Let's Explore Temperature Controlled Shipping

Temperature-controlled shipping has come a long way over the past 100 years. What once consisted of stuffing a container full of ice blocks to move meat from the stockyards of Chicago has transformed into a highly complex system of advanced technology. While those early days kept food from spoiling, the modern cold supply chain uses equipment that can control the temperature inside of a reefer or frozen container within one-tenth of a degree for hundreds of miles.

Every day, the cold supply chain in the United States moves more than 200,000 containers equipped with temperature-controlled shipping technology. This keeps refrigerated or frozen goods safe from exposure to heat or falling outside of the ‘danger zone’ of bacteria growth. To ensure our food remains safe and free of contamination – the cold supply chain relies on more than fancy equipment. In fact, of all supply chain movement industries, temperature-controlled shipping is the most complex.
Let’s take some time to dive into a few of the detailed system of checks and balances that keep our cold storage shipments running smooth, our commodities protected and moving smooth across the globe each day.


Temperature Controlled Shipping Involves Additional Planning, Loading, and Movement Steps

Routing a dry-goods shipment is a fairly simply process. The shipper finds a carrier, the carrier plans the route, the driver or warehouse staff load the container, driver moves the product and delivers to a customer. Imagine adding several individual steps in each. When products require temperature controls like reefer or frozen shipments, each phase of shipping involves multiple additional steps.

Here are a few of the ways that the cold supply chain is different.



When a temperature-controlled shipment is planned, shippers, carriers, and recipients must work together to ensure a smooth movement and delivery of the commodities. While it’s relatively simple to verify that all supply chain partners have the right equipment in the continental US, shipping internationally introduces a whole new list of potential problems. Regardless of the point of delivery, carriers must ensure their shipments are planned to comply with food safety standards, which reduces the growth of bacteria, spoilage, and ensure the product is delivered on time.



Temperature-controlled shipping is completed in specialized containers that are usually designed for either refrigerated or frozen shipping. Shippers need to be aware and verify that their shipments are being loaded into the right containers associated with their type of shipment. Products shipped via this method also require unique stacking and off-loading procedures to be followed.


Movement of Freight

When you ship via temperature-controlled storage, the margin of error is reduced. While today’s cold storage cargo containers are made exceptionally well, the refrigeration equipment requires a constant supply of power to maintain a specific temperature. This throws a restriction in the movement of products. Cold storage shipments require routing that will ensure the container is powered while the truck is not in operation. This usually requires a storage depot or external power source. Additionally, shippers and carriers also need to work closely with the recipient to ensure they are available for deliveries to reduce shipping delays.


Additional Paperwork Control

Cold or frozen shipping also requires additional documentation in order to comply with multiple Federal shipping and FDA regulations. The Food Safety Modernization Act created by the FDA provides shippers and carriers with controls that are required for the safe movement of cold-storage food. The Department of Transportation also ensure that carriers maintain temperature control logs to document the temperature of their cargo containers – in most cases every hour. In the case that a carrier is pulled over or stopped at a weight facility and does not have their temperature log correctly filled, it can result in shipping delays, multiple fines, and possible commercial shipping license suspension.


Final Thoughts

Moving commodities that require temperature-controlled shipping has become much more complex than in years past. The main issue most shippers deal with is understanding the excessive regulations and paperwork control involved in this segment. If you’re a shipper who wants to learn more about how to successfully navigate the cold supply chain, a professional and experienced 3PL like Redwood Logistics can help improve your cold supply operations.

Chicago-based Redwood Logistics is a next-generation, strategically integrated logistics provider that believes every company’s needs are unique. For more than 15 years, the company has been providing solutions for moving and managing freight and sharing its knowledge across North America. Redwood Logistics is focused on making its customers more successful in their end markets by applying talented and motivated people, proven processes and cutting-edge technologies to optimize their supply chain management efforts.

If you’re a shipper in any industry looking to save money and improve cold supply chain movement efficiency, give us a call today!