COLD CHAIN LOGISTICS AND REEFER TRUCKS
Reefer truck technology has advanced over the decades and cold chain logistics has now become the center point of supply chain systems, making transportation of temperature-sensitive cargo safe and easy.
But what is this cold chain and reefer trucks?
Understanding cold chain logistics in simple terms
The supply chain system is multifaceted. It is a ginormous worldwide network of transportation of all types of goods one can imagine. Shipments travel from one part of the globe to another, crossing thousands of miles to reach the end consumer. The system is more complex than what a common man may assume, involving multiple modes of transportation, hundreds or thousands of machines, millions of people in the workforce and billions of products moving across the earth every single day.
One part of this intricate arrangement, one that happens to be extremely important, is cold chain logistics. Cold chain terrain has been a focal point in the advancement of supply chain logistics since the introduction of refrigerated equipment in the 1940s. This equipment is used to store goods labeled as perishable, such as fruits, vegetables, seafood, etc. in compartments where temperatures, humidity and the overall atmosphere are controlled and maintained at determined levels like a silo.
To define it properly, the cold chain involves the movement of temperature-sensitive goods along a supply chain through refrigeration processes and the logistical planning to protect the quality of these shipments.
The significance of cold chain logistics
The category of perishable goods is a lengthy list, which a few examples being:
- Fruits, vegetables and allied products
- Poultry; Fish and other seafood; Meat
- Milk and dairy products
- Flowers and plants
These products are transported over great distances and the introduction of refrigerated units, which replaced the traditional crushed ice and salt combination, has been revolutionary in preservation and reduction in wastage of such goods. Irregular temperatures during transit can cause microbial growth, fastening of chemical processes that rot fruits and vegetables, textural degradation, spoiling of meat or dairy, or unwanted chemical reactions in medicines and vaccines.
Pharmaceutics rely heavily on cold chain logistics for safe, temperature-controlled transportation of medicines or vaccines. 10% of all medical drugs are temperature-sensitive. Inconsistent temperatures can cause irreversible damages of chemical nature to these drugs and can become ineffective or even harmful to patients. Moreover, all drugs go through long periods of clinical research and at times, have to be transferred between research organizations. That requires transportation of these drugs in testing in a controlled environment to avoid loss of millions of dollars that fund their clinical research.
For the sake of food security and preservation of medical research and drugs, cold chain logistics are undeniably crucial. An undisrupted, smooth system is fundamental for sustenance. Global Cold Chain Alliance states, "Failing to keep product at the correct temperatures can result in textural degradation, discoloring, bruising, and microbial growth. Moreover, a quality product leads to a satisfied customer, greater demand, and overall protection of public health."
Reefer trucks for on-road transport
For on-road transportation of temperature-sensitive goods, refrigerated units attached to vans are used. Such vans or trucks are called reefer trucks. The power supply to keep the refrigerated units functioning is obtained from the vehicle itself, because the machinery cannot run on its own. They are equipped with removable panels called vent doors that help with fresh air ventilation. In general, reefers can maintain temperatures within the range of -85 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It is an intermodal package which is used in intermodal goods carriers that is refrigerated for the transportation of temperature-sensitive load.
While shipping reefer cargo, temperature is not the only aspect that needs to be maintained – ventilation and drainage are equally important. A constant airflow for removal of heat and gases that get collected in the unit is essential for sustaining low temperatures. On the other hand, drainage allows expulsion of any excess water.
Another important point in the design and build of reefers is keeping the cargo safe from any insect or rodent damage. Any gaps or design flaws can lead to serious damage to the goods being transported.
Maintenance of Reefer trucks
Reefer trucks require regular upkeep and maintenance because the system is not only sophisticated, but also extremely expensive. This means that any minor spoilage that is overlooked can result in greater damage and a greater cost paid for its repair. Malfunctioning of a reefer has the potential to ruin a large amount of cargo, and if it is supplying pharmaceuticals, then the affected parties will suffer greatly in health and cost.
Container logistics company xChange notes 6 common kinds of reefer container maintenance and repair:
- Container floor repairs
- Rust removal
- Repainting container body
- Fixing holes and cracks
- Reefer-specific repairs
- Replacing door seals
Nevertheless, Preventive Maintenance of refrigerated units is the way to go. Frequently checking for any leaks, blockage in ventilation, making sure there is no breakage, etc. are the simple ways truck drivers can ensure that their reefer trucks go a long way. Short-term checkups are the best way for long-term sustenance.
It is also imperative to get insurance for your reefer containers because of how expensive they are even without the added cost of frequent maintenance.
Breakdown Inc can connect reefer truck drivers with the nearest maintenance service/repair shops in their area, through its wide network of such shops all over the United States. The truck drivers can find a broad variety of services provided - Thermo King Reefer repair, carrier reefer repair, electrical systems services, reefer coil washing, interior truck detailing, and many more.