Chill Out: Seven Steps for Avoiding Cold Weather Freight Failures

Are a few degrees really that big of a deal? Yes, because they could mean the difference between a shipment that immediately hits store shelves to generate revenue and one that becomes a several hundred-thousand-dollar freight claim. Extreme temperatures cause spoilage from pharmaceuticals and perishable foods to electronics and furniture. Many shippers understand the dangers of extreme heat, but freezing temperatures are just as dangerous to cargo. Knowing how to properly ship during cold weather is important for your products and the bottom line. Protect your shipments with these seven steps:

Know Your Bill of Lading (BOL)

BOLs accompany all freight shipments and contain important information for transportation providers. Avoid using terms such as “Freight All Kinds” or “FAK” on BOLs as the commodity description. Be specific about the cargo description, especially when shipping goods on less than truckload (LTL) service.  A detailed description of your cargo will help carriers understand how weather may affect the shipment and provides another line of defense for protecting products.

When preparing the BOL, provide legible and clear special handling instructions. Carriers may interpret “protect from freeze” differently than “temperature protect”. Protecting a product from freezing means preventing temperatures from dropping below 32°F. Use of a dry van, with no temperature control, may not be suitable for many transportation lanes where freezing conditions can occur. Temperature protecting a product requires temperature-controlled equipment, such as a heated or refrigerated trailer.

Limit Loading and Unloading Times

Consider how cold temperatures affect cargo during loading and unloading. You want to minimize the time a trailer or container is sitting at a dock door exposed to the weather. Even temperature-controlled equipment loses temperature stability during loading and unloading. While floor loading trailers for transport to maximize space may be an acceptable practice for mot of the year, caution should be exercised during cold weather to minimize exposure associated with the increased handling time for floor loading vs. skidded materials.

Check the Weather

Monitor conditions using a service like AccuWeather. Cargo may experience a +/-30°F swing from sunny southern California to the mountains around Denver, Colorado. Plan for the weather your freight may experience along the way. This could require adjusted appointment times, special packaging, or equipment designed to protect product in transit.

Pay special attention to appointment times and drop-and-hook locations during frigid conditions. A missed appointment could create a delay of hours or even days. Locations where trailers are dropped rather than live loaded/unloaded also require special awareness as trailers left sitting are prime targets for weather-related spoilage. Keep cargo moving as quickly as possible.

Use the Right Packaging Materials

Temperature-sensitive products may require special packaging. Certain insulated containers, thermal bubble wrap, and gel packs help keep temperatures between 32°F and 60°F. Protective blankets and portable heaters also work to regulate cargo temperatures for added protection.

Track Temperatures in Transit

Placing a temperature-monitoring device to accompany sensitive cargo in-transit can provide assurance your freight remains within the specified range throughout transport and storage. When using temperature­-controlled equipment, only work with providers capable of issuing real-time EDI or API temperature data transmissions. Ensure the warehouse personnel check the cargo’s temperature before offloading it. Once the cargo has been accepted by the Consignee, a transportation provider’s liability for freight claims due to temperature exposure may be limited.

Have a Plan B                                                                          

Low temperatures often accompany inclement weather including snow, sleet and ice. These conditions are prime scenarios for causing transportation delays. Should that occur, have a plan for reacting, in advance. Identify heated storage locations along the route where a trailer can be kept warm. For liquids, a strategy as simple as keeping them moving can delay or prevent freezing. Delays in delivery can also impact a driver’s available hours behind the wheel. Be sure to line up exchange points with other drivers to keep cargo rolling.

Hire an Expert                       

Find a logistics partner with expertise in temperature-sensitive shipments. 3PLs have connections across the world to keep cargo moving, with immediate access to warehouses and storage facilities for just-in-time freight protection. With temperature sensitive shipments like pharmaceuticals and biologics, the right logistics provider should understand FDA  and DEA compliance requirements. At Langham Logistics, we leverage our know-how as a guarantee for getting your products to their destination in pristine condition regardless of roadblocks Mother Nature throws our way. If you’re tired of getting the cold shoulder from cold weather, let Langham provide the protection you need.

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