What is Temperature-Controlled Freight?
Temperature or climate controlled freight shipping refers to the specialized movement of goods that need specialized handling due to temperature and climate sensitivities. An item that can get damaged or spoiled due to high or low temperatures is said to be climate sensitive freight and needs to be transported by reefer(refrigerated) trucks. It is possible with temperature controlled storage and refrigerated trucking. In perishable freight, the more sensitive the freight is to temperature changes, the higher its impact on the overall shipping costs for that load. There are different prices for cooled, chilled and frozen shipments because each type needs different cooling systems, packing, storage and transportation considerations.
This can also impact delivery routes as local temperatures have to be accounted for to protect the loads. Any stops along the way for transfer to other reefer trucks need to be considered as well. Shipping and receiving points should have temperature controlled docks to make sure the freight remains stable during the transfer. Reefer rates will reflect these compulsory precautions and amenities and will be higher than typical dry van freight transport rates for a load of the same size or weight. For such reasons temperature controlled freight shipping needs strict attention to detail from start to finish.
Types of Temperature Controlled Freight
Temperature controlled shipping is not just required in summertime, it is required throughout the year for some commodities. A wide range of freight will require temperature controlled freight shipping services, including the following items:
- Food items - fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, meat and herbs
- Animals - livestock, pets, poultry, exotics and insects
- Health and beauty - soaps and lotions, certain make ups, hygiene products
- Frozen food - ready to eat food items
- Confectionery products - chocolates, candies and baked items
- Nutritional supplements - vitamins, snacks, shakes and syrups
- Pharmaceutical products - vaccines, pills, lab kits, test products and some equipments
While there are several times of the year when climate controlled freight shipping is in higher demand for example foods and frozen food items around the holidays there are goods that will always require climate specific transportation. Likewise , when moving livestock will need to be moved to and from local farms. Vaccinations and medications will always be required to be shipped to medical centers though global situations can cause a spike in demand as was seen with COVID-19. Health and wellness will always be sought after by people who want to improve their quality of life and overall health. There will always be a requirement to get cold freight from Point A to Point B.
Risks involved in Climate Controlled Freight
Two dominating aspects make reefer trucks unique among other fleet trucks. First, the insulating walls required inside to shield against outside temperatures can significantly reduce the available space inside the truck compared to other dry haul trucks. The second factor applies to the overall payload capacity of refrigerated trucks is also lessened because of the additional weight of the refrigeration system. Despite these limitations climate controlled freight transportation remains in high demand. As emphasized by Road Scholar Transport : "According to projections, the global cold chain logistics market will grow at a 17.9% compound annual growth rate through 2026. The market value is expected to reach $585, 105.6 million in that time. The cold chain transport industry faces major challenges. Such risks can have disastrous consequences". Here are some of those risks:
- Incomplete Documentation Leaves Room for Error Poor tracking of shipping lists and specifications can give rise to improper loading and handling and damaged or ruined goods upon arrival at the final destination.
- Delays & Disruptions Add up to Risk of Damages Poor planning and predictive analysis of weather, traffic, and other factors can result in delays and disruptions that push cold freight loads past approved delivery windows
- Changing Global Regulations Bring Additional Pressure Failure to keep up with local and national guidelines & requirements for temperature controlled freight transportation can lead to significant problems for shippers.
- Limited Refrigerated Units and Tight Capacity Failure to vet carriers correctly and maintain an access list of climate-controlled freight approved carriers can preeminently affect cold freight transportation capacity.
- Power Issues & Climate Control Problems Reefer trucks need to be maintained properly and require specialized repairs and regularly scheduled service to keep them working optimally.
- Packaging Problems That Put Items at Risk of Damages Poor packing and loading of cold freight can affect temperature fluctuations within the packaging and how well freight survives shipping.
- Fluctuating Temperature Ranges in Refrigerated Trucks Poor monitoring systems inside the reefer trucks can lead to high and low temperatures falling outside what is adequate for a particular load.
- Exorbitant Ambient and Outdoor Temperatures Even with onboard refrigeration and climate control, shippers and carriers must monitor local weather and temperature highs and adjust cooling levels as required during shipping.
- Poor Logistical Planning & Communications Climate controlled freight logistics rely heavily on strong and clear communications supported by real time data and team members who have on demand access.
- Inexperienced Carriers Put Loads at Risk Choosing inexperienced or underqualified carriers can jeopardize temperature controlled freight transportation loads, even in the best of circumstances.
Refrigerated shipping will always find demand within the market, and the requirement for temperature controlled freight transportation will never fully fail. Too many things that people have come to believe in are dependent on climate & temperature monitored transportation. Overcoming these common risks and addressing them carefully and efficiently will help ensure cold freight shipping keeps up with the growing demands of today's market.