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Cold Chain Logistics

Cold Chain Logistics

Learn about the basics and importance of cold chain logistics (CCL).

Cold Chain Logistics is vital to the transport of everyday cold items. This can include anything from ice, popsicles, ice cream, flowers, medicine, and more! Getting frozen and temperature-controlled items like these into retail locations and to customers takes a little extra something—cold chain logistics. When it comes to making sure your cold freight or temperature-sensitive cargo gets shipped at the proper temