Shipping perishable freight is a sensitive process that involves proper packaging, temperature control, and a short delivery window to prevent spoilage. Products like food, pharmaceuticals, plants, and personal products need to be shipped quickly to the end-user to maintain freshness. While non-perishable items are most often shipped in dry vans, perishable freight is shipped in refrigerated trucks, or “reefers”. The climate-controlled containers of a reefer slow or halt any bacteria growth that may deteriorate perishable freight.
What is Considered Perishable Freight?
Perishable freight includes any goods that have a limited shelf life and that require refrigeration to avoid spoilage. Some examples of perishable freight are serums, vaccines, flowers, plants, vegetables, meat, eggs, fish, seafood, fruits, chocolate, and dairy. Perishable foods include items that are likely to decay, expire or become unhealthy to consume if not refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, or frozen at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Other perishables like serums and vaccines have critical applications and require constant temperature control.
What is Required in Order to Ship Perishable Freight?
The “Agreement on the International Carriage of Perishable Foodstuffs and on the Special Equipment to be used for such Carriage (ATP Treaty)” sets out regulations for shipping perishable freight and outlines standards to ensure optimal conditions for transporting perishable items. The ATP treaty includes definitions and criteria for equipment to be used for shipping perishable freight, as well as procedures to check for compliance with standards. By measuring and checking the insulating capacity and efficiency of cooling or heating appliances, freight carriers can ensure that their reefers are working correctly and keeping their clients’ products fresh. It is also necessary to check governmental regulations before shipping perishable freight to ensure compliance with FDA guidelines and customs.
Benefits of Shipping Perishable Freight
Given the limited shelf life of perishable freight, these shipments are completed swiftly. The shortest and most efficient route is used so that perishable items arrive to the end-user in good condition as quickly as possible. There are a few vehicle options to suit the specific type of freight you want to preserve.
- Isothermal trucks carry an insulated container that limits the exchange of heat between the inside and outside of the van.
- Refrigerated trucks have a non-mechanical cooling source that can maintain interior temperatures of 55 degrees Fahrenheit and below.
- Freezer trucks use a cold production mechanism to maintain a consistent temperature between -10 and -4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Challenges of Shipping Perishable Freight
Since perishable freight can spoil for multiple reasons, it’s important to pay attention to the details.
Minimizing the amount of time in transit by planning a short and efficient delivery route and quick loading and unloading of products plays a big part in a successful delivery.
Proper packaging and labeling of products can also save products from spoiling if they are stored in the wrong location without ideal climate control. Using packaging like plastic containers, styrofoam boxes, insulated boxes, insulated liners, insulated pads, dry ice, and ice packs will help perishable freight stay fresh throughout the trip.
Clearly labeling perishable freight contents also helps avoid interruptions and delays that can result in spoilage.
How Long Can Fresh Produce Be Transported?
Fresh foods can be categorized into three types of produce.
- High-density produce like onions, carrots, potatoes, apples, garlic, cabbage, and celery has a 7-day delivery window.
- Medium density produce like avocados, oranges, broccoli, peaches, peppers, watermelon, spinach, and tomatoes has a 2-4 day delivery window.
- Light-density produce like cucumbers, melons, strawberries, green beans, etc has the shortest delivery window of only 1-2 days.
What Are High-End Perishables?
High-end perishables are typically considered specialty foods such as chocolate, seafood, and organic products. These perishables usually cost more because they require special handling during transit. Any blemish, inconsistency, or taste deterioration can affect sales and ultimately brand reputation. It’s essential to ensure a logistics strategy that accommodates shipping and handling requirements while protecting your brand and margins.
Changing the Logistics of Shipping Perishable Freight
As health professionals recommend buying organic and eating fresh foods, the organic food industry has grown, placing specific requirements for storage and transportation to ensure no possible contamination from non-organic products. Additionally, many restaurants and other catering businesses are moving away from thawing, cooking, and serving frozen ingredients, and instead placing a greater focus on fresh food. The result is a change in the logistics of shipping perishable freight, requiring more frequent deliveries and ensuring freshness is maintained throughout the delivery cycle.
The Food Supply Chain has always been very complicated but not extremely efficient. Communication inefficiencies between the different areas of logistics and transportation are a critical driver of food loss. New technologies and 3PLs are making food chains simpler, faster, and more transparent. We have new ways to detect early signs of spoilage, apps to better track perishable foods, and operational improvements to minimize handling.
How Temperature is Controlled for Perishable Freight
A strict temperature range must be adhered to while shipping perishable freight. Each perishable category requires a different temperature range to maintain the product’s color, taste, and freshness.
Technology and Tracking:
Technology and tracking play a vital role in temperature control. East Coast Transport ensures the integrity of the perishable by logging temperatures frequently using sensor technology. If those temperatures fall outside specifications, immediate notice is sent to the on-site operations management. Temperatures are logged into a system that automatically sends a customer report to provide complete transparency.
Shipping fresh produce versus meat, for example, requires different temperatures and levels of humidity. Therefore, using appropriate containers or cold packs is essential. Not only should the packaging protect its contents from spills or damage from loading or unloading, but should keep the cold in and keep the heat out.
Insulation keeps the heat out by creating a barrier that makes heat transfer more difficult. Choosing the right container type also helps keep the cold in. Different types of materials keep moisture and humidity low inside them which helps keep the contents cold or frozen. Shipping perishable food typically uses insulation and containers such as:
- Fiber foam
- Fabric-based foam
- Plant-based foam
- Plastic air packets or bubble wrap
- Reusable plastic containers
Proper Seals also keep heat out and cold in by preventing air flow from sneaking through the smallest openings. Eliminate that pathway with:
- Overlapping openings
- Double insulation (top and bottom, as well as the sides)
Cold Packs are another great way to assist the food’s temperature maintenance throughout shipment.
- Dry ice (requires hazardous material label)
- Ice packs
- Gel packs
Labeling perishable food packages and containers correctly ensures appropriate communication and handling of perishable products.
Instructions on the packaging itself include, “This side up,” to avoid spills, damages, and loss of product. At-a-glance, printing or stamping requirements on the box, like “frozen” or “fresh eggs,” and the necessary temperature range saves time unloading.
How Much Does It Cost to Ship Perishable Food?
The supplier’s cost to ship perishable food depends on many factors. From proper packaging to the coordination of refrigerated trailers to the pickup and delivery window. It is important to plan ahead and get several quotes to find the lowest available cost for quality services.
Choose a 3PL Company Experienced in Shipping Perishable Freight
East Coast Transport LLC has a network of carriers, updated technology, and experience delivering perishable freight timely and maintaining proper temperature throughout shipment. ECT has options such as refrigerated transport, expedited trucking services, or LTL shipping services that can help you find the best shipping method at the price you want. We provide updates along the way for complete transparency.
We synchronize all of the moving parts in the food shipping process and coordinate the most efficient and cost-effective way to get your perishable freight from source to destination. Get in contact with East Coast Transport today to see how we can help you with the logistics of shipping perishable freight!