Refrigerated trucks and trailers, specially designed to haul temperature-sensitive refrigerated freight, play a vital role in the local and national food supply chain. Reefer freight routinely makes on-time deliveries and keeps commodities safe at controlled temperatures. In addition to drivers and shippers, reefer freight brokers are vital in this supply chain network. Reefer transport services remain in high demand, despite increasing shipping costs and rate increases in many areas and regions. Compared to dry van freight shipments, reefer freight shipping and handling incur additional costs due to refrigerated cargo’s specialized equipment and handling needs.
According to a DAT April 2022 report, “After dropping $0.06/mile the week prior, reefer spot rates dropped by another $0.06/mile last week and are now $0.01/mile lower than the same week in 2021. Reefer spot rates have dropped by $0.53/mile since the start of the year to end last week at a national average of $2.63/mile.” Working with a skilled and experienced reefer freight broker can help shippers and carriers better manage reefer services to keep profits high and expenses low. Truck drivers keep America moving, and it is essential to understand the role reefer freight transportation plays in supply chain stability.
The State of the Reefer Trucking Market
Transportation of cold-sensitive cargo, when done right, represents one of the most delicately balanced of all shipping and transportation services. The care, planning, and management needed for cold freight shipping are vastly different from what is used for standard cargo. It’s easy to let a regular shipment idle on a loading dock or in a warehouse for a few hours or even days to deal with shipping backlogs or other disruptions. The same cannot be said for reefer freight, as even an hour at an unsafe temperature can render entire loads lost.
And cold freight continues to be in high demand, especially as local supply chains still work to recover from massive disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic. Working with a reefer freight broker can help shippers ensure the right dry van or cold trailer shipping modes are utilized each time products are shipped. As highlighted by Truckstop.com, something to consider is as follows “The question of whether a dry van or a reefer is best depends a lot on the lanes you work in and the type of cargo you carry. There are fewer than a quarter as many reefers on the road in the United States compared to dry vans, specifically, 400,000 reefers and 1.7 million dry vans. That’s a lot of trailers on the road.” When choosing refrigerated shipping, there are some key points those in the modern trucking industry will want to consider to ensure services go effectively.
What Is a Reefer Freight Broker, and What do They Do?
It takes a particular set of skills and access to the right equipment for temperature-sensitive cargo to ensure timely delivery. Whether goods are moving across the state or the country, a reefer freight broker can help make the process easier. The shipping mode is the most critical of all the services involved in moving perishable goods.
Hybrid freight brokers experienced with reefer goods can handle full truckload refrigerated shipping and LTL shipments so that drivers can customize refrigerated transportation services for their customers. Refrigerated shipping requires specialized tools and platforms, cloud-based TMS solutions, up-to-date technology, intelligent tracking systems, and reliable diver pool access- all things brokers can provide. In addition, they work to make it more affordable for smaller expedited shipping and refer transport businesses to leverage powerful tools to take advantage of current trends and demands for cold cargo shipping.
Food, Beverage, and Produce Shipments
Refrigerated freight includes everything from fresh produce to consumer products. While some items can be classified as temperature-sensitive cargo, consumables comprise the bulk of reefer freight. Food and beverage cargo are some of the most sensitive goods transported. Many products shipped by reefer trucks and vans have a narrow window in which they can get safely transported.
This becomes clear when the sheer volume of reefer cargo is considered along with what is considered reefer freight:
- Many foods and drinks
- Fresh produce and plants
- Chilled and frozen goods
- Meat, cheese, perishables
- Various food products
- Medical supplies,
- Flowers, seeds, and plants
- Personal health products
- Beauty and cosmetics
- Many chemicals
- Livestock and other animals
- Many other supplies and products
This is one of the biggest challenges facing the refrigeration transportation industry. Reefer freight brokers and reefer truck drivers strive to assist with solving those challenges. However, perhaps the most critical thing freight brokers do for the industry is make and maintain connections.
Brokers work to connect shippers with suitable local carriers and help both parties be as effective and profitable as possible in their working partnership. A good freight brokerage service provider can help shippers and carriers overcome the industry’s many common challenges today.
Challenges Around Reefer Freight
Working with a reefer freight broker can help shippers and carriers overcome the challenges facing the national supply chain in general and those that directly impact the refrigerated transportation industry. Market research shows that this niche industry can expect a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.2% through 2025. That’s faster than anything seen in other markets today, and the reefer freight market is expected to grow from $15.5 billion to $21.6 billion in the next year. And this sort of growth is seen across the industry, despite a range of challenges unique to reefer cargo transportation:
- Faulty Equipment- products cannot be loaded and transported effectively or safely.
- Poor Temperature Controls- drivers cannot correctly maintain temperatures in transit.
- Limited Driver Access- driver shortages mean cargo waits longer for loading/unloading.
- Lack of Visibility– poor insight into internal processes can cause reefer freight delays.
- Poor Handling of Delays- inadequate response to disruptions can cause further issues.
- Inadequate Communications- poor coordination opens the door for delivery disruptions.
- Outdated Technology- old tech is harder to manage and integrate into new systems.
- Improper Training and Onboarding- drivers are only as good as their training and instruction.
Like dry van freight shipments, reefer shipments have their own set of challenges that need to be addressed. However, working with suitable carriers and freight brokers can make the entire process easier and more efficient from start to finish.
