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cold chain

Shipping Challenges For The 2021 Produce Season

Volume increases in shipping can drive up rates and create challenging conditions in freight capacity. Under normal conditions, the strain on CPG shippers occurs tidally. Produce season causes disruptions, but occurs with a fair degree of regularity. Even if a carrier does not transport agricultural goods, the influx of produce to shipping can affect operations, capacity and costs. COVID-19 is a new factor in shipping volume. Therefore it is challenging to prepare already tight margins for additional freight volume.

Driver Shortages

LTL is estimated to be experiencing a shortage near 20,000 drivers. A lack of qualified drivers is one theory. Prospective employees deciding their pay is inadequate for the working conditions is another. HOS regulations, meant to keep drivers safe, have also eaten up revenue opportunities for the young and ambitious.

arriers, shippers and 3PLs will all have to work together to entice drivers back towards the industry.

Due to COVID-related closures, supply chain disruptions have increased driver detention, which costs both drivers and shareholders significant amounts of both time and money. The threat of infection has slowed enrollment for in-person training programs and made travel less appealing. Older workers may decide to retire rather than risk exposure as high-risk individuals. Currently, there is no standardized hazard pay for drivers working through the pandemic. Carriers, shippers and 3PLs will all have to work together to entice drivers back towards the industry.

Social Distancing And E-Commerce Sales

According to Zipline Logistics, “when carriers devote trucks to moving high crop volumes, the available capacity diminishes. This yearly phenomenon drives up rates and can affect your ability to book shipments in or out of affected and nearby states.” LTL freight has already entered 2021 with significantly higher demands. Quarantine has driven consumers to fill their carts online. Amazon remained ideally situated to support consumers during the pandemic with an efficient last-mile shipping model and obsession with customer service. Unfortunately, most other major carriers got caught in a capacity crunch. Border closures resulted in a bottle-neck of supply chains and forced some on-the-fly spot rate decisions. The shift from retail stores to individual homes for house-hold purchases put added emphasis on timeliness.

To stay ahead of the many challenges this produce season, freighters will avoid unnecessary losses by turning to 3PL providers for capacity foresight.

Carriers found themselves choosing between paying FTL rates for trailers that were not full and waiting on further LTL shipments. Companies that remain competitive with Amazon will have to change their operations to meet customer expectations amid the rising demands of e-commerce. Shoppers unable to go to a retail shop cannot absorb lengthy delays the same way as a box store can, and with Amazon offering same-day shipping in much of the country, they don’t have to. COVID-19 has exponentially accelerated a generational industry change that was already on its way. Amendments to a business model while running operations are a tall order for any company. To stay ahead of the many challenges this produce season, freighters will avoid unnecessary losses by turning to 3PL providers for capacity foresight.

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

We’ve seen that COVID has put pressure on carriers due to its effect on e-commerce trends. Labeled “Operation Warp Speed” by the United States Government, vaccine distribution adds another layer of urgency to shipping logistics. Vials from all approved sources currently require handling without any breaks in the cold chain. Vaccines are a part of the solution to COVID-related slowdowns in the flow of goods, but they also compete for refrigerated capacity.  Security concerns and the unstable nature of the COVID vaccine require constant monitoring, which means two-driver teams. Doubling drivers puts further strain on staffing shortages coming into produce season.

High demand means high value. Carriers who lose or damage shipments will forfeit contracts, profits and industry standing.

The shipment of fragile medical supplies also requires additional training for all who will handle them. COVID-19 is a matter of life and death, so the vaccine has a high demand. High demand means high value. Carriers who lose or damage shipments will forfeit contracts, profits and industry standing. According to information gathered by Heavy Duty Trucking, “WHO estimates nearly 20% of temperature-sensitive healthcare products get damaged during transport, and 25% reach their destination in a degraded state because of breaks in the cold chain”. Refrigerated freight specialists will need impeccable capacity logistics, highly trained drivers, well-maintained fleets and smooth transitions at both load-in and load-out to compete in Operation Warp Speed.

Carriers who possess both the experience and equipment needed to handle the vaccine roll-out is a small percentage of trucking. These companies will find themselves highly sought after as a part of the solution to a virus projected to have claimed 1 million Americans by May 2021.

Investing In Support

Factors such as driver shortages and a massive overhaul in e-commerce are sure to confound already challenging conditions. Investing in 3PL support is the profitable choice for fleets distributing any kind of temperature controlled freight this produce season. BlueGrace is connected to both national and regional carriers with refrigerated capabilities ready to handle your next load. Contact one of our experts today to learn more.

