Category Archive: Blog

Guide to Refrigerated Transportation Services

Every day, supermarket shoppers around the world ask themselves how it is possible for food that was grown hundreds or even thousands of miles away to still be fresh. This question can be answered with just two words: speed and refrigeration. This article will expand on these two words and explain how refrigerated transportation has revolutionized logistics.

What is Refrigerated Transport?

Refrigerated transport is a method of moving perishable goods from one place to another in a temperature-controlled environment. This is sometimes done using refrigerated shipping containers and railcars, but most of the products that must be moved in this way in the United States are transported on large trucks pulling specially designed trailers.

The first refrigerated trucks were used by ice cream companies in the 1920s, but they relied on ice to prevent melting and keep things cool. Refrigerated transportation as we know it today can trace its roots back to 1940 when a self-taught mechanic and engineer named Frederick McKinley Jones invented the first portable air-conditioning unit. During World War II, this innovation was used to get fresh food to combat troops and crucial medical supplies to field hospitals. The refrigerated transportation sector blossomed after the war and has grown significantly in recent years. Today the industry serves over 56,000 businesses in the U.S., and it is expected to be worth more than $21 billion by 2025.

Refrigerated Shipping and Cold Storage Services

Truck Driver Adjusting Temperature in Refrigerated Truck Companies that transport perishable goods work against the clock, so they have to be organized, capable, and efficient. They must also ensure that cargoes remain at a consistent temperature or a defined temperature range throughout the transportation process.

The experts at Mulder Brothers accomplish this with a network of carrier partners that use trailers that have advanced refrigeration systems and insulated superstructures. These trucks can transport goods at temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit, and they can move products ranging from food to exotic animals. The services offered include:

  • Temperature-controlled FTL and LTL services
  • Refrigerated warehousing and short-term storage
  • Food warehousing services that meet FDA requirements
  • Cross-docking and redelivery services

Supply Cold Chain Logistics

Getting perishable goods to their destinations in a timely manner and in an appropriate condition requires an entire temperature-controlled supply chain consisting of refrigerated trucks and temperature-controlled warehouses and dispatch facilities. If any link in this delicate chain is broken and temperatures are allowed to rise, the goods being moved can become unstable and possibly hazardous. When such a system is in place and managed effectively, it can extend the shelf life of products by days or even weeks.

Refrigerated Freight Shipping vs. Refrigerated LTL

Moving less-than-truckload, or LTL, shipments adds yet another layer of complexity to the refrigerated transportation process. Smaller vehicles like refrigerated panel vans or box trucks can be used to transport smaller loads, but combining shipments on tractor-trailers is the most commonly used and cost-effective method. This must be done very carefully to ensure that each shipment remains at an appropriate temperature, which is why many shipping providers are unable to offer this service.

Benefits of Refrigerated Transport

Refrigerated transport allows consumers around the country to enjoy foods all year round that were once considered seasonal treats. It also ensures that hospitals and clinics have adequate supplies of effective medicine on hand to treat patients. In addition to food and medical supplies, refrigerated trucks can be used to transport cargoes as diverse as fresh flowers, animals that are sensitive to heat, and works of art that could be damaged by fluctuations in temperature or humidity.

Safety for Refrigerated Products

Safety is a primary concern when moving perishable goods. Frozen food that thaws and then refreezes during transportation poses a serious health risk to those who consume it, and fresh produce must be kept cool to prevent bacteria from growing. Almost 50 million Americans get sick each year after eating spoiled food, which is why Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011. This law introduced seven strict rules governing the way food in the United States is grown, harvested and transported, and every company that offers refrigerated transportation services must comply with it.

Refrigerated Transportation Logistics for A Wide Variety of Industries

Food producers and pharmaceutical companies are usually the biggest clients of refrigerated transportation providers, but they are not their only customers. Other industries that require products to be shipped in a climate-controlled environment include:

  • Beekeepers: Honey bees produce an enormous amount of heat, which cannot escape when they are transported in a standard truck.
  • Art dealers: Oil paintings can be damaged when temperatures or humidity levels are not carefully controlled.
  • Christmas tree suppliers: Most of the Christmas trees sold in the United States each holiday season reached their destinations on refrigerated trucks.
  • Cosmetics companies: Perfumes and cosmetics like lipsticks can lose their distinctive scents or melt when exposed to heat.

