Prime Inc Expands Into The Hopper Market
Prime Inc., a leading name in refrigerated transportation, is expanding its operational scope by launching a new hopper division. This strategic move marks a significant shift for Prime, traditionally renowned for its refrigerated transport services. The company is ranked as the number one North American refrigerated carrier and holds the 19th spot on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America. Additionally, it is positioned at number 12 on the tank truck/bulk carriers list by Transport Topics.
Located in Springfield, Missouri, Prime has initiated this venture by ordering 25 hopper trailers. However, due to challenges posed by snowstorms and the holiday season, they have managed to take possession of only half of these trailers to date. Brett Vonwiller, the director of operations at Prime’s tanker division, expressed optimism about receiving the remaining trailers from Jan. 15, 2024.
The idea for a hopper division took root last spring when Vonwiller attended a pet food forum in Kansas City. During this event, he discovered a significant demand for grain transportation among both new and existing customers. This revelation led Prime to deliberate and eventually decide to enter the hopper business.
Following this decision, the company spent around six months securing customer commitments. Prime’s hopper trailers are now actively transporting soybeans, grain, and corn. The initial regional-haul customers are located in Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, with the first loads being picked up from Alabama and Missouri. Prime is also actively seeking drivers in Tennessee and Maryland to support this new operation.
The decision to start a hopper division was not taken lightly. Prime initially hesitated due to uncertainties about the seasonal nature of the business. However, after conducting thorough research, the company now expects steady year-round activity. Future plans include expanding the cargo range to include bone meal and potentially other materials like salt, rock, onions, apples, and ground-up tires, as suggested by Fleet Manager Kyle Walk.
The trailers for this new venture were purchased from Wilson Trailer Co., based in Sioux City, Iowa. This purchase marks Prime’s first business interaction with Wilson, but it is likely not the last. Vonwiller hinted at ongoing discussions with Wilson for a subsequent order, although Prime intends to fully integrate the first batch of trailers into its operations before proceeding with a second order. This future order is anticipated to take place later in the year.
Prime’s expansion into the hopper market is not just about diversifying its services; it’s also about seizing growth opportunities. Vonwiller’s statement in a company video, “there is no growth without growth,” encapsulates this mindset. Furthermore, Prime has noticed a growing interest in hopper services among its refrigerated customers, indicating a promising start for this new division.