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Food Transportation & Shipping Logistics: Your Guide to Success

Tom Underdahl

07 November 2018

Efficient and secure food transportation takes planning — and support.

Delays, packaging, FDA regulations, and unwanted odors: there’s a lot that can complicate food transportation. While it’s true that the transportation of food components can get complicated, fast, there are smart ways to mitigate the potential for damage and other problems. Let’s discuss some common problems and straightforward solutions to take the pressure off food shipping.  

Food transportation: How to get it right, every time  

Packaging: A simple step to success in food shipping

With food shipping you are moving delicate, time-sensitive products. We’ve discussed packaging before, but it is especially important for food shipment.

Simply packing smarter gets you way ahead of the game. For example, bags of powdered ingredients are susceptible to tearing and damage during loading. Shrink wrapping, ensuring that there is no overhang, and even palletizing for full truckload (FTL) shipping are all options to avoid loss.  

There’s also the possibility that you are using too much of a good thing. There’s no need to go overboard with unnecessarily bulky or heaving packaging. Excess packaging increases your expenditures on packing materials and decreases your efficiency because you can’t fit as much into a shipment.

Review your packaging practices to reduce the amount of packaging you use. The sweet spot will protect your food products, without wasteful excess. Proper packaging is part of your arsenal in logistics management, especially with the delicate nature of food products. Even if you think you’ve got it figured out, it might pay to have an expert evaluate how your food products are packaged for shipment.   

When seeking a shipping strategy, consider all options

If you are looking to optimize inbound food shipping, you may want to consider strategies like consolidation. When you consolidate your like shipments into an FTL with a dedicated trailer, you are getting the benefits of FTL rates, as well as reducing the risk of damage by reducing the amount of “touches” to your product.

Not having your food products moved at various terminals, with multiple pallets shifting around them, may avoid some of the risk of damage in transit. Certainly, not mixing your product with the unknown products of other businesses will increase your success rate. 

Proper packaging and palletization mean less possibility for damage. 

But you CAN do LTL food shipping

Using FTL for all food shipping sounds like an easy solution to avoid risk, but it comes with drawbacks. For example, you could get stuck paying for entire truckloads that you aren’t filling. And with proper preparation, there’s no need to miss out on the benefits of less than truckload (LTL) shipping.

LTL offers many attractive upsides such as cost savings and flexibility. You can and should use LTL shipping for your food products. There are just a few critical points to keep in mind:  

  • Steer clear of HAZMAT. Food cannot ride with hazardous materials of any kind.  
  • Proper packaging and palletization mean less possibility for damage. 
  • Prepare a bill of lading (BOL). If something does happen on your LTL shipment, this will protect your claim.  

Mind the rules

Of course, meeting the FDA requirements for food shipping is critical. As the shipper, you are responsible for ensuring sanitary vehicles with no cross-contamination from previous cargo, pest control, temperature control, loading/unloading procedures, and packaging. Some of this can be re-assigned to your carrier or loader, but the shipper specifies how food products are transported. 

Finding success in food shipping 

With efficient packing, exploration of your shipping options, and a clear BOL, you are on your way to successful food transportation. These factors can present a moving target, so it is important to continuously review and update your practices and seek expert help to elevate your strategies when needed.

Tom Underdahl

Tom is the Director of Business Development at Evans Transportation.

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