Best Practices in Transporting Fresh Produce

Every day, people transport truckloads of products across the nation and outside the country through flatbed trucking companies. These loads could contain everything, from oranges and bananas to lettuce and berries or heavy industrial equipment. 

Fresh produce accounts for a significant amount of sales in grocery stores and other retail outlets worldwide. Unfortunately, these products often don’t always arrive at their destination without getting damaged. While not all damage is avoidable, there are steps you can take if you have a produce business or want to ship fresh products to somebody in another location.

Always Plan Ahead

Contacting a trucking company early in the process can prevent problems later on. The longer you wait to contact your preferred carrier, the more risk that they’re not available or have already committed to another load. Renting reefer units without planning is never recommended, mainly because the closer you get to peak season, the more difficult it becomes to find units.

When working with a trucking company, always ask what their minimum and maximum temperatures are for reefer units and if they can maintain them throughout the trip. By doing this, you’ll have an idea of how much cargo must be shipped on any given reefer truck. 

For example, if you want to transport two 20-foot fresh produce shipments on the same day to Quebec and then again the next day to New York, it might be difficult to find one carrier that can haul both loads due to traveling time alone. Ideally, you’ll want your first load of produce leaving your location in the morning. Your second load should leave after noontime, if possible.

Ensure Proper Care

When receiving your shipment of fresh produce, make sure that it arrives at its destination in good condition. If it arrives damaged, the first thing to do is inquire about the cause. If nobody’s available to provide a reason, contact your carrier and let them know that you may file a claim. But before blaming somebody, make sure you have all of the facts.

Also, always follow the guidelines given to you by the carrier. Make sure your produce is loaded in a manner that protects during transit. Full truckload carriers are your best option here since your cargo will not be combined with others. This way, they are protected from external factors.

Be Aware of Temperature Fluctuations

Temperature control is a huge issue whether your products travel by truck, plane, boat, or train. When refrigerated units arrive at their destination, and the reefer unit’s doors click open, the cold air inside escapes quickly. This warm air can fluctuate temperatures to an extreme within minutes.

For example, if you’re shipping 10 pounds of fresh produce and the box gets too hot as it travels across town in 90-degree weather, that’s not necessarily going to affect those products’ quality at the moment. However, if that same shipment takes two days to reach its destination because it had been stored on a reefer truck for 48 hours before being loaded into a plane, the produce gets hotter.

Pack Your Produce Properly

  • Use cushioning materials like straw, paper, or plastic to maintain freshness and quality throughout the supply chain.
  • Another critical aspect of packing is knowing how much room you have to work with. If there’s too much space between your products, the produce items could become dehydrated and deteriorate quickly. Not having enough space can also result in damage and pest infestations.

Transport Your Produce in Reefer Trailers

The most effective step to avoid damage to the fresh product is using a reefer trailer while transporting it. These trailers are specially designed to cool products through forced-air refrigeration systems or electrically-powered refrigeration units. When your produce is kept at the proper temperature, there’s less of a chance that it will be exposed to harmful conditions that speed up deterioration.

Know Your Customers Stated Needs

Remember, each customer has different needs for transporting fresh produce, depending on climate or storage location. A good logistics partner will ask about these needs and how to pack the products to help you choose the best transport for your products.

If you’re working with a broker, they should use their knowledge of the market and industry to help determine whether it’s best to ship by truck or air. Another important consideration is how certain items require different temperatures that must be maintained at all costs. Lastly, while the type of transportation you choose for your fresh produce is vital to consider, so too are the rates. In most cases, it’s cheaper to ship by truck than air because there isn’t any extra fee for transporting oversized or overweight loads. 

Picking Your Trucking Company Wisely

When picking a trucking company that will be used to transport your fresh produce from one location to another, always do a little research beforehand. This way, you’ll have a good idea of what companies can deliver reefer units with low turnaround times and competitive pricing.

Most importantly, ensure they have experience transporting all kinds of goods across multiple locations for various customers in different industries. For instance, if they also offer dry van transports, hazardous materials transport, etc., they can be capable of handling all types of shipping services. Click here to know more about hazardous materials transport.

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