Refrigerated LTL Services
The demand for shipping cold storage commodities has never been greater. Now, you’ll find anything from medication to sensitive electronics to perishable foodstuffs shipped from coast to coast via refrigerated LTL. In this article, we will answer some common questions about refrigerated LTL shipping, so you can make an informed decision about which Refrigerated LTL carrier you can trust for transporting your refrigerated freight.
What is Refrigerated LTL?
Refrigerated trucks, also known as “reefers,” are designed to create a controlled environment that allows goods to be maintained at a specific temperature range during transport. Reefers are especially effective for products with long transit times since they will hold your product in its ideal state throughout the entire journey.
Refrigerated trucks that carry less than a truckload of refrigerated goods are called refrigerated LTL trucks. They are fabricated with things like heavy-duty seals and insulated walls to keep cargo from perishing or getting damaged.
Refrigerated Transportation & Cold Storage
Refrigerated transport is getting refrigerated cargo from Point A to Point B in trucks that are made for temperature control. Cold storage, on the other hand, is when a commercial facility stores perishable products such as meat, fruits and vegetables under controlled conditions for extended periods.
The main difference between the two methods is that one stays static and the other transports goods. However, cold storage transport trucks also go one step further than cold storage does. In addition to mimicking the cold storage requirements of a commercial facility, they also maintain a temperature range rather than a specific degree.
In other words, refrigerated LTL trucks can maintain an internal environment within a specific temperature range, depending on the products inside.
For example, frozen seafood could be shipped in a reefer with a 0-10° F temperature range. In contrast, frozen seafood couldn’t be shipped alongside chilled beverages, which must be maintained between 32-36° F.
Logistics for Food, Pharmaceuticals, and More
Reefer trucks are used to transport many different types of cargo. A few examples include:
- Medicines and pharmaceuticals in the health care industry that require temperature-controlled environments for storage or travel, such as blood samples and insulin.
- Meat, fish, and produce for local grocery stores and supermarkets who want to keep their product fresh and looking appealing to customers.
- Perishable food and beverages for large-scale delivery (such as a national chain) that require temperature-controlled transportation for the safety of their product and good business practices, such as Coca-Cola or Pepsi products.
- Artwork, electronics, and fresh flowers.
- Grain and animal feed (temperature-controlled environment is ideal for this type of product because it prevents the feed from going bad).
Additionally, reefers don’t only ship refrigerated goods. Often, they are used to maintain warm and moderate temperatures for dry products. For instance, electronics that can overheat or freeze could be shipped in a reefer that maintains a room temperature environment between 68-73° F. That way, they wouldn’t get too hot in some areas in the summer or get too cold in some areas in the winter during the drive.
What are the Challenges of Refrigerated LTL Shipping?
The challenges in shipping refrigerated freight can be many. Therefore, it is important that you understand the challenges and prepare yourself well in advance. Here are a few top ones to consider.
Timing and Logistics of Refrigerated LTL Shipments
The first important challenge is the timing of your shipment. If you are shipping food items, it’s especially critical that they arrive on time to maintain their freshness and quality. If there’s a delay in delivery or your produce or perishables arrive damaged due to exposure during the journey, then the entire shipment is lost.
Businesses that transport perishable goods must be capable, organized and efficient. Also, refrigerated trucking requires a company to have an advanced infrastructure.
For example, suppose you want to receive refrigerated freight from Chicago. In that case, the carrier will need enough reefer trucks in that area or have at least one coming through soon so that your shipment can get picked up on time and brought to its destination without any delay.
Cost of Temperature-Controlled Shipping and Transport
Refrigerated shipping companies must ensure that cargoes remain at a consistent temperature or a defined temperature range throughout the entire journey from pickup to delivery to maintain product integrity.
For this reason, reefers are often equipped with a number of controls and safety features designed for optimum cargo protection during transit. These include:
- Automatic temperature controls
- Temperature sensors and data loggers
- Heating elements for defrosting ice build-up, if necessary
Reefer rates are higher than dry vans, which makes sense because there is extra expense involved to ensuring that the product is kept at a certain temperature range.
Cargo that is not shipped at the proper temperature can easily spoil or be ruined— which is never good for any business. This is why the best carriers are ones that are reliable and consistent. They might not be the cheapest—but refrigerated LTL is not an area you want to skimp on cost.
As far as actual costs go, industry experts say that the cost of refrigerated LTL shipping currently averages roughly $2.97 per mile at the national level. This rate can vary by region, and demand often factors into costs.
In general, most shipping rates are trending upward these days. Reefer rates can vary greatly depending on your location, the cargo you need to ship, and many other factors.
Refrigerated LTL vs. Refrigerated Truckload Freight
There are differences in shipping methods that you’ll need to know about before choosing a carrier. Much of it will depend on some characteristics of your refrigerated cargo. The top differences between refrigerated LTL vs. refrigerated truckload freight are size, costs, time and handling:
- Size: LTL shipments typically range between 100 to 5,000 pounds, making them much smaller than FTL shipments that weigh 20,000 pounds or more. Also, LTL shipments don’t fill a whole truck and leave enough space to load other clients’ LTL shipments. Meanwhile, full truckloads fill up most or all of the entire truck.
- Costs: The price of an LTL shipment is less because you only pay for the space you use. FTL shipments cost more because you pay for the entire truck. LTL also includes additional features like live tracking (so that everyone involved can see where the shipment is at all times). The price of an FTL includes non-live, automated updates on location and exceptions to be aware of.
- Time: If your cargo is time-sensitive, an FTL may be the best option since it keeps your shipment moving continuously. Since LTL shipments typically involve shipping for more than one client, they tend to require multiple transfers and stops before making it to their last delivery point. These factors can lengthen transit times.
