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Everything You Need to Know About Refrigerated Shipping

If you’re a logistics professional serving in the capacity of a transportation manager, shipping manager, logistics manager, or any other leadership role, it’s paramount that you not only fully understand your company’s shipping needs, but also know how to fulfill them. One area it pays to be well versed in is the multibillion-dollar refrigerated shipping space.

Statistics show that the refrigerated transport space in the U.S. is expected to expand at a 12.44% compound annual growth rate between 2014 and 2019, and that the segment is expected to reach 3.25 billion tons by 2022. This underscores the immense size of the industry. 

The following primer will lay out all you need to know about refrigerated shipping so that you can make informed decisions as it relates to your company’s own shipping needs.


Refrigerated (Reefer) Shipping: What is it, Anyway?

Refrigerated shipping refers to a freight shipping process geared towards transporting food and other types of products in a temperature-controlled environment. In order to accomplish this, the shipping vehicle, typically a truck or a ship, is equipped with built-in refrigeration technology that keeps the products either frozen or at the ideal temperature.

Consider that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA) in 2015 requires transporters of refrigerated products to rollout out procedures that incorporate temperature control. According to some sources, the Act happens to be the most thorough food transport policy ever implemented for the industry.

What are the Benefits of Reefer Shipping?

Many perishable goods are exported daily to accommodate for the demand of such products. In order to provide top quality meat, fruit, vegetables, and other perishables, companies employ refrigerated transportation services to keep their products fresh while traveling long distances.

Which Industries Use Refrigerated Shipping?

The primary benefit of refrigerated shipping is that it provides a method for shippers to send a wide variety of freight that needs to be transported in a temperature-controlled environment. This includes produce -- such as carrots, broccoli, and lettuce -- and meats -- such as fish, beef, and chicken. But edibles are not the only types of products that require refrigerated shipping. Some pharmaceuticals and personal care items must be transported in a temperature-controlled manner as well. So refrigerated is applicable to numerous industries.

Which Segments Employ Refrigerated Shipping?

Many industries rely on reefer shipping. Farmers need to transport their produce, meats, and dairy, to grocery stores, while restaurants, supermarkets, and delicatessens need a safe way to move their products safely and efficiently. As was mentioned previously, the medical sector requires refrigerated shipping to transport certain medicines to different locations.

Shipping Seasons

It’s important to be mindful of the four specific refrigerated shipping seasons as it is very much supply-and-demand oriented. Here’s a look at the four refrigerated shipping seasons.

1. Quiet Season from January to March

The January-March period is the industry’s slow season as very little shipping actually takes place compared to the other three seasons. There are several reasons for this quiet period. For instance, the low temperatures and severe weather conditions render it unsafe to transport.

2. Production Season from April to July

This is a period of greater activity stemming from pent up demand following the quiet season. As the volume of refrigerated shipping increases, carriers tend to be more selective given the wider variety of loads available. Due to an uptick in supply and demand, rates start to increase.

3. High Season from August to October

This is the busiest period of the year for refrigerated shipping. It is driven, to some extent, by the busy back-to-school season when parents head out to the stores in significant numbers to buy products for their children for the academic school year. Rates climb from the highs of the production season as shipping volume hits its annual peak. 

4. Holiday Season from November to December

This is a busy time of year because of the back-to-back-back holiday seasons, namely Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, that result in a massive push to transport products. Rates during the holiday season increase in response to the spike in demand.

It’s important that logistics professionals be vigilant to wrap up freight orders prior to the end of the calendar year. It will require a concerted effort to ensure that orders are placed on time, to ensure that no orders fall between the cracks, and to ensure that shelves are adequately stocked to take advantage of the heightened demand among holiday shoppers.

Organizing Your Refrigerated Shipping

Are you looking for help on the refrigerated shipping front? Consider Opus9 the next time you need to ship perishable freight. We are a digital third-party logistics company (3PL) for U.S.-based shippers with a large network of qualified carriers that can move your time-sensitive freight. 

Feb 19 | Posted by Opus9

Topics: Refrigerated, Truckload