Skelton Truck Lines


About 28 years ago, Ontario-based Skelton Truck Lines got a call from a customer; he needed the company’s carrier services to haul blood products from Canada to the United States. In learning what it took to transport such fragile cargo, Skelton Truck Lines saw an opportunity and decided to carve out a niche for itself and offer specialised services for the pharmaceutical industry.

“We began growing that side of the business really slowly at first,” says Ron Skelton, Vice President. “But in the last 20 years, we’ve really concentrated on it.” Today, Skelton Truck Lines has earned a reputation for its highly regulated, temperature-controlled shipping that uses the latest technologies and top-ofthe- line equipment for safe and expedient delivery. The company transports plasma and pharmaceutical products for 28 companies.

Before specialising, Skelton Truck Lines was serving other customers from a variety of industries, and it still does. “The company has been around for 47 years,” says Skelton. “We’ve held onto some of those clients from the early days. In fact, our two oldest customers are steel companies. I would say 15 per cent of our business is still transporting steel products. The other 85 per cent of our business is blood products and pharmaceuticals.”

Carrying all this cargo are about 50 trucks and 75 trailers, all of which are kept in excellent condition with a stringent maintenance program.

Going the extra mile

For a truck carrying blood products, there is more to consider than simply loading the cargo and driving from Point A to Point B. Most times, the products are sensitive and need special conditions for travel.

“Blood products have to be maintained between two and eight degrees Celsius,” says Skelton. “Some have zero tolerance for error, so if the temperature is off one degree either way, it’s junk.”

Skelton Truck Lines has a whole fleet of trucks and insulated vans and single or double reefers, that is, refrigerated units. Shipments are closely monitored using the Brandstedt Temperature Controller and, depending on the product, reefers can be kept within a range of plus or minus three degrees Celsius. The temperature recorder is directly linked to an incab alarm system, notifying the driver of any problems or sudden temperature changes.

Showing even more commitment to their niche business, Skelton Truck Lines got its entire refrigerated trailer fleet qualified five years ago. “We wanted to ensure that every trailer maintains its temperature between those set parameters,” Skelton explains. “It was a huge process. I think we spent around $300,000 to go through every one and prove that each system works the way it is supposed to.”

“We had our equipment qualified because that’s what the rest of the medical manufacturing industry has to do,” Skelton continues. “We wanted to take it one step further and qualify our equipment, too. It leaves no doubt of the integrity of that product, while in transit. And a lot of the products we haul can’t be replaced.”

Skelton Truck Lines was also audited by the European Good Manufacturing Practice (EU GMP) inspectors because some of its shipments had final destinations in Europe. “Two doctors flew over to Canada, and conducted an intense, two-day audit of all our systems and trailers,” Skelton says. “When it was over, we were given an unconditional two-year term, which is the highest rating you can get.”

Committed to the industry

Already, it seems obvious that Skelton Truck Lines stands out from the average carrier service. The team cares about their work and goes over and above to ensure thorough service. If you ask Ron Skelton, however, all of that is par for the course. To him, what really distinguishes the company from the competition is its involvement in federal guidelines for transportation.

“As members of the Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management (CAPDM), we play a part in developing Guide 069,” Skelton says. “It’s a new Health Canada guideline for temperature control in both transporting and warehousing of medicinal products. A lot of what you will read in that Bill was developed by our company. So, that involvement, combined with our back-up systems and recording systems, is what sets us apart.”

Down the road

Skelton Truck Lines has a bright future ahead. Along with continuing to offer specialised carrier services, the company has plans for growth. First on the list is getting smaller trucks. “We’re working on getting small trucks to expand into temperature-controlled parcel delivery,” says Skelton. “We do a lot of distribution to wholesalers and hospitals, picking up and delivering to the airport. The company just acquired its second small truck, so it’s in the works as we speak.”

The second priority is warehousing. “We have a 90,000-square-foot warehouse,” Skelton adds. “We just finished the temperature mapping to ensure all areas of the process equipment achieve the required temperature. Its purpose is for storing pharmaceuticals or raw materials. This is a great way to expand our services. We’re excited about where we’re going.”