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Undoubtedly, the cold chain logistics or refrigerated transportation sector is increasingly playing a critical role in today’s economy.

It should come as no surprise, though. With more perishable and sensitive goods on the market, the infrastructure is necessary to reach customers far and wide. However, the process is not as simplified or straightforward with reefer or cold chain logistics as with other supply chain operations.

Success with refrigerated transportation depends on certain practices. Depending on your perspective, these practices may seem unique, expensive, or even stressful. However, following them will determine your customer experience and ability to maintain integrity and preserve the goods throughout the process.

This article explores the best practices in reefer transportation and freight that shippers and brokers must follow to ensure repeat business and long-term success.

How Shippers Set The Stage for Cold Chain Transport

The reefer process is all about speed. It involves getting your temperature-sensitive goods to their destination in the shortest time possible while maintaining optimal quality throughout the journey. Getting it right entails having the proper structure in place. Here is a guide on how to set up such a structure.

Pre-Shipment Checklist

Even the slightest temperature change may be enough to damage sensitive cargo. The pre-shipment checklist ensures you are starting right.

Identify Temperature Requirements

Different goods in the refrigerated transportation operation will require specific temperature ranges to prevent damage. Before moving any reefer shipment, ensure you know the acceptable temperature ranges for each product.


You should cool the refrigerated van before loading the shipment for transport. Waiting to cool the interior of the vehicle or trailer until after loading increases the risk of product damage even before shipment commences.

Ensure Proper Packaging

Prioritize packaging that ensures the products are exposed to the ideal temperature while keeping them safe from other environmental or physical factors that could harm them. Examples of packaging include vented plastic crates for grapes and berries, vacuum-sealed pouches for processed meat, and thermally insulated containers for temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals.

Temperature Monitoring Equipment

Carefully planning and executing the pre-shipment process is great, but remember that the journey comes with its own challenges. It is important to install a temperature monitoring device to monitor and control the van’s temperature during the trip.


Have your documentation in order. This will entail details about the truck or vehicle, the refrigerated container, the temperature, and the payment procedure. Getting your documentation right helps streamline the entire process and your payment.

Shipment in Process Checklists

Getting things in order pre-shipment is a great start, but you must maintain vigilant oversight of the products and conditions during the transportation process.

Real-Time Temperature Monitoring

Constantly monitoring the temperature of the refrigerated van during transportation keeps you updated about the state of the goods throughout the process. This will enable you to catch any temperature excursions and take steps to mitigate them before damage occurs.


Communication is crucial in any logistics and supply chain process. It can maintain visibility and create transparency for all parties involved. When there is an issue, effective communication ensures everyone is doing their part to resolve it.

Delivery and Post-Shipment Checklist

Upon delivery, there are also checklists to help ensure the integrity of the product. They include:

Temperature Verification

You want to verify that the truck’s temperature is the same as recorded pre-shipment and during shipment. This helps prevent disputes and resolve claims that may arise.

Post-Shipment Analysis

Post-shipment analysis is a detailed inspection of delivered cargo to ensure it aligns with pre-agreed terms and conditions. It is done to verify the integrity of the shipment. The receiver ensures the cargo is in the proper condition and quantity. These are also helpful to provide an end-to-end seamless process.

The post-shipment analysis also thoroughly reviews all documentation the driver must submit upon delivery.

Procuring The Carrier: Precision and Partnership

The carrier in the refrigerated process is also essential. Protecting your cargo — and reputation — is paramount. Therefore, be sure to follow a detailed carrier selection process. Selecting the wrong carriers could delay, disrupt, and potentially damage the cargo. Here are some ways to determine the suitable carrier.

Understand The Market

As shippers and brokers, it is important to understand the carrier market and how they generally price trips. Consider a candidate’s spot rates and freight contract rates before partnering with them. This will give you more leverage and wiggle room when negotiating with carriers.

Explore Multiple Options

The first carrier you come across may have all the right traits, such as reasonable pricing, infrastructure, and market experience. But how feasible is that? When searching for carriers, don’t be afraid to explore several options. Casting a wider net and thoroughly vetting each candidate builds confidence when deciding on a carrier partner.

