To the daily and permanent challenges that refrigerated transport companies must face, we must add the current circumstances that are hindering this activity globally. Maintaining the cold chain during the transport of products sensitive to temperature changes makes this type of logistics even more complex. Precisely, because we are talking about food, medicines, chemical products, and others. These require more demanding conditions for their transfer from the origin to the points of sale or supply. A failure, however small it may seem, reduces its useful life and puts its quality at risk.
As if that were not enough, the sector must face challenges such as the decrease in the availability of labor and the increase in the cost of energy. Even, to the frequent natural disasters and the probability of their regularization as a consequence of climate change. You should also be aware of the development of current geopolitical tensions and global economic instability. In the same way, these situations are influencing the operability and the ability to meet delivery times.
The challenges of refrigerated transport logistics
Undoubtedly, having expensive units made up of several interconnected devices, with strict temperature and energy consumption requirements, make refrigerated transport an expensive service in operational terms. But these are just part of the variables that affect the success of the process. Next, we will explain other equally important elements.
Loading and unloading operations, a concern for refrigerated transport
Obviamente, los camiones refrigerados no pueden entrar ni permanecer en el almacén de frío durante las operaciones de carga y descarga. Los productos deben ser trasladados desde el contenedor del camión hasta el almacén frigorífico y viceversa. Durante esta transición, los productos sensibles a la temperatura pueden deteriorarse por causa de una exposición prolongada a condiciones de conservación inadecuadas. Por tanto, las empresas involucradas en la cadena de frío deben contar con recursos y personal experto para mover las mercancías desde y hacia ambos puntos. La idea es lograr un mínimo o nulo contacto con la temperatura exterior.
Obviously, refrigerated trucks cannot enter or remain in the cold store during loading and unloading operations. The products must be moved from the truck container to the refrigerated warehouse and vice versa. During this transition, temperature-sensitive products may deteriorate from prolonged exposure to improper storage conditions. Therefore, the companies involved in the cold chain must-have resources and expert personnel to move the goods to and from both points. The idea is to achieve minimal or no contact with the outside temperature.
Temperature and humidity monitoring
During transport, it is imperative that refrigerated truck drivers frequently check the temperature supplied to the container. In particular, this is key to ensuring the cold chain in meat and dairy products. Any considerable fluctuations must be controlled immediately.
However, these incidents can occur with unforeseen openings of the cargo container doors. The situation would expose it to an ambient temperature higher than the one it is transported. Thanks to Internet of Things (IoT) technology, several refrigerated transport companies are monitoring the temperature and humidity conditions of cargo in real-time, being able to warn and solve problems in a timely manner.
Proper maintenance of the units
Indeed, a permanent challenge for refrigerated cargo transport companies, including trucks and ships, is to ensure the operation of their units. The goal is to always achieve a seamless end-to-end move process with as little delay as possible. Any eventuality that stops the transfer beyond what is foreseeable can ruin the cold chain and affect the commercialization of the products.
The globalization of the cold chain also challenges refrigerated transport
The rise of the middle class in countries like China and the growing demand for healthy food put pressure on the globalization of cold chain operators. Today, high-end products such as salmon and matured cheeses must travel long distances to satisfy foreign demands. This requires fast shipments and appropriate containers to ensure its freshness and quality. But also, they require more innovation to counteract capacity constraints and minimize risks to ensure quality deliveries. Achieving this without increasing storage spaces and costs puts even more pressure on those responsible for refrigerated transport and supply chains.
In this regard, it is feasible to establish strategic alliances to reach more consumers in distant countries. By the way, there are already remote transport temperature control solutions that have reached the global network. And even, offer high-quality services almost anywhere in the world.
Investment in technology
Logically, refrigerated transport operators are clear about the need to continually update their technological resources to guarantee the safety and quality of their loads. In this sense, the investment must include back-end and front-end IT infrastructure, as well as solutions to collect and analyze key shipment data in real-time, among others. As we said, many of these companies have already incorporated systems for remote monitoring of temperature and location. Such solutions allow data to be shared with drivers and 3PL operators in real-time. Thus they obtain greater visibility and it is more feasible to avoid or reduce losses. Furthermore, some manufacturers employ sensors to independently track the temperature of their loads, typically for high-value products.
Global challenges of refrigerated transport
Apart from the challenges explained, refrigerated transport operators globally are facing external situations that influence their response capacity. We will briefly analyze the most relevant ones.
Access to a constant and reliable workforce
For example, in the United States, the shortage of truck drivers and warehouse personnel is a real headache. This situation extends to West Coast ports that already have few skilled employees. On the other hand, there is uncertainty about a possible strike by railway workers.
In Europe, this situation is manifested in the fact that more and more people value work-life balance. As a result, they are able to leave full-time employment to focus more on their families or other interests. Certainly, refrigerated transport and logistics operators determined that family responsibilities are the main cause of work absenteeism. In parallel, it is also one of the most frequent reasons for leaving a job. In response to this staff turnover, operators in the sector must implement higher volumes of recruitment and training immediately.
Increase in fuel prices and operating costs
Labor, energy, and operating costs are the main expenses of the refrigerated transport sector. Specifically, the increase and instability in the price of fuel are increasingly worrying, since it makes it difficult to calculate budgets. On the other hand, the cost of materials, equipment, chassis, pallets, and containers -essential in the supply chain– also rises unstoppably. Similarly, equipment and materials are also more difficult to acquire and delivery times are longer. This adds uncertainty and makes planning operations difficult.
Cyber attacks, geopolitical conflicts and meteorological phenomena
As if that were not enough, cyberattacks are also a constant threat to the sector in question. Protecting yourself from them requires ever-increasing investments in company systems and networks, as well as in employee training.
As for geopolitical conflicts, the situation is not without concern. The upheavals already caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be joined by others in the Pacific Ocean between the United States and China over Taiwan’s independent status. Or because of the constant provocation of North Korea. In any case, warfare forces a significant change in sea, land, and even air routes, delaying the supply chain. In this way, refrigerated transport operators must rethink route planning, emphasizing the safest ones and those that do not increase said delay too much.
Lastly, weather phenomena and natural disasters that affect the supply chain also have relevant consequences for cold mobilization. We already saw this with the recent earthquake in Turkey and the tornadoes that recently hit the United States. Industry experts believe that weather events could be reduced in the future if the entire logistics industry adheres to carbon reduction programs.
Intersam also offers solutions for refrigerated transport
Since 1995, at Intersam we design and develop customized refrigeration and air conditioning systems and units for industry and commerce. Both for the supply of fixed and mobile cold, we plan and execute projects in food processing, pharmaceutical, chemical, and refrigerated transport companies. Based on this, we equip our equipment with advanced technology to guarantee efficient operation with low energy consumption. We serve your needs inside and outside of Spain. Contact us now!