Shippers need to stay aware and up-to-date on all of their shipments. But they must be particularly vigilant when it comes to temperature-controlled or climate-controlled freight. Any deviation in the product temperature range in the truck, during loading or unloading, or in the warehouse can result in spoilage or damage. Understanding all the concerns that come with these products is no easy task, so let's take a close look at what they are, how they are classified, and what challenges they present. Then we'll provide tips and frequently asked questions while pointing out that the best advice might be partnering with a 3PL to keep you from being left out in the cold or getting burned by temperature-controlled freight.
Temperature-controlled freight must be kept within a specific temperature range from the moment it leaves a facility until it reaches its final destination. Among the items that need to be temperature controlled are fresh produce, flowers, perishable foods, and certain medications. These items will spoil, in the case of foods, or become unusable, in the case of medicine, if they are not kept in a temperature-controlled environment. Climate-controlled freight must stay within acceptable ranges for temperature and humidity. The following items not only fall under the umbrella of temperature-controlled freight but also require being climate-controlled: art, musical instruments, and antique furniture. Changes in the moisture density of the atmosphere can cause these items to warp or suffer other damage when not kept in the right climate-controlled environment.
There is a vast range of products that need to be temperature controlled. Let's take a closer look at some of the many categories that temperature-controlled freight covers:
Everything from documentation to refrigeration unit breakdowns to storage problems can rear their ugly heads when it comes to temperature-controlled or climate-controlled freight. Here are some of the main hurdles faced when trying to ship these products:
Understanding all the regulations surrounding temperature-controlled and climate-controlled freight (specifically pharmaceuticals, specimens, and medical tests) can be a complex exercise. With no single regulatory body covering this area, keeping up with all the rules is necessary. Many items fall under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), but that is not always the case. With regional regulations applying at the point of origin and destination, researching these specific rules in advance is likely helpful.
Temperature-controlled or climate-controlled shipping has more concerns than transporting a dry container. It also costs more for several reasons.
First, transporting temperature-controlled freight requires a refrigerated container or a temperature-controlled truck (reefer). Using those will add cost to your expenses. With the current shortage of containers, refrigerated ones are even more in demand, which can mean laying out more cash. There are two types of cooling: stop-start and continuous. If a product can withstand being in a container or vehicle with stop-start refrigeration, that can be a cost saver, but many products need constant refrigeration. Â Second, consolidating shipments is often impossible since certain products have different temperature requirements. They will have to be shipped separately or with a product that needs to stay within the same temperature range.
Along with the need to keep a close eye on the temperature issue, some other factors and practices must be kept in mind when shipping temperature-controlled or climate-controlled freight.
The keys to ensuring all bases are covered when shipping temperature-controlled or climate-controlled freight are being prepared and staying proactive once you have prepared everything. Here are a few best practices to help keep everything on the up and up:
Several things can go wrong when an LTL partner ships your temperature-controlled freight. In addition to sharing the space on a trailer, LTL shipments can make several stops before reaching your destination. That likely incurs the unloading and reloading from one refrigerated unit to another. These steps can help keep things on the straight and narrow:
A dependable 3PL can be an excellent source in helping a shipper avoid last-minute capacity issues or seasonal shipping concerns. If a shipper doesn't have source capacity of its own and may not be familiar with which carriers are the best for refrigerated shipments, a 3PL can offer information to guide the shipper to the right option well in advance of when the shipment is ready to go. Another way to regularly stay on top of capacity for temperature-sensitive items is for the shipper to analyze its supply chain for any gaps and address issues before the next shipment goes out. Also, adding cold chain needs to your business continuity plan might be handy.
It might sound a little simple, but you need to know the goods you are shipping. After learning what products require a temperature-controlled environment, you should be concerned with how often you will move these products and whether it is your company's main product or just an exception. By knowing your short- and long-term outlooks for temperature-controlled products, you can determine the plan you want to have with your partners.
One of the areas where a shipper wants to have extensive knowledge before entering the temperature-controlled or climate-controlled fray is the handling of the products. A shipper needs to take into account how temperature control impacts packaging. High-value items or perishables can't be thrown in the back of a temperature-controlled truck and neglected. Packaging can help with that concern. Insulation materials like EPS foam or reflective materials can reduce heat transfer and humidity. Consider adding gel coolants or dry ice if an item needs to stay cold. Frozen or wet items, which might spill during shipping, can benefit from absorbent materials like pads or cellulose wadding. Don't forget to take cost-effectiveness into account when considering these options.
Cold chain custody is about keeping the shipment temperature controlled throughout all aspects of the journey production, storage, and transportation units. It can be easy to think that the goal has been reached once the product has left the warehouse. But with temperature-controlled or climate-controlled freight, the shipment needs to be monitored throughout the cold chain journey to ensure it stays within its correct range from start to finish.
Here are a few frequently asked questions that are vital to know when taking on temperature- or climate-controlled freight:
Generally, a refrigerated truck's pallet capacity is about 30 pallets. Note: weight will decide how much freight can be transported in a trailer, along with whether or not the pallets are stackable.
The cold chain is broken when the temperature goes above or below the range needed for optimal conservation. Remember, temperature ranges vary from product to product.
The refrigeration system operates seamlessly with the vehicle's electrical and charging system to isolate the cargo compartment and keep it at the right temperature for that product. A condenser and compressor combine to create cold air, and fans direct the air throughout the unit.
Cold chains keep products within the correct temperature range during movement or storage. Products lose some or all of their properties in a compromised cold chain and can become damaged or spoiled.
The cold chain breaks when preparation speed is too slow, areas in the warehouse are poorly refrigerated, or issues happen during transportation that cause the unit to lose its refrigeration. These can all force the temperature of the products to fall outside the safety limits.
The most obvious way is to see that the temperature has strayed outside the correct range. For instance, there might also be physical signs, such as the product has softened or been affected by liquefaction. One way to prevent this is to install a system regulating the temperature. Shippers can outsource this if they don't have any systems.
While temperature-controlled and climate-controlled freight is a much-needed part of our lives, shipping such products requires a more dedicated process in which all concerned must pay close attention throughout the journey. It requires a keen eye and excellent planning and communication skills. That's where a 3PL can prove to be a game-changer. Port Jersey Logistics has proven over six decades that it has the experience and integrated services like warehousing, dedicated warehousing, logistics, and managed transport to meet your temperature-controlled and climate-controlled freight needs. Before your logistics managers temperature reaches a boiling point, contact the experts at Port Jersey Logistics to keep your company in a thriving climate.