Negotiate Fairly

It is important to negotiate fairly with carriers. Understandably, you want the best rate for your business. However, ensuring the carriers also get a fair deal is equally important. Negotiate so that everyone is happy with the terms.

Strategic Partnerships

Exploring strategic partnerships with your carriers is a great way to get them committed to your business for the long term. A good strategic partner prioritizes your business, does most of your shipping jobs (taking advantage of the economies of scale to cut costs), and collaborates with you to find innovative solutions.

Setting the Stage for Safe Transit

It’s crucial that reefer tools and equipment are always clean and that temporary storage areas are adequately cooled to safeguard temperature-sensitive products prior to shipping.

Thorough Cleaning

Cleaning the equipment and vehicles after each use reduces the risk of contamination. Using disinfectants approved by regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is crucial in ensuring the vehicles and the packaging/shipment preparation areas keep food safe.


Ensure the equipment and vehicles are adequately dried after cleaning to avoid mold and other problems. Consider using a dryer to expedite the drying process, where appropriate.

Select The Appropriate Facility

It is crucial to ensure that you have the best possible facility and that it is conducive to your equipment. A significant component of a suitable facility is the ability to control its temperature. Too hot or too cold could damage equipment and products.


Documenting the entire storage process from cleaning date to materials used, storage facility, date of storage, and details of storage conditions such as temperature. Effective documentation will help ensure you are compliant and help convince other businesses of your effectiveness and capacity to get the job done.

Guidelines For Setting Precise Temperature when Transporting Bulk Foods

Yes, cold chain logistics requires the appropriate temperature before and during the operation. This section provides guidelines to ensure you set the precise temperature. Remember, this can be the difference between a successful or failed reefer operation.


Getting the van or container to the precise temperature needed to transport the cargo before loading it is essential. This way, you avoid risking damage while waiting for the container to catch up to the required temperature after loading the cargo.

Determine The Correct Temperature

Knowing the right temperature for the goods you’re transporting will help you prevent many problems — especially damage to the cargo due to temperature or humidity excursions. Know the acceptable temperature range for each reefer shipment before loading the vehicle. 

Loading Style/System

Deploying the correct loading practices, such as palletization and stacking techniques, will help prevent damage during the process. It will ensure the cargo or goods are properly arranged for optimal airflow. Also, ensure the cargo is ready for loading before opening the doors of the transportation unit.

Equipment Capabilities

You want to ensure the vehicle or equipment (like a reefer container) can reach the required temperature and keep it that way during transit. Again, it is another step in the right direction and will go a long way toward preventing issues during transportation.

How Advanced Track and Trace Systems for Real-Time Monitoring Lead Up to The Critical Moment of Delivery

Modern cold chain logistics and operations are set up today to provide top-quality service and great customer experiences. You can have an effective process, but without visibility and transparency, it may all be for nothing. Here is why it is crucial.

Enhanced Visibility

Robust track and tracing systems will help you keep the customer up to date every step of the way. With these in place, you can enhance visibility for all parties in the operation.  

Effective Communication

It will also help with communication, another critical aspect of the cold chain logistics operation. Communication is vital because it helps relay expectations, obligations, and potential issues on time.

Streamlined Operations

Real-time tracking and tracing systems help you enhance the effectiveness of your operations. With them in place, you can build a route optimization system and an effective inventory management process that prevents overstocking and understocking and, more importantly, ensures efficient inventory flow.

Seamless Delivery: The Crucial Handoff

Another critical component of any effective cold chain logistics is speed. You don’t want the cargo in transit longer than necessary. The more time it is on the road, the less control you have over the entire reefer process. It is easy to think that the reefer process needs speed to avoid overreliance on the temperature monitoring tools in place. However, that would be wrong. 

Remember that the goods conveyed are highly perishable, especially concerning food supply chains. Because of this, businesses want to get them to the correct location in time to avoid expiration or damage, even if the temperature is not the problem. Yes, speed is relevant during transit, but it is also the case during delivery.

Think of it this way: What happens to the carefully preserved temperature if you leave the container open for too long while executing the delivery process? It starts to vary quickly, potentially damaging the product. To get it right, you want to ensure all the equipment and tools that enhance the delivery process, such as the warehouse’s temperature control systems, are available and in the right conditions.

