Successful logistical planning and order fulfillment for temperature-sensitive goods requires an in-depth understanding of the needs of your frozen freight as well as the various ways by which to safely transport it. While many products require refrigeration, frozen goods must consistently maintain sub-zero temperatures during loading, transporting, storage, and final delivery to ensure food quality and prevent product loss. 

Multiple options are available for ​​frozen freight shipping specifically, each with its own means of providing the necessary thermal conditions for cold chain transport. Learn more about how to ship frozen foods to help you choose the right method for your needs.

How Are Frozen Foods Transported?

Among the most important characteristics a mode of transportation can have in cold chain shipping is the ability to achieve and maintain appropriate temperatures for frozen foods. Not all transportation methods are equal to the task. The optimal type of transportation, carrier, and shipping container will depend on the goods you’re shipping, your timeline, and related factors.

Modes of Transportation

You have several options for efficiently and safely transporting goods in a temperature-controlled environment. Based on your needs, you can ship products by land, air, or sea.

Full 53-Foot Reefers

While the dry vans you see daily on highways are sufficient for protecting everyday products from the elements, they don’t manage thermal conditions, making reefers the right choice for frozen shipments. These refrigerated semi-trailers are designed to safely transport temperature-sensitive goods. With applications in last-mile shipping, they typically combine an external cooling unit with an insulated, enclosed container for precise temperature control. This allows reefers to prevent spoilage and conditions that could negatively impact the quality of perishable cargo. 


If reefers provide last-mile transportation in the cold chain, railways serve as the go-between for ports and reefer fleets. According to an October 2021 GoRail piece by Betsy Cantwell titled “Explainer: Railroads and the Supply Chain,” railroads are responsible for transporting approximately 40% of long-distance cargo in the U.S. Shippers also use refrigerated railcars for some cold chain freight consolidation.

Air Cargo

Airplanes are ideal for transporting goods when timing is of particular concern, such as with supplies for the medical sector. However, perishable foods can also require expedited delivery, with examples including shellfish and other seafood, fruits, and vegetables. Transporting such cargo by air ensures that the goods reach their final destination quickly while they still appear fresh to make the most of their limited shelf life. However, given the changing ambient temperatures in air travel, it’s important for such goods to be appropriately packaged to ensure product integrity.

Refrigerated Cargo Ships

Similar to air transport, cargo ships experience varying climates and thermal conditions. If not carefully monitored, these temperature fluctuations can lead to product damage. Cargo ships can use insulated sea containers coupled with thermal-control technology to mitigate these risks for safe frozen transport and optimal product quality.

Types of LTL Frozen Freight Carriers

Less-than-truckload (LTL) frozen freight shipping carriers are categorized by the temperature conditions that they, by law, must consistently maintain. These frozen transport carrier types include:

  • Isothermal carriers. With a cabin consisting of insulated floors, walls, ceilings, and doors, isothermal carriers reduce heat exchange between their interior and the outside environment.
  • Cold carriers. These carriers decrease and then maintain interior temperatures utilizing cooling technology. Based on vehicle type, that temperature typically falls between -4° and 54° F.
  • Refrigerated carriers. Refrigerated varieties lower the passenger compartment’s temperature to achieve and hold an external temperature averaging between -4° and 86° F.

Choose the Right Frozen Shipping Container

The best way to ship frozen food is in insulated frozen food shipping containers that safeguard against leakage. The insulation is essential for effective temperature control, while leak-proofing prevents a container’s contents or any internal condensation from escaping. Container size is also an important consideration. A well-sized container will help food remain frozen, but a too-large container that leaves excessive space around the product may not.

Contact Mulder Brothers for Your Frozen Food

Frozen logistics and transportation are critical to ensuring that frozen foods arrive at their destination on time while retaining maximum quality.

At Mulder Brothers, we provide efficient, cost-effective, and FDA-compliant solutions for shipping frozen goods. Our network of trusted LTL frozen freight carriers provides pickups in the Midwest, with shipping capabilities nationwide. With an extensive background in trucking and reefer transportation services, we provide reliable consolidation, cross-docking, and redelivery services. Mulder Brothers also works with cold storage partners to meet customers’ varied cold chain needs. 

Contact us to learn more about the right method of frozen food transport for your operation, or request a quote today to get started.

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