If you’re shipping freight in North America, chances are that you’ll need to plan for lower temperatures that can put your freight at risk of freezing. Winter weather can also close roads and contribute to accidents. You need to be ready to meet the shipping and logistics challenges that winter can bring.
You can start by understanding how cold temperatures affect your freight – lots of things might be affected by below-freezing temperatures that you might not expect. You need to know your route, because different routes might be affected differently by the prevailing weather conditions. Insulate your shipments and use temperature-controlled trucks to keep them at a stable temperature. Track your shipments with a freeze indicator, and be prepared to address any problems that might come up en route.
Know Your Freight
In order to successfully protect your freight from the cold, you have to know how cold affects it. For example, beverages like soda or juice will freeze at 32℉, but the freezing point of wine and beer might be a few degrees lower, and liquor has a lower freezing point still.
Liquids expand when they freeze and can break their containers, but the cold can damage things you ight not expect. For example, if you’re shipping televisions, you have to make sure that they’re brought back up to room temperature before they’re installed, or the screens could crack. If you’re shipping items made of wood, you have to keep them warm, because freezing temperatures could warp the wood. Freezing can break down the oils in coffee beans and damage their flavor. Even beauty products can be susceptible to freeze damage – it can cause the ingredients to separate and ruin the product. Knowing how your freight will react to freezing temperatures can help you plan to protect it.
Know Your Route
It’s always a good idea to plan your shipping route ahead of time, no matter the time of year, but it’s especially important in the winter. Some routes may not be available to you during the coldest months. Trucks traveling through the Rocky Mountains might need to find alternative routes in the winter, for example. Some routes may have weight limits during seasonal thaws. Some may have wildly varying temperature fluctuations, being relatively warm in the middle of the day and significantly colder at night. Plan your route to avoid closed roads and temperature fluctuations.
Use Heated Trucks and Insulation
Packaging insulation and temperature-controlled trucks are absolutely necessary when you’re moving freight through cold winter temperatures. Depending on how cold your shipping area gets, you may want to choose to insulate your shipping containers themselves with mineral wool, spray foam, styrofoam panels, or batt insulation. Use styrofoam and thermal liners inside packing crates and boxes. Include heat packs in shipments that need to stay warm, like plants or live animals. For shipments that need to stay cold but shouldn’t be allowed to freeze, refrigerated trucks are still an option. And you can buy insulating blankets and pallet covers to protect your pallets from cold weather.
Track Your Shipments
You never know what might happen to your shipments on the road. The truck might get into an accident or run into worse weather than expected. Your shipment might get stuck on a trailer outside for the weekend. You need to know what your freight is going through in real time, so you can take action to save it if it starts to get too cold. You also need to know whether your freight has frozen and then thawed out at any point in transit. Use GPS trackers and freeze indicators to follow your shipment in real time and be notified if it freezes or starts to drop below a safe temperature.
Problems with your shipments are inevitable at any time of the year, but you can deal with them more effectively if you’re prepared. Build buffers into your shipment times so that delays aren’t a hassle. Work with your carrier to prevent freezing. Send your shipments early in the week so they don’t get stuck sitting at a loading dock all weekend. Know the working regulations for your carriers – drivers may only be allowed to work so many hours in the day, so make sure you have enough drivers to get your shipment to their destinations in a timely fashion.
Winter weather can make shipping freight extra challenging, but it doesn’t have to shut down your supply chain. Take the right steps to conquer winter’s chill, and keep your shipments moving like they ought to be.