are all refrigerated, and the temperature control system is telematic, which enables the company to monitor and control the temperature of the truck from the office while it’s en route. The team can access the system from a computer or smartphone at any point during its transport, providing customers a sense of comfort and confidence in knowing that their product is being transported safely and at the correct temperature.
This confidence extends to the United States market as well. The company has its own dedicated Customs Support Centre committed to dealing with customs issues, and maintains a number of cross-border transport certifications such as Free and Secure Trade (FAST), Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). These enable the company to quickly and effectively navigate any problems that arise when transporting freight across the U.S. / Canadian border, eliminating hassles for drivers and customers alike.
To be sure, Seafood Express is committed to the safety of its employees, its customers, and the public at large. The company has a thorough vetting process to ensure that only the most qualified drivers are brought on board, and those drivers are then given comprehensive training. In order to retain high quality drivers, the company pays competitive rates and offers comprehensive health benefits. The company’s fleet of trucks are state-of-the-art, continually and thoroughly inspected and properly maintained.
As a transportation company, Seafood Express recognizes its responsibility to operate in the most sustainable and environmentally conscious way possible. To this end, the company employs a number of techniques to reduce its environmental impact. With the amount of time that a truck spends on the road, even minute improvements can have a significant effect on the amount of fuel consumed in the long run. In order to reduce fuel consumption, Seafood Express trucks use wind skirts to reduce wind force. This prevents the truck from being pushed around the road, effectively reducing the overall distance it will travel. The company also uses high quality tires filled with nitrogen rather than oxygen, because nitrogen is less affected by fluctuating temperatures. Minimizing the pressure change in the tire keeps the truck running optimally at all times. Finally, wheel balancing and axle alignments are performed to reduce wear. Trucks are equipped with auxiliary power units that are used to provide power and heat/cool the cab, which reduces fuel waste when idling. Together all of these systems combine to enable trucks to drive further with less fuel expenditure and therefore lower carbon emissions.
After forty-two years in the shipping business, and thirty-three years under the careful leadership of the Keith family, Seafood Express has grown to be a leader in its region. It is well recognized in the industry for the reliability of its drivers and the consistency of its service. Having grown from a small seafood shipping company with fewer than ten trucks to a thriving full-service transportation company with a fleet of nearly one hundred, Seafood Express is positioned for even further growth going forward.