Rising Demand for Fresh Perishable Goods

Sales of fresh food increased by more than 10 percent in 2020 despite a global pandemic. Consumers are also becoming far more savvy about expiration dates and diseases like E. coli and salmonella, which makes quality just as important as quantity for food producers. A recent study revealed that consumers are even more concerned about perishability now than they were before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Compliance and Regulation for Refrigerated Transport

Food freshness and medicine efficacy are ensured by laws, regulations, and industry standards. Refrigerated transport suppliers must be aware of and comply with all of these rules, and they should also stay abreast of changes made to the best practices guidelines of organizations like the Global Cold Chain Alliance and International Road Transport Union. These guidelines cover issues ranging from maintaining sanitary conditions to ensuring drivers are properly trained.

Challenges of Refrigerated Transportation Services

Delivering perishable goods on time and in a usable state is not without its challenges. Drivers who operate refrigerated trucks must understand how they work and what signs of trouble to look out for. There are also myriad rules and regulations to follow, and companies that ship their products in climate-controlled environments usually have very specific needs and requirements. Refrigerated trucks cost more to purchase and maintain, and a nationwide shortage of truck drivers is heaping even more pressure on an already strained supply chain.

Logistics and Timing of Cold Chain Shipping

The old adage “timing is everything” is particularly appropriate when describing refrigerated transport. Food must reach supermarkets and convenience stores before expiration dates, and medicines and vaccines have to be delivered quickly and efficiently during health scares like pandemics. All of this has to be accomplished while maintaining specific temperatures during storage and transportation, which requires a great deal of skill and expertise.

Costs of Refrigerated Transport and Storage

Transporting goods in refrigerated trucks is more expensive than moving them in standard tractor-trailers, and this is especially true when LTL loads are being shipped. The equipment used is complex and expensive, and the utility bills for climate-controlled warehouses can be eye watering. However, companies like Mulder Brothers that have extensive experience in this area are aware of the challenges, and they have policies and procedures in place that are designed to minimize expenses and provide their customers with a more affordable service.

Product Safety

Safety first is another phrase commonly used in the refrigerated transport industry. Consistent temperatures must be maintained during the entire transportation process to prevent food from spoiling and medicines from losing their efficacy, and that requires expertise. Manufacturers and producers that use refrigerated trucks rely on transportation companies to protect their reputations by making sure their products are safe when they reach their destinations, and this is a responsibility that Mulder Brothers take very seriously.

Maintaining Refrigerated Cargo Integrity in Transportation and Storage

Climate-controlled warehouses and cold storage facilities are just as important as refrigerated trucks when perishable goods are shipped, and they are used to prevent spoiling, rotting, and insect damage at transit hubs. Temperatures are maintained in storage facilities with either vapor absorption or vapor compression systems. Vapor absorption systems are more expensive to install, but they cost less to run.

Industries that Use Refrigerated Transportation Services

Transporting Frozen FishRefrigerated and frozen transport services are used by an extremely diverse group of manufacturers, growers, merchants and dealers, and the only thing these clients have in common is a need to transport their products quickly and safely in a climate-controlled environment.

Perishable Food and Beverage Products

Perishable food and beverage products shipped in refrigerated trucks fall into three categories. There are foods that are still alive like fruits and vegetables, and there are foods like meat that are no longer alive but must be kept fresh. There are also commodities like tobacco and beer that should be kept at a certain temperature.


Many of the most common pharmaceutical products used by Americans must be shipped in climate-controlled environments. Insulin loses its efficacy if it is stored or shipped at temperatures exceeding 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and eye drops used to treat glaucoma should not be exposed to temperatures higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit. This is also the temperature that life-saving rescue inhalers must be kept at.


The vast majority of vaccines need to be kept cool to prevent them from losing their effectiveness. If an unbroken cold chain is not maintained during their storage and shipment, people may be given useless vaccines and spread dangerous diseases. Maintaining consistent temperatures is particularly important when transporting the vaccines for mumps, rubella, measles and hepatitis.


Not storing chemicals at the right temperature can lead to disaster, so refrigerated transport companies take special care when they ship flammable gases and combustible substances. They check material safety data sheets to find safe storage and transport temperatures, and they pay close attention to a chemical’s flash point.

Choosing the Best Refrigerated Transport Partner

Mulder BrothersIf you have to move perishable goods from one place to another, you need a transportation partner that understands the challenges involved and has the resources and experience to get the job done. In addition to a fleet of well-maintained refrigerated trucks, your transportation provider should have climate-controlled storage facilities and a staff of professionals that knows how important it is to maintain a consistent temperature.

Consider Your Cold-Transport and Refrigerated Shipping Needs

News travels quickly in the information age, and stories about spoiled food or ineffective medicines often go viral. This is why it is a good idea to do plenty of research before choosing a refrigerated transport company and limit the choices to providers that offer competitive rates, excellent support and convenient services.

Experience is Key with Supply Chain Logistics for Refrigerated Goods

Some transportation brokerage firms have little or no trucking experience, but the experts at Mulder Brothers have been shipping products for over five decades and know trucking well. They can also provide an unbroken cold chain with temperature-controlled warehouses and distribution centers.

