Documentation: The Essential Safety Net in Cold Freight Shipping
Tracking & Real-Time Visibility
Less than a decade ago, a shipment of frozen fish would leave a dock in California and possibly go through several different states and several different temperature zones before arriving at its destination. It also may have had several deliveries along the way. The shipper knew it was frozen when it left its place of origin, and the receiver made a notation that it was frozen upon arrival at its destination. But what about the four hours it sat in an open truck while other cargo was being unloaded on a hot 102°F day in the Southwest? Before GPS tracking and real-time visibility, there was no way of knowing what happened in between points A, B, C, and D.
Today, technology allows us to keep an eye on the movement and condition of every shipment. We now have the visibility to know where the truck is in real-time as well as the temperature of the inside trailer. This information is captured by either the reefer unit on the trailer or the temperature monitoring device (TMD) attached on or near the product on board.
The beauty of this transparency is that everything can now be documented and recorded. Reefer units have downloadable information, and the sensor readings on TMDs can be captured by photo or signed off on by dock masters or drivers. No more he said, she said.
As much as this documentation helps with cargo claim disputes, there still can be issues with the accuracy of the information. Reefer units may not have been checked or calibrated within the standard amount of time (90 days is recommended), or sensors may not have been placed in the proper position to get an accurate reading of the cargo in question. Still, there is a better chance of winning a claim if you are able to provide this kind of verification when it comes to damaged or spoiled cargo.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
The Food Safety Modernization Act, passed January 4, 2011, is an essential piece of legislation that overhauled old, inadequate rules for manufacturing, handling, and transporting food safely. The objective was to be proactive in preventing food contamination instead of merely reacting to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. In the world of transportation, the ruling applied to the sanitary transport of food and included new requirements for shippers, receivers, loaders, and carriers. Get the Food Safety Whitepaper.
In 2016 the FDA implemented the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food (SFT) rule, which is one of seven overall regulations. The SFT rule states that mandatory safety practices be followed and documented to ensure that perishable or temperature-sensitive food is adequately kept at specified temperatures throughout the supply chain. It also addresses the need to clean vehicles and equipment between loads properly. Inspection requirements include all equipment such as the inside of trailers, forklifts, crates, boxes, paper, and plastic—meaning anything and everything that comes in contact with the product.
The ruling put the onus not on just one accountable partner, but on every step of the supply chain, and documentation plays a pivotal role in enforcing it. Shippers, receivers, loaders, and carriers are all expected to communicate with one another regarding safety protocols. Checklists and standard operating procedures (SOPs) have become critical verification tools for all parties involved.
Checklists for Compliance
It is crucial to know who is responsible for what in the supply chain. This STF guide is one of the best references for clarification. As you can see, some parties have a PRIMARY responsibility for understanding and implementing the industry’s best practices to achieve regulatory compliance. Other parties have a SECONDARY responsibility role for verifying that compliance is met by the appropriate parties in an integrated cold chain. A Shipper’s Roadmap to FSMA Compliance is another resource that provides a quick overview of some important steps shippers must take to remain compliant.
Standard Operating Procedures
Checklists are helpful and necessary, but standard operating procedures are just as important to keep practices habitual and part of the everyday routine. When workers are familiar with documented procedures, and it becomes only another part of their workday, fewer problems are likely to occur. Here are 8 Things Shippers Can Do to for FSMA Compliance. SOPs should be created by companies involved in the preparation and shipping of cold freight and made easily accessible to all employees. That may mean posting them around the facility, training the appropriate personnel, and making sure everyone has access to them on their computers. This Shipper’s Guide to Sanitary Food Transportation infographic outlines some of the basics.
Knowing your Transportation Provider
So here is the bottom line. The safety of your freight depends on the quality and service of the transportation provider(s) you use and the ability to have real-time information at your fingertips.
There are a few questions you might want to ask yourself if you are using a third-party to handle your transportation needs. Has the 3PL you are working with invested in the latest technology so that you know where your shipment is at all times? Do they have a good relationship with your business and its staff so that you know they have your back when things get tough? And lastly, how well do they vet their carrier pool?
These are all critical questions that need clarification if you are shipping perishable freight. There are so many variables in shipping temperature-controlled freight; you should always seek professional services. At Choptank Transport, our mission is to provide you with the gold standard in transportation services, from the latest technology to the most professional, courteous, and knowledgeable staff in the industry. If you have questions about cold freight shipping, contact us today. And don’t miss our webinar! Sign up today for “Refrigerated Shipping: Myths versus Facts” Thursday, August 20, 2020, at 2 p.m. EDT.