Most people don’t consider the daily convenience of freezers and refrigerators in their day-to-day lives; however, products that are kept cool and frozen must also be transported at precise temperatures, whether it be less-than-truckload (LTL) frozen e-commerce with direct doorstep delivery or full truckloads (FTL) for retail destinations such as grocery stores. Temperature-controlled transportation maintains cargo climate in transport through temperature-controlled shipping trailers, and cold chain logistics plays a role in just about every product we consume.
Refrigerated freight and goods are a growing industry these days. In fact, according to an industry report, “Refrigerated Goods Trucking Global Market Report 2022” from The Business Research Company, the industry is projected to reach more than $59 billion by 2025, up from $47.5 billion in 2020. With such a substantial market jump, many companies with perishable, frozen foods must focus on finding a cold chain logistics solution to get products to end customers in a safe and compliant fashion.
Luckily, outsourcing shipping operations to a third-party logistics (3PL) company saves you time and money, while allowing you to focus on other areas of your business, such as marketing and product innovations. Here are four things to consider when looking to invest in a 3PL partnership to move cold and frozen food products:
1. Find a 3PL with Temperature-Controlled Experience
Experience is important when outsourcing any aspect of your business, and a 3PL partnership for your temperature-sensitive shipping needs is no different. Having specialty freight needs such as temperature-controlled products and choosing the right 3PL provider can be an overwhelming process, but the right expert partner will not only take the anxiety and frustration out of your shipping processes, they’ll also save you money and time.
Experienced 3PLs have the wisdom to overcome regularly occurring challenges and will embrace new technologies such as:
- Remote, real-time, off-site temperature monitoring;
- Smart packaging;
- Cold blankets; and
- Special containment units such as portable chiller and freezer boxes.
2. Keep Cost Variations in Mind
Have you ever tried to move a refrigerator by yourself? If so, you know how difficult it can be due to the weight and design of thick, insulated walls and doors; however, this design is necessary to keep food cold and prevent waste through spoilage. Refrigerated trucks are also heavier and bulkier, leading to higher shipping costs at times.
Dry van freight can reach up to 110 degrees F, so, while they may be more efficient to move, the heavy refrigerated design elements are necessary in temperature-controlled freight. Reefer trailers are heavier than dry van and are therefore naturally more expensive to purchase and operate.
The weight of the equipment is not a major factor in increased costs for refrigerated equipment. Temperature-controlled trailers themselves are more expensive to purchase, so there is more capital expenditure required for a reefer fleet versus dry van trailers. Experienced reefer drivers require higher compensation as well, as those types of shipments need an additional level of driver knowledge to limit the possibility of potential product damage claims or regulatory challenges.
Because most refrigerated shipments are considered perishable, they have a higher probability of resulting in a claim in comparison to a dry shipment; this can impact insurance costs for the carrier. The reefer unit also requires fuel to operate the temperature controls, which further adds to higher costs for reefer carriers versus dry carriers.
Peak season also greatly impacts the circumstances—namely the price—of temperature-controlled equipment. The basic functions of supply and demand mean that spring and summer deliver a huge demand for cold chain logistical solutions. A limited number of reefer trailers are in circulation, and peak seasonal demands increase rates and makes capacity swings more dramatic compared with those that occur with dry freight.