Contact Mulder Brothers

If you would like to learn more about the refrigerated and frozen transportation services available from Mulder Brothers, you can call us at (616) 392-5907, or drop us a line on our website.

A Guide to Cold Chain Transportation

The cold chain refers to the series of stages and steps a temperature-sensitive product follows from manufacturing until it reaches the end-user. In this blog, we’ll take a look at everything that goes into cold chain transportation.

What is Cold Chain Transportation?

Transportation is a significant component of the cold chain, requiring careful coordination to distribute products while maintaining temperatures and managing schedules.

Why is Cold Chain Transportation Important?

It’s the ability to maintain products at cold temperatures as they are in transport that makes it possible to distribute them across long distances. This gives manufacturers flexibility to consolidate their production facilities or focus them in geographically advantageous locations and still have large-scale distribution or product availability out of season.

What is the Role of Cold Chain Logistics?

Cold chain logistics ensures efficient distribution within required temperature parameters by specializing in the technology and equipment to meet the unique needs of the cold chain. This includes packaging, warehouses, and vehicles specialized for this purpose. This branch of logistics further benefits from working with dedicated cold chain carriers and brokers who have developed expertise in best practices and can anticipate challenges.

Cold Transportation for LTL (Less Than Load)

Even if a shipment won’t fill an entire truck, it still needs to be delivered. Temperature-sensitive items have a limited window of time and strict requirements for temperature control, which adds an extra layer to already complex standard LTL logistics. An experienced partner is critical to getting things to their destinations in proper condition.

Components of Cold Chain Transportation

cold chain truck imageSeveral things go into the planning and execution of cold chain transportation, and each impacts the ability to get items to their final destination at the correct temperature and on time. Cold chain items generally have either a range of acceptable temperatures or a steady temperature that must be maintained.

Products and Their Distribution

Typical cold chain products include food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals, all of which are manufactured at a distance from some or all end users. These products need protection along the entire chain to avoid spoilage of food and medications, to preserve freshness of products with a limited shelf life, and to ensure quality or safety. Temperature fluctuation can contribute to foodborne illness, bacteria growth, product waste, chemical instability, and sub-optimal medication efficacy.

Packaging Products

Packaging is usually the first line of defense against physical and temperature-related damage. There are many ways to keep products in the correct temperature range, and these also keep items from breaking or becoming damaged. Some packaging can maintain temperatures without additional refrigeration (i.e., refrigerated or “reefer” trucks) and some are used in conjunction with external temperature controls. All packaging requires planning and anticipation of possible problems like delays, adverse weather, and unloading/reloading time. Package features to consider include single-use or reusable cartons, flexible vs. rigid materials, and how long the material can effectively regulate temperatures.

Active vs. Passive Cold Chain Packaging

Temperature regulation can be active or passive. Active regulation means the packaging itself generates and maintains the required internal temperature. Passive regulation maintains temperatures but cannot actively change the temperature inside the package or of its contents.

Active regulation is usually battery or electrically powered, so the package generates its own temperature control. This can be useful in very warm settings or when maintaining a very specific range (or exact) temperature is critical, and they can also include locking mechanisms (e.g., for medical storage). Despite these advantages, battery life and reliable access to a power source are limiting factors, along with greater expense.

Passive temperature regulation involves insulation with polystyrene, or the addition of gel packs or dry ice. Tape and adhesives must also tolerate cold temperatures so that packages do not open during transportation. Temperature indicator devices are another way to monitor temperatures in passively regulated packaging.

Origin and Destination of Cold Chain Products

The manufacturer must document and provide exact temperature and storage requirements to the broker and carrier, who must then carry those out. Storage before and during shipping also needs prior planning, along with correct packaging and type of truck.

Another critical factor is what happens at the point of delivery, often figuratively called the “last mile” of transportation. This is the point where items are moved from the truck into cold storage at their final destination and is often when delays or bottlenecks can occur – either unexpected or due to poor planning.

Carriers and brokers can help minimize these challenges by packing trucks and warehouses in last in/first out order, ensuring nothing must come out of the cold area in order to remove other items, and accurately estimating the amount of time it takes to unload the shipment and get it into storage at the destination.

Modal Choice

There are several options for mode of transport depending on distance and geography, including air, water, rail, and road. Most products will spend some time in a truck even if they are shipped by other modes as well. Trucking can be an economical choice, especially for partial, or LTL, shipments because the weight and size of a load determines shipping costs, so a partial load will be less expensive than a full one. Trucks also offer flexibility because routes can often be altered due to weather or traffic issues more easily than with other methods. It’s important to be aware that most carriers adhere to strict schedules and may have longer delivery times if several stops are scheduled.

