Ready for Winter

Companies need to take frigid weather into consideration when shipping.

By Randy Swart

When shippers choose a transportation provider, generally they look at the provider’s rate of on-time deliveries, service area and the solutions offered for the types of products to be shipped. Different products have different shipping needs; for example, a shipment of lumber is going to have different shipping requirements than a load of frozen vegetables. However, some products will have different shipping needs during different seasons, which shippers need to keep in mind when selecting a carrier.

Products like soda or paint, which are generally easy to ship most of the year, become vulnerable in the winter months. If these products freeze, whether in transport or while sitting on a loading dock or in a distribution center, there is a chance the products will be ruined. Products like paint may change in consistency when frozen and thawed, while food products’ flavors can change. Additionally, if products freeze and thaw, their packaging is likely to be damaged, meaning the products can no longer be sold to consumers.

Equip the Supply Chain 

As suppliers plan to ship products to buyers, they need to take winter weather into consideration. Shipments leaving from or heading to cold climates will definitely need freeze protection, but it’s also important for suppliers to take shipment routes into account when deciding whether a shipment needs freeze protection. A shipment leaving California headed to Virginia may need protect from freeze services at some point along the journey.

Once a supplier has decided that certain shipments will need freeze protection, they should partner with a transportation provider with a fleet of heated trailers and heated facilities.

Buyers also can ask that their shipments be transported by a carrier who utilizes heated equipment. Freeze protection is a vital part of protecting a company’s bottom line during the winter months, and buyers can’t automatically assume that their suppliers will have this service in place.

Choose the Right Provider

When selecting a freeze protection service, shippers need to make sure that the solution checks all the right boxes. Some transportation providers may claim to offer freeze protection, but their services may only consist of thermal blankets and a policy of frequently moving shipments in order to keep products from sitting for too long and freezing.

A genuine protect from freeze program will offer heated trailers, warehouse facilities, service centers and docks. Carriers that offer heated equipment in their freeze protection programs also likely won’t place embargoes on freight or refuse pickup during extreme conditions. Freight embargoes delay shipments for extended periods of time and the freight will not move until the weather allows for the product to travel safely.

While transportation providers moving shipments in heated trailers are not going to place freight embargoes on the shipments, there is still a chance for delays if a blizzard hits. This is why it’s important for buyers to reiterate to their suppliers that all equipment and facilities need to be heated in case shipments of vulnerable products are delayed. Not only do buyers want to be able to use the products they’re receiving immediately, but suppliers don’t want to have to send a new shipment to replace damaged products or refund the buyer for a damaged shipment.

Plan Ahead

If bitter cold suddenly hits and a company’s shipments are in danger of freezing, the likelihood that the company will be able to find a carrier with full protect from freeze services at the last minute is very slim. Since most carriers set their capacity to fit their usual customer base, there’s typically little availability to add in last-minute shipments. It’s recommended that shippers plan ahead for winter shipments.

When it comes to transporting and storing vulnerable products during the winter months, it’s in the entire supply chain’s best interest to plan ahead to protect those shipments from freezing. True protect from freeze programs including heated trailers, loading docks, warehouses and service centers are all options that are available and should be considered to protect products from freezing or being ruined due to bitter cold.

Randy Swart joined A. Duie Pyle in 2008 as vice president of integrated services before becoming senior vice president in 2012. In 2014, Swart was named chief operating officer, responsible for leading the company’s strategic direction, improving operational efficiencies and further developing employee advancement programs and succession plans. Over the course of his career, Swart has been at the forefront of innovation, created cross-functional team environments, nurtured employee development programs, and established information flow technologies that impact cost control, productivity, service quality and profitability.