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Tackling Fleet Challenges Faced by the Food Industry

Tips and Advice Posted by Ed Latorre, Regional Manager on April 13, 2017

Food shippers find staffing and turnover particularly challenging as they need to hire the “right” person for the job who can deliver food cargo properly and promptly. The job requires a fair amount of physical labor and delivery schedules are both tight and frequent. An added responsibility that drivers from other industries may not face is the requirement to deliver the cargo fresh, frozen, or in accordance with any other temperature specification. This week we’re focusing on some of the most common food industry challenges and what fleet managers can do to address or avoid them. 

Training Driverscoldfish2.png

An easy and proactive method to mitigate problems – be it navigating new equipment or ensuring older equipment is working properly – is to train your drivers and anyone else who is involved in the loading/unloading of food and perishable cargo. Training should include overviews of operations and procedures when using the refrigerated unit, and best practices in handling/managing refrigerated cargo. Drivers have to manually defrost the units when needed, and they have to set the mode of operation. So, updating drivers on best practices is time well spent; especially in light of driver turnover rates, which may result in a lower baseline of understanding when it comes to transporting refrigerated cargo. 

Equipment Maintenance and Failure

On that same note, if your refrigerated equipment is faulty or breaks down, your cargo will be at risk of temperature changes. And with temperature changes, cargo can melt, become overripe, or even allow bacteria growth. One way to avoid equipment breakdown is to integrate an intelligent alarms system that can immediately alert drivers – through text messages or emails – about issues. An additional method is to renew fleet equipment regularly as newer equipment is less susceptible to failures. The only caveat is that fleet managers need to ensure drivers and loaders are up to date on modern refrigeration units and the 200+ fault or alarm codes. 

Quality over Quick Deliveries

Gasp! No, we don’t mean you should stop delivering cargo on time. But there is value in delivering the temperature-sensitive cargo in its intended condition, even if slightly delayed, versus being on time with cargo that’s begun to melt or decompose. By implementing the tactics we’ve just gone through, drivers should be able to detect when there may be an impending or current issue they need to fix before resuming their route. That said, drivers should take the opportunity to document the time and conditions when they deliver the cargo, to make sure they aren’t blamed for any issues that occur after drop-off. 

Ensuring Code Compliance

Last, once you have the right drivers, and you’ve properly trained them, you’re going to need to ensure your entire operation is up to date on current codes. According to Food Logistics, it is important that fleet managers begin preparing for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) mandates now. Managers must also take the appropriate action(s) to be sure their vendors and partners are in compliance with the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food rules. 

In order to ensure proper handling and conditions, you need to make sure you’ve hired the right people, you’ve taken the time to train them, you are maintaining fleet vehicles with scheduled checks and maintenance, you are stressing to drivers how important the quality of your cargo is, and you are taking the necessary steps to guarantee your entire operation is code compliant. While you can’t always control circumstances or changes in codes, taking the above into consideration should help to eliminate any problems that could affect the quality of your delivery, and ultimately your company’s reputation.