Carrying the Cure: The Logistics Of The COVID-19 Vaccine

The first wave of the COVID-19 vaccine has rolled out into communities. First-responders and those who work in high exposure professions are first on the list to get the shot. The two major distributors for the vaccine in the U.S. are Pfizer and Moderna. According to the CDC, the Pfizer vaccine “will arrive at a temperature between -80°C and -60°C (-112°F to -76°F)” and the Moderna vaccine “will arrive frozen between -25°C and -15°C (-13°F and 5°F)”.

Transit Priorities 

In addition to temperature-control needs, freighters will feel the crunch with capacity related constraints. Labeled “Operation Warp Speed” by the United States government, there is pressure on the labor force to transport these doses without delay or damage.  

Security and labor are another consideration companies need to make when meeting this unprecedented need for refrigerated shipping.

Security and labor are another consideration companies need to make when meeting this unprecedented need for refrigerated shipping. According to WSJ, “carriers typically use two-driver teams for such shipments to keep trucks moving and ensure valuable cargo isn’t left unattended.” Of course, this also increases costs by needing to pay a two-driver team for every shipment.  

Monitoring Temperature 

Temperatures need to be checked regularly and recorded each day to account for any excursions. For the most accurate readings, the CDC recommends using a DDL (digital data logger) with a detachable probe.  These probes should be buffered. Teflon®, sand, glycol and glass beads are all appropriate buffering materials for the temperatures required. According to CDC guidelines, monitoring temperatures should include “a temperature log and one of the options below:

  • Option 1: Minimum/Maximum Temperatures (preferred) Most DDLs display the minimum and maximum (min/max) temperatures. Check and record the min/max temperatures at the start of each workday. 
  • Option 2: Current Temperatures –  If the DDL does not display min/max temperatures, check and record the current temperature at the start and end of the workday. Review the continuous DDL temperature data daily.”

For the recommended storage log in Fahrenheit, click here.  To access the CDC recommended Celsius log, click here.

Projected Numbers

Recent estimates show that the number of doses the U.S. has signed up for will require about 632 trucks in 2021. Those numbers have room to grow.  Such narrow error margins with temperature mean replacement orders will happen. Security issues will arise, and the FDA will approve more manufacturers. Unforeseen events have already taken place, like the Wisconsin pharmacist who allegedly ruined a shipment of vaccines under his care.  

It is plausible to assume shipping demands will increase due to the Defense Production Act to expedite the delivery of 100 million vaccines during the first 100 days of President Joe Biden’s incumbency.  

According to information gathered by Heavy Duty Trucking, “WHO estimates nearly 20% of temperature-sensitive healthcare products get damaged during transport, and 25% reach their destination in a degraded state because of breaks in the cold chain”. While these are the present industry standards, the stakes are higher for a vaccine that will prevent a viral infection.

Managing Changes 

Presently, the number of trucking companies with both the equipment and the experience to handle the demands of this roll-out is a small percentage of the industry.  

In an interview with Wall Street Journal,  “Robbie Neilson, chief operating officer of Cavalier Logistics, a freight transport company based in Northern Virginia that specializes in temperature-controlled logistics and is involved in the Covid-19 vaccine distribution efforts” offers his opinion that the industry is well-equipped to handle the challenges. He admitted that the volume is unusual but further explained his confidence. Since this is a global problem, there is high motivation to be a part of the solution. He does not expect capacity constraints to be a significant barrier to success.  

However, not everyone in the industry agrees. Andrew Boyle, co-president of Boyle Transportation, shared his experience with WSJ as well. He says that developing the expertise necessary to work with pharmaceutical companies, obtain certifications to meet global standards for the transportation of medications, and “undergoing extensive quality audits, took us about 10 years. You can’t haul chicken nuggets and then transport oncology drugs”.

It is difficult for companies in any sector to make large changes to logistics.

It is difficult for companies in any sector to make large changes to logistics. To make those changes during unprecedented events can be near impossible. With so many lives on the line, companies would be prudent to invest in third-party logistics support.  Allocating internal efforts towards the training of drivers and cargo handlers will be of the utmost priority. High-end equipment will need to be acquired and maintained. While these are hefty up-front costs, there is an opportunity for companies to make a reputation for themselves.

If you need help raising the standards in refrigerated freight, BlueGrace can help. We provide real-time tracking of our full truckload fleet providers, including any and all temperature-controlled transport partners. With industry expertise and a reliable carrier network, we can secure capacity for you and eliminate common supply chain disruptions. Contact us at 800.MY.SHIPPING or fill out the form below to request a FREE refrigerated quote today.