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FreightWaves Haul of Fame: Transcontinental Refrigerated Lines

A very cool operation that could not be sustained…

A TRL tractor-trailer. (Photo: Flickr/Rick McOmber)

Stephen P. Hrobuchak, Sr. and his son, Stephen P. Hrobuchak, Jr., founded Transcontinental Refrigerated Lines, or TRL, in the northeastern Pennsylvania town of Pittston in 1975. They started the company with just two trucks. The company grew rapidly, however. According to statements by the Hrobuchaks at the time, they achieved fast growth by placing strong emphasis on equipment and on service. 

Continued growth during the 1980s and 1990s

By 1987, the company had been so successful that it had outgrown its first headquarters, and was constructing a new site, also in Pittston. The new headquarters was completed in 1988, and operations for the company were soon relocated. By 1989, TRL, whose motto was “From Sea to Shining Sea,” was making a name for itself hauling fresh produce and frozen foods in the company’s 200 reefers. 

The colorful TRL logo

At the time, the company was operating both as a regional carrier in the Northeast as well as a coast-to-coast carrier with team drivers. That same year, TRL was granted a $500,000 loan through a business development program in its home of Luzerne County to pursue an expansion of equipment, products and operations, allowing it to further expand and grow. 

Growth was sustained through the 1990s and TRL continued to operate as a regional and coast-to-coast carrier, but the success was not without scandal. In 1996, tragedy struck when a company driver stormed into the home office and took the life of his dispatcher. The murder was a blemish on the reputation of TRL and caused a media uproar that followed the company for several years.

The company is sold due to financial difficulties

In 2007, Stephen Hrobuchak, Jr. stepped down from his position as president and CEO of Transcontinental Refrigerated Lines, announcing at the time, “We have experienced decreasing profitability these last few years.”  and announced that the company had been experiencing financial difficulties for several years. Escalating fuel costs and rising insurance costs were among the financial issues the company was dealing with. Hrobuchak said he “felt like the best solution for the company and [his] associates was to seek out Prime.”

Robert E Low, owner and chief executive officer of Prime Inc., announced the acquisition of specific assets and the trucking operations of TRL and said that it would operate as a division of Prime. Prime added the Pittston facility to its list of regional customer service centers. Prime also retained key personnel for a time to ease the transition. 

However, legal issues persisted after the sale. In 2017, Stephen Hrobuchak, Jr. was directed to return $939,614 to the trustee assigned to represent the creditors in TRL’s liquidation, under suspicion of fraud.

A Prime Inc. tractor-trailer rolls down the road. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)
A Prime Inc. tractor-trailer rolls down the road. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Prime Inc. was founded in Springfield, Missouri in 1970. Its Prime Refrigerated Division was started that same year. It has retained RTL’s former headquarters in Pittston as a terminal since it bought the company.

One Comment

  1. Dale W Bridge

    I would be happy to furnish you scans of these company patches. All I ask is just a credit for the image, or allow me to put the credit on the image I send you. Just let me know. I have over 5,000 patch images.

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Scott Mall

Scott Mall serves as Managing Editor of FreightWaves Classics. He writes articles for the website, edits the SONAR Daily Watch series, marketing material for FreightWaves and a variety of FreightWaves special projects. Mall’s career spans 45 years in public relations, marketing and communications for Fortune 500 corporations, international non-profits, public relations agencies and government agencies.