FTL carriers, on the other hand, use the same truck to pick up and deliver the goods to the final destination. As a result, FTL shipments can generally be delivered in one to two days, while an LTL may take up to five.
- Handling: Along with how quickly you need a shipment to go out, you must also consider how high-risk or fragile the shipment is. With FTL shipping, your refrigerated cargo will stay on the same truck and won’t be transferred to another. This creates less risk of loss & damage when shipping a full truckload.
Food and Pharmaceutical Safety
Food and pharmaceutical companies must adhere to strict government regulations. All carriers typically have knowledgeable personnel that are able to meet these standards, but some do it better than others.
When considering refrigerated LTL shipping, you should know what laws or acts your carrier is adhering to so there are no surprises later on down the road.
For example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has specific guidelines for perishable food shipments regarding temperature control and labeling of produce such as:
- The frozen or cold chain must be maintained during transportation. To do this, you need to make sure your shipment is in a refrigerated truck with either dry ice or carbon dioxide systems.
- If the shipment is not going to be transported via a refrigerated truck, it must still meet specific guidelines regarding temperature (e.g. it cannot exceed 49 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Goods such as produce need to have proper packaging with labels that adhere to FDA standards. These can include stickers or stamps on each box for quick identification.
- Companies don’t only need to follow these practices—they also need to back it up with robust documentation that shows they did it too. Otherwise, the FDA will consider that it never happened and can shut down the entire supply chain that’s affected.
In addition, reefers have to meet DOT specifications and guidelines to transport certain goods on the roadways. Some states require additional permits from the Department of Transportation that must be issued prior to shipping refrigerated units.
Refrigerated Warehousing and Storage
The final part of refrigerated trucking is what happens when the shipment reaches its destination. In many cases, you will need a way to store it in a warehouse or cold storage unit until your company needs it again. In this case, refrigerated warehousing and storage provide solutions for businesses that want their products taken care of by a third party.
You can contact one of our representatives at Mulder Brothers for information about our refrigerated warehousing and storage options that will work for you.
Finding the Right Refrigerated LTL Carrier
Temperature fluctuations and time constraints to get your product delivered mean it is of paramount importance to take a close look at what kind of carrier you’re hiring for your shipment and the locations they service.
Consider Your Cold-Transport Needs
When determining the right refrigerated LTL carrier, it’s good to consider if your shipment will require a cold chain. This is not always necessary but can depend on what kind of cargo you are shipping and how long it requires being out in the open before arriving at its final destination. In cases where there’s no need for a cold chain, you should consider selecting a reputable carrier with the shortest transit times possible.
Furthermore, if you need refrigerated trucks, it is important to know the different types of reefer units and their price points. If you are considering LTL shipping, the first step is to find a reputable carrier that offers this service.
Regulatory Practices of Refrigerated LTL
To comply with sanitary food transportation rules, reefer fleets must stay abreast of and follow the latest regulations and best business practices to maintain the cold chain. In addition to learning about the top refrigerated LTL carriers in your area, you can also find additional services they provide and what industry standards say regarding food transportation regulations.
That said, it’s imperative that you look for carriers who specialize in refrigerated LTL shipping, so they have extensive knowledge and experience when it comes to food or pharmaceutical shipments.
Loading and Unloading Processes
The loading and unloading process is another key factor to consider. The refrigerated truck must be loaded properly to avoid any shifting of the cargo, which could cause it to freeze or spoil before reaching its final destination.
If your load isn’t stable (if some boxes can move around), you need a plan in place to keep everything safe while on the road. It’s also critical to select a carrier that has efficient, streamlined processes for both loadings and unloading your cargo so you can get on the road faster.
Experience Matters in LTL Cold Transportation
Finding which refrigerated trucking company is right for your business can be a daunting process with so many options available. But when it comes to LTL transportation services, experience matters and should be a huge factor in your decision. There is simply too much at stake not to.
Reliable Logistics Solutions for Refrigerated LTL Shipping
Established in 2008, Mulder Brothers Brokerage is a growing transport logistics business with continental United States coverage and world-class support. We are a reliable third-party logistics company that offers refrigerated LTL shipping.
Our professional team provides personalized attention to every customer, regardless of their size or needs. In addition, we offer a wide range of products and services to meet your transportation needs, including refrigerated trucking options for those who need cold-chain logistics solutions.
The experts at Mulder Brothers accomplish this with a network of carrier partners that use trailers with advanced refrigeration systems and insulated superstructures. You can choose from a variety of carriers, including those that have been in business for decades, as well as newer entrants who may be more familiar with how technology has advanced.
Our strategic relationship with AMST allows us to offer a wide array of solutions and full-service for our customers, such as modern warehousing and temporary storage, cross-docking, redelivery, frozen LTL shipments and more through a reliable partner carrier network. Our network is fortified even further with our asset-based fleet. So if you are looking for transport logistics you can count on— you’ll find it in MBB.
Top Refrigerated LTL Carrier in the USA
Mulder Brothers is the top refrigerated LTL carrier in the USA. We are fully licensed and insured, with a fleet of hundreds of trucks at our disposal to ensure your cargo arrives on time. We have extensive knowledge in cold chain logistics; therefore, you can rely on us for all your food transportation needs. We will help you stay compliant with regulations and ensure that your cargo is handled properly.
Contact Mulder Brothers Today
Mulder Brothers Brokerage has a whole fleet behind us, and our representatives will work closely with you on finding an option that fits within your budget. Additionally, we provide exceptional customer service throughout the entire cold chain process.
Our reefer trucks are well maintained and professionally driven by our experienced drivers. Visit mulderbros.com or call us at (616) 392-5907 to learn more about our full range of cold chain transportation services for your products today!