Broker Assistance With Carrier Performance Monitoring
A reefer freight broker serves a vital role for shippers as they work to connect them with qualified carriers. Working with a broker allows shippers to access pre-vetted carriers who know the reefer freight shipping industry and experience temperature-sensative cargo. It is also easier to monitor and track carrier performance and ensure the best drivers get paired with the proper shipment. Carrier performance monitoring is vital as it helps ensure shippers invest in quality drivers and get the maximum benefit and return on their investment.
Broker Assistance With Freight Claims Management Processes
Another area of temperature-controlled freight shipping that a reefer freight broker can assist with is claims management. It is unfortunate that, at times, things will go wrong with a shipment despite the best efforts. Damages may occur, or there may be another reason for an end customer to reject a reefer load when it arrives. Working with a freight broker who understands the intricacies of reefer cargo can make the claims management process much simpler and more manageable. They can act as a middleman and coordinate the best resolution for both parties.
Broker Assistance With Knowing When to Use Reefer Vs. Dry Van
Reefer freight brokers naturally have expert insight into the industry and have completed thousands of cold freight deliveries. This means they can offer insight into whether dry van freight or refrigerated shipping is the best option for any given load. They will consider everything from cargo type, point origin, final destination, planned route, local weather, driver experience, and end customer to determine the best shipping option. A good broker will ensure that costly reefer services are used when necessary, and that cheaper alternatives end up utilized when available.
How a Broker Creates a Turnkey Reefer Transportation Strategy
Refrigerated shipping continues to be in high demand, leading to an increased need for shippers and carriers who are skilled and experienced enough to handle this sort of delicate freight. Trucking companies must look at current trends and determine how to respond appropriately to issues that impact refer freight. Reefer freight brokers help shippers and carriers with custom solutions that include the following:
1. Source Reefer Carriers at Competitive Rates
One of the most significant benefits that reefer freight brokers offer is the peace of mind that ensures shippers get the correct rate and can access the suitable carrier for every load they have. When shippers provide competitive freight rates and suitable carriers become available, it creates a win-win situation.
2. Hold Carriers Accountable With Data-Driven Management
Refrigerated freight requires a lot of specialized planning and careful handling of delicate cargo. Shippers who can access and analyze data and statistical records will find it easier to hold carriers accountable and ensure they get their money’s worth in investments. In addition, brokers help strengthen the relationship between carrier partners and shippers.
3. File and Process Damage Claims
Reefer freight brokers can help create custom reefer transportation strategies and streamline the entire process, including dealing with damage and loss claims. Complicated procedures and mundane paperwork can be left to the broker to manage and coordinate. This leaves team members available to handle more critical tasks.
4. Streamline Freight Payment
A seldom-considered service that reefer freight brokers can provide is access to a more streamlined freight payment possess. Because they handle all invoicing and payment services and serve as the main point of contact, the shipper has one less thing to worry about among many other stresses faced in managing transportation processes. They do not have to coordinate and track every transaction themselves.
5. Keep Reefer Transportation Costs in Check
Reefer brokers can also assist with refrigerated shipping by keeping costs in check through technology-backed automated audits and record checks. Finding issues such as overcharges missed payments, and outstanding invoices sooner rather than later maximizes profits and keeps cash flow as high as possible for reefer freight shippers.
6. Share Status Updates to Improve Up- and Down-Stream Collaboration
Automated processes, machine learning, and digital tools are changing how shippers and carriers deal with forward and reverse logistics today in the current market. A reefer freight broker has access to the tools and services that make it easier to share status updates, track shipments, and keep everyone on the same page.
7. Vets Carriers to Scale Trucking Network on Demand
Refrigerated freight is a specialized niche of shipping and transportation services, requiring additional care when choosing carriers to handle load and shipments. A broker can give shippers access to vetted carriers on-demand for easy scaling and adjusting in response to whatever the market currently offers.
8. Consolidate Loads to Build More FT Moves
With continual talent shortages in driver availability and container capacity, reefer freight brokers can help shippers consolidate loads more efficiently. Taking advantage of combined loads keeps trucks full, streamlines local deliveries, and ensures that temperature-sensitive goods get to where they need to go quickly and safely.
9. Faster and Easier Response to Disruptions That Arise
When problems occur, and disruptions arise, having an experienced and dedicated reefer freight broker on-call can be a significant time and money saver. They have experience dealing with similar situations and can offer reliable and applicable assistance to whatever situation shippers and carriers may face.
10. Easier Time Scaling and Adapting to Fluctuating Market Demands
The final way brokers who have experience in refrigerated freight can overcome current supply chain bottlenecks is by improving management’s response to market trends and demands. The ability to scale and adapt quickly and respond to real-time data and analytics is a vital benefit brokers provide to their clients.
Boost Reefer Execution and Savings With AMX Logistics
Refrigerated trucks and trailers, specially designed to haul temperature-sensitve refrigerated freight, play a vital role in the local and national food supply chain. Trucking company drivers criss-cross the highways and roads around the country, carrying perishable items and moving produce and frozen products to stores, distribution centers, restaurants, and local stores. Along with truck drivers and shippers themselves, reefer freight brokers are a vital part of this supply chain network that has proven impactful to local and national supply lines.
Reefer freight volume has increased steadily, even as local markets and economies recover from the last few years of disruption and upheaval. As a result, many shipping companies turn to reefer freight brokers to maintain a competitive advantage to meet this demand. Contact AMX Logistics today to learn more and get started with superior reefer freight shipping analytics and services.