Managing Food Safety Regulations with Freight Consolidation

Charles Miller

19 October 2018

How to cut costs, find capacity, and minimize issues while adhering to food safety regulations

The FDA continues to ramp up its regulation of food safety, which means shippers must continue to ramp up efforts to deliver food safely. The capacity crunch has made that logistically and financially challenging, to say the least. Meeting current food safety regulations is your responsibility, and doing so while cutting costs and finding capacity is not just a challenge — it’s THE challenge.

Consolidating LTL loads into fewer larger shipments is your best defense against increasingly stringent food safety regulations. The less your product is handled, the less chance for damage, spoilage, and unsanitary conditions. Additionally, such practices can reduce cost and claims, improve carrier relationships, and open up the possibility of further efficiencies through pool distribution and multi-vendor consolidation.

Food safety regulations are your responsibility

The FSMA Final Rule on the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food deems it, ultimately, the shipper’s responsibility to determine appropriate transportation to minimize all safety risks.

Responsibilities include the development and implementation of written procedures that ensure:

  • sanitary equipment and vehicles
  • no cross-contamination from previous cargo
  • adequate temperature control during transport
  • pest control
  • oversight of loading/unloading procedures
  • appropriate packaging and packing

If your carrier or loader agrees to be contractually responsible for any of the above, then portions of this responsibility may be re-assigned. It is still the shipper, however, who determines and controls the appropriate specifications for the transportation of its product.

Protect your freight (and your name) with front-end consolidation

Here’s the reality of it: the absolute best thing you can do to ensure food safety is to get your logistics as tight as possible. That means fewer — but larger — shipments that you can more easily control.

We aren’t underestimating how difficult that is in the food services industry, where freshness and safety must be a priority. But an inbound freight assessment can evaluate for front-end consolidation ability. Here’s how it works:

Determine static shipping days

If your ordering pattern can tolerate any change (it usually can), we always recommend moving to pre-determined shipping days for vendors. If you have any capability to over-order or store product, shifting your buying schedule to allow for a consistent — and less frequent — shipping schedule is key. This allows you to ship larger orders less often, minimizing both cost and the chance for freight claims and food safety problems.

Evaluate consolidation capacity for LTL loads

Once your vendor is consolidating based on the new purchase order schedule, consolidating outbound shipments into larger LTL (or even TL) shipments is a must. Optimizing LTL shipping is a large and complicated world, and a 3PL is likely your best route in today’s difficult shipping landscape.

But here’s the gist of it. Most LTL loads are subjected to a significant number of “touches.” Each touch increases the risk of damages, spoilage, and unsanitary conditions. If you can make your load large enough to take up significant space in an LTL trailer, it will likely be loaded at the head, and there’s a good chance the carrier won’t unload it at each and every terminal. Minimizing your touches minimizes your chances of not abiding by food safety regulations.

Consolidating your LTL shipments into larger LTL or TL shipments has numerous benefits. A larger, consistent load reduces claims, reduces cost, and can make you a shipper of choice. All positive.

If volume and circumstances allow, you can consider the additional possibility of pool distribution and multi-vendor consolidation opportunities.

Let your volume guide you


Establishing consistent larger shipments opens the doors for some additional efficiencies. Since gains from consolidation are contingent on volume, considering pool distribution and multi-vendor consolidation is a next step.

Enough volume? Consider pool distribution

With enough volume, you can establish a consolidation point. Then one carrier could do all of the pickups and delivery to a consolidation point where a 3PL could arrange for shipments out. Pool distribution can yield very significant reductions in your claims costs and, in the case of food transport, significant reductions in food safety issues.

Not enough volume? Consider multi-vendor consolidation

Partnering with your competitor?! Sharing transportation with your competitors can be hard to stomach initially, but the benefits might make it worth it. Sharing truck space with a similar shipper to make a consolidated TL to the same distribution center, retailer, or region can pass savings to all parties.

Multi-vendor consolidation (MVC) programs are working for food manufacturers. If you don’t participate in an MVC program, your competitors may do so with someone else. They’ll be reaping the benefits while you’ll still be paying higher freight costs.

These not for you? Try other creative shipping strategies

Pool distribution and multi-vendor consolidation are only some ways to get creative with your food shipping strategies. Determining static shipping days and consolidating LTL loads into fewer larger shipments will also allow you to run assessments for other cost-saving strategies like modal conversion. There’s a lot of opportunity out there for logistical solutions that allow you to best meet the intensifying food safety regulations and your budget, too.

The bottom line is that today’s shipping landscape paired with current food safety regulations has every shipper on their toes. Meeting those evolving standards, while cutting costs and finding capacity, will require shippers to evolve, too. Tight, clean, creative logistics are more important than ever and remain your best defense against increasingly stringent food safety regulations.

Charles Miller

Charles is the General Manager at Evans Transportation's headquarters.


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