Shipping Temperature-Sensitive Freight in Summer

As summer approaches, manufacturers of temperature-sensitive goods are preparing for the logistical challenges that come with protecting their freight in warm weather. These goods must be kept at specific temperatures, and even a slight temperature change could result in spoilage, product loss and major supply chain disruptions.

Shipping coordinators who work with cold supply chains during the summer must make freight decisions that ensure loads arrive to their destination safely – or partner with an experienced 3PL like Red Kite who can.

Here are some important factors that all shippers need to consider before coordinating refrigerated – or “reefer” – transit for temperature-sensitive goods in the summer.

Plan Ahead

Reefer trucks are in high demand during the summer. Many businesses, such as pharmaceutical and food manufacturers, require reefer trucks to safely transport their freight in warm temperatures. Additionally, produce – which is commonly harvested during the summer months – requires reefer trucks to prevent spoilage. This high demand causes reefer capacity to tighten and makes it more difficult for shippers to secure load coverage, especially when providing carriers with short notice.

Shippers should coordinate reefer transit for temperature-sensitive freight well in advance of deliveries to ensure they do not miss key deadlines and can keep their supply chain running smoothly. If shippers are unsure of exact delivery dates at the start of summer, they should provide carriers with their forecasted reefer needs so carriers can plan ahead for transporting their loads.

Some goods, such as beverages, can withstand warmer temperatures. However, during extreme heatwaves, manufacturers of these goods may need reefer trucks to keep their products safe. Rather than waiting to coordinate reefer transit during a heatwave – when capacity is more likely to be full – shippers should monitor weather forecasts using resources like the National Weather Service and be prepared to coordinate reefer transit as soon as a temperature spike is predicted.

While shorter lead times make it more challenging to secure reefer transit, 3PLs – like Red Kite – can use their extensive carrier connections to partner shippers with a reefer carrier, even within tight markets.

Use LTL Shipping Cautiously

LTL can be a cost-efficient solution for many shippers, especially those with smaller or irregular shipments. However, LTL transit can put temperature-sensitive freight at greater risk for spoilage. Multiple delivery stops, paired with freight loading and unloading, means freight will likely be exposed to warmer, unsafe temperatures.

Before coordinating LTL services for reefer trucks, shippers should see if the carrier has measures in place to protect freight during unloading at delivery stops, such as refrigerated docks or the use of thermal blankets. While these methods can help protect some goods, loads that are particularly sensitive to temperature changes may not be able to ship safely with LTL services.

Be Prepared for Reefer Trailer Failures

While not common, it is important for shippers to prepare ways to keep their freight safe in the event of a refrigeration system failure.

Refrigeration systems use fuel to keep internal trailer temperatures at a controlled level, which requires drivers to refuel frequently. While reefer drivers are typically attentive to their fuel levels and trailers, untrustworthy carriers may have untrained drivers who do not monitor refrigeration equipment or who even turn off the refrigeration system to conserve fuel.

Shippers should prepare for potential equipment failures by discussing a plan with the carrier to protect products if the refrigeration system malfunctions. Requesting an electronic log of trailer temperatures for the duration of the delivery can also help shippers catch and notify carriers about any unusual temperature changes.

Working with a professional, trusted carrier can reduce the possibility of equipment failures as well, since these carriers have drivers trained to haul temperature-sensitive loads and closely monitor reefer trailers. 3PLs like Red Kite, for example, have diligent carrier vetting and monitoring processes to ensure they are partnering shippers with reliable carriers.

Provide Detailed Shipment Requirements

Providing details about a shipment’s requirements up-front will help inform carriers about the temperature range necessary to keep the load safe, as well as any special handling or equipment required. By providing these requirements in advance of a delivery, carriers will have the necessary information to keep freight safe.

These details should also be included in a shipment’s bill of lading so drivers can reference load requirements during their delivery as needed.

Partner With A Team of Logistics Experts

Between securing load coverage, finding a trusted carrier and keeping loads damage-free, navigating the logistics of temperature-sensitive freight during the summer can be challenging. This process is also time consuming and can take shipping coordinators away from other important tasks.

By partnering with a 3PL for reefer transit, however, shippers can utilize a team of logistics experts who offer the following benefits:

  • Extensive carrier networks that can be used to secure short-notice reefer transit on a variety of lanes.
  • Knowledge and expertise of temperature-sensitive freight transit, which allows 3PL teams to provide shippers with supply chain suggestions that can protect their cargo and help shippers communicate load requirements to carriers in a detailed manner.
  • Strong carrier monitoring process to ensure shippers are partnered with trustworthy, knowledgeable reefer truck drivers.

With a dedicated team of logistics experts and a reliable carrier network that spans across North America, Red Kite can use its connections and expertise to find reliable reefer transportation solutions that will allow your temperature-sensitive shipments to be delivered damage-free and on-time during the summer months.

Contact us or request a quote today to learn more about our reefer freight solutions.