The Role of Technology in Ensuring A Seamless Delivery Process

You would be hard-pressed to find a part of modern logistics and supply chains in which technology is not involved. In cold chain logistics, it will be more challenging. Primarily because tech is beneficial when solving the cold chain logistics operation for speed. 

Through tech, you have tools like routing applications that help you reduce transit times. These tools rely on AI and algorithms to navigate complex or congested routes, helping the goods reach their destination quickly.

With technology in the delivery process, you can access tools to help unload the cargo as fast and efficiently as possible.

Documenting The Journey: Prompt and Accurate Paperwork

As a broker, you want to effectively document the entire journey for all parties participating in the refrigerated transportation process. Part of the documentation entails accurate recording of the nature of goods, the required temperature, and the source and destination. 

The document should also describe when the cargo left its source and when it arrived at the destination.

The driver is the lynchpin of the entire documentation process. They are present in the pre-shipment, shipment, and post-shipment process. The driver will pick up the documentation, make adjustments where/when necessary, and deliver it to the end user. It is, therefore, essential to train them on their part. This will ensure a seamless documentation process.

However, it is essential to document the journey during transit so that all parties can be thoroughly informed of necessary updates. If there is an issue, it is good to communicate this in real time, but documenting it allows for effective performance monitoring and helps ensure seamless and prompt payment processing.

Completing The Order: Automation for Excellence

The final phase of the order delivery process or completion entails inspecting and documenting the received cargo. This is necessary to prevent fraud and oversight. It also helps to ensure the cargo received is in the optimal condition and quantity and transported correctly. Any mistakes could lead to load rejection and time-consuming and costly claims.

This is why automation is necessary. With automation, you can streamline this process by reducing the paperwork and automating some tasks, such as analyzing shared data—all of these help to ensure improved accuracy during the final stage of the order completion process.

Technology Innovations in Cold Chain Logistics

The cold chain has and continues to enjoy massive technological innovations and advancements. This gives customers and all parties involved a better reefer operations experience. Here are some of the tech innovations you can expect to see:

Artificial Intelligence

With this tool, you can analyze data in real time and use the information derived to predict and mitigate potential issues. A great example of this is temperature fluctuations. You can also use AI to ascertain possible solutions and promptly recommend corrective actions. It goes a long way to prevent product damage.


Thanks to blockchain, transparency is no longer a question. The tech tool creates an immutable data record throughout the journey, which naturally entails temperature data. This way, all parties have adequate transparency and can trust the data presented.

Internet of Things (IoT)

This is highly relevant for real-time information and updates throughout the cold chain operation. All parties can effectively monitor temperature, location, and other necessary details. They can do this before shipping, during shipping, and after shipment. Talk about complete visibility.

These advancements are transforming the cold chain experience. They help simplify and streamline operations, enabling all parties to achieve a much more desired outcome.

Sustainability Practices in Refrigerated Transport

Sustainability is here to stay. It has immense benefits for all parties involved, including the environment. Today, customers and, by extension, most businesses are clamoring for it. Here is why eco-friendly practices are important in the reefer shipping industry.

Environmental Responsibility

Traditional logistics, refrigerated units, and a massive reliance on fossil fuels were major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. This contributed to more people getting sick and waste in the food supply chain, making for a generally unhealthy system.

Reduced Food Waste

Food waste is financially unsustainable. Almost 40% of the entire American food supply is wasted every year. Think about the impact on these businesses’ financial capacity. With a reliable cold chain, the reverse will be the case.

Economic Benefits

Implementing eco-friendly practices often has economic advantages. Consider energy-efficient technologies, which can lower fuel consumption and put money back in businesses’ pockets.

Customer and Public Perception

Consumers are increasingly environmentally conscious. Most will only patronize businesses that adopt eco-friendly practices. Under this climate, reefer shipping businesses can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and attract environmentally responsible customers.

