According to projections, the global cold chain logistics market will likely grow at a 17.9% compound annual growth rate through 2026. The market value is predicted to reach $585,105.6 million in that time. Moreover, the Asia-Pacific market is expected to lead the cold chain transport in volume and value. The cold chain transport industry faces major risks and challenges. Such risks can have disastrous consequences.
People may consume improperly transported foods and grow ill. Pharmaceuticals might require cold transport to maintain viability, etc. To maintain safety, shippers and logistics service providers need to understand the common challenges of cold chain transport.
1. Inadequate Documentation Leaves Room for Error
The first problem derives from a lack of traceability in cold chain transport. Failure to maintain records of transport amounts to a higher risk of illness and damaged, wasted freight. Moreover, failures in documentation could lead to stiff penalties from oversight organizations across the globe. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration might impose compliance violations for lost chain of custody and cold transport documents and assess fines and penalties. To avoid the problem, drivers and shippers must collaborate to ensure all documentation is accurate and thorough.
2. Delays Add to Risk
Unexpected delays can occur for multiple reasons. Weather might change. Traffic can worsen. Delays lessen the shelf life of products. Since a product has a set life span from manufacturing through use, any delay on the truck detracts from shelf life. When delays occur, taking proper interventions, such as rerouting the truck, may be necessary. Furthermore, route optimization, weather mindfulness and real-time traffic monitoring could reduce risk of delays.
3. Changing Global Regulations and Limited Refrigerated Units Make Cold Chain Transport Cumbersome
The state of cold chain transport equipment and storage regulations influences logistics, as well. Countries, states and regions might have specific, local laws governing cold chain movements. The variety in regulation can cause miscommunications, freight seizure and destruction of goods. Maintaining documents will help. Meanwhile, limited availability of refrigerated units, or “reefers,” could cause additional trouble. An alternative — such as shipping in dry containers with proper insulation and cooling — may be appropriate for shorter hauls. It all depends on the temperature-sensitivity of each shipment.
4. Power Outages and Lacking Uniform Standards Disrupt Climate Control
In global cold chains, lacking standardization of power sources is another issue. Changes in power outlet/socket design may create periods where a trailer loses power. Chillers and refrigeration systems will fail, and temperatures begin to rise. Similarly, lack of uniform standards among trucks could instigate additional delays. Shippers or drivers might need to locate an appropriate converter or have another truck sent to the warehouse. Confirming trailer and connection specifics before arrival and verifying temperature converters are on-board before shipping could help overcome this risk.
5. Poor or Substandard Packaging Increases Risk to Freight
Another risk in cold chain transport involves packaging. Poor packaging and insulation can lead to temperature changes within products. The best-laid plans will fail when improperly packaged and insulated freight is outside the climate-controlled cargo trailer. The problem grows worse in areas where outdoor temperatures have a higher average. The solution is simple: Shippers and drivers must confirm freight is properly packaged prior to loading and transport.
6. Fluctuating Temperatures Remain a Problem
Fluctuating temperatures within the trailer or van could result in the thawing of foods and pharmaceuticals. Of course, temperatures below certain levels may also cause damage to fresh produce and pharmaceuticals. Temperature control is the biggest issue facing the cold chain industry. Furthermore, the risk of fluctuating temperatures returns during loading and unloading. Again, proper packaging can prove its value and reduce this risk. In addition, pre-chilling freight is a great way to lower risk of fluctuations during loading.
Improved Cold Chain Transport Lowers Risk
Proper cold chain transport measures are simple. The freight must remain in the proper temperature range. Drivers should avoid unnecessary delays and work to arrive faster and safely. Shippers should chill goods prior to loading. All parties must keep accurate, thorough records. Lastly, shippers need to properly pack freight to maintain temperature consistency throughout transport.
Author bio: Jim O’Donnell is Director of Sales-Pharmaceutical & Chemical for QProducts & Services, a temperature protection expert serving a number of industries. With 30 years of experience in passive temperature protection, O’Donnell’s vast product knowledge and commitment to great service is why many of his first customers are still customers today.