Cooling Systems and Storage

In addition to temperature-controlled packaging and trucks, cold chain products may need to be stored temporarily in climate-controlled warehouses. This is especially the case with LTL transportation. For example, an LTL shipment may be trucked to a midway point on its journey, then held in cold storage awaiting a second truck to take it the rest of the way.

Providing a Temperature Controlled Climate

Just like packaging, trucks can use active or passive temperature controls. Refrigerated or reefer trucks use a combination of double-wall insulation and an active refrigeration system powered by a motor to generate correct temperatures. Double-walled trucks provide passive insulation. The temperature requirements and other risk factors of the cargo determine which type of climate control is most appropriate.

Dry Ice, Gel Packs, and Other Options

Passive temperature control options include adding dry ice, liquid nitrogen packs, gel packs, and insulating quilts in or around packages or pallets.

Warehouse Storage

Climate-controlled warehouses ensure temperature-sensitive products are maintained at the correct temperatures before and during their journey. Warehouses can be an entire building or a specially designed portion of a building, usually with an active cooling system that is monitored and adjusted to maintain temperatures.

Logistics brokers with their own cold warehouses offer manufacturers/shippers an advantage because they eliminate the extra step of locating and arranging for cold storage en route with another party.

Challenges to Cold Chain Transportation

puzzle piecesLike a puzzle, transportation and logistics always require coordinating multiple pieces for maximum efficiency. Cold temperature requirements adds another layer of complexity, including these challenges:

Temperature Regulation

Cold chain products usually come with several specifications, such as maximum and/or minimum temperatures, and limits on unrefrigerated time (especially for food and beverages, since this is linked to public health concerns). Keeping temperatures constant or within the appropriate range requires monitoring environmental conditions and the ability to make needed adjustments. Brokers and carriers also need to be aware of the risks to products and end users if conditions are compromised, allowable margins for error (if any), and any non-negotiable factors (e.g., is an insulated truck allowable or must it be a reefer).

Around the Clock Storage and Refrigeration

Temperatures must be able to be maintained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of their location. This means monitoring, adjusting temperatures, and making equipment repairs as needed even during off hours.

Chance for Human Error

Human error can lead to product spoilage, waste, and even public health risks. Examples of human error may include accidentally switching off motors or generators, failure to notice when equipment has shut down or failed, accidentally switching equipment to energy saving modes, or leaving cooler or truck doors ajar or unlocked.

Higher Shipping Costs

Climate control equipment and the energy and expertise needed to run and maintain them add to overall cold chain transportation costs. Contributing factors include the availability of trained drivers and appropriate shipping containers, the cost of gas, highway tolls, warehouse storage, and driver compensation.

Common Industries in Cold Chain Logistics

Many industries rely on cold chain logistics for product distribution, including:

Food and Beverage Industry

Product examples include frozen and refrigerated foods and beverages, fruits and vegetables, perishables like dairy, meat, eggs, juices, and meal kits. Destinations for these products may include restaurants, grocery, retail, and convenience stores, hotels, hospitals and health care facilities, food service operations at schools and corporations, and more.


In addition to some medications, many ingredients and materials used in pharmaceutical development are part of the cold chain. Many lose efficacy or become unsafe or unusable if stored outside the specified temperature range. Common examples include vaccines, some eye drops and aerosols, insulin, and biopharmaceuticals (e.g., blood-based medications, organs and tissues, stem cell materials). Destinations for these products may include hospitals and health care facilities, drug manufacturing facilities, physician’s offices, veterinary offices, zoos and aquariums, and grocery, retail, and drugstores.

Chemical Distribution

Temperature can affect chemical stability and physical properties of individual chemicals or mixtures. Combustible chemicals, like some acids and phenols, must be stored below certain temperatures. In addition, a chemical’s flash point is critical– this is the lowest temperature it may be stored without releasing flammable vapors into the air. Examples include alcohols, esters, ethers, and ketones. Destinations for these products may include manufacturing facilities, corporate or university laboratories, and chemical supply retailers and wholesalers.

Choosing the Right Partner for Cold Chain Transportation

Mulder Brothers teamCold chain transportation requires expertise and experience to ensure product quality and safety. There are many things to keep track of and account for, over and above standard logistics and LTL requirements. Choosing a partner that specializes in cold chain logistics means no more wondering if temperature-sensitive products are being handled and maintained correctly.

Schedule a Consultation with Mulder Brothers Today

At Mulder Brothers Brokerage, cold chain transportation is our focus. And with our extensive trucking background, you can count on us for safe, reliable transportation and carrier support. Please contact us to see what we can do for you!