How Reefer Companies are Minimizing Their Environmental Impact

The reefer shipping industry is critical to the world’s food system. However, it is also a leading concern regarding environmental factors. Thanks to government policies and public awareness, everything is starting to change. Today, more reefer companies are taking initiatives to reduce their environmental impact. Some of these initiatives are:

Energy-Efficient Technologies

By integrating newer reefer units with improved insulation and more efficient cooling systems, these companies significantly reduce energy consumption during transportation.

Alternative Fuels

More companies are adopting cleaner-burning fuels like biofuels, and many have shown a willingness to adopt electric options when available. Compared to traditional fuels, this helps them reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution compared to conventional diesel fuel.

Waste Reduction Through Reliability

These companies emphasize maintaining a reliable cold chain through practices like real-time monitoring and improved infrastructure. They help minimize waste or damage to the cargo, which means a better environmental footprint.

Advancing Best Practices in Refrigerated Transport

Collaboration and strategic partnerships are critical for any logistics and supply chain operation. It is difficult to do cold chain logistics alone. It requires expertise, resources, and massive networks that will be difficult to consolidate in today’s logistics management.

Shippers, carriers, and brokers are all relevant players in cold chain logistics. They all play their part in ensuring smooth and efficient cargo movement in a temperature-sensitive operation like refrigerated transportation.

Why is Collaboration Between Carriers, Shippers, and Brokers Important?

You can expect a more streamlined operation when all three actively participate and have a strategic partnership. Here is what to look forward to when all are in place:

Enhanced Visibility and Communication

Collaboration and strategic partnerships enhance open communication between all parties. This, in turn, helps promote or provide real-time visibility through the entire process. More importantly, it also allows proactive problem-solving and correction if any challenges arise.

Improved Efficiency

Streamlined information sharing can help optimize processes and routes and speed up delivery times.

Risk Mitigation

Through collaboration, all parties in the cold chain logistics process can seamlessly identify potential risks in the cold chain. A typical example could be equipment malfunctions. This allows them to take proactive measures to mitigate the risks and reduce disruptions.

The Power of Feedback Mechanism Between Shippers, Carriers, and Brokers

Establishing a feedback mechanism between the shippers, carriers, and brokers helps them refine and streamline the cold chain logistic processes for effectiveness. Here is how it works:

Get Data-Driven Insights

These three parties can create and share insightful reports with AI or other data analytics tools like Power BI. The reports should show the partnership’s performance and critical KPIs, such as temperature variations/deviations, lead times, and fuel consumption, for effectiveness.

Establish The Feedback Mechanism

Set up a structure that loops every party in on updates. All parties should be able to share their experiences, identify areas of improvement, and come together to find solutions. If done well, it will create an effective feedback mechanism where problems in the cold chain meet their solutions.

Continuous Improvement

After setting up the feedback mechanism, the parties involved can continue refining the process to enhance the mechanisms and ultimately lead to an effective and sustainable transportation system.

Why are Feedback Mechanisms so Important?

In its basic form, feedback loops are structures for effective communication. With them in place, the cold chain logistics operation is sure to experience the following:

  • Increased Efficiency
  • Improved Visibility
  • Reduced Costs
  • Reduced Risk

The modern transportation industry has little tolerance for lone rangers. Different people have their expertise, and leveraging them works so much better. With collaborations and strategic partnerships reinforced by feedback mechanisms, businesses in the cold chain industry can expect better and more consistent outputs.

The Future of Refrigerated Transportation

The future of reefer transportation is all about sustainability, technology, and data-driven operations. However, with great power comes great regulations. So many businesses can expect stricter environmental regulations and a rise in eco-friendly tech like electric trucks and clean fuels. 

Global trade is currently shifting, and consumers are increasingly demanding fresh food, which will require adaptable logistics and supply chains. Cold chain operations that embrace AI, blockchain, and technology will be the frontrunners in this tech-driven future.

The One Solution To Your Cold Chain Logistics

The cold chain logistics is incredibly complex. However, at Logistics Group International (LGI), we leverage expertise, experience, and a network of 15,000+ carriers to provide a streamlined solution across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. 

LGI offers reefer services across various industries, including food and beverages, chemicals, and pharma. Our incredible success serving these businesses is what gives us confidence in our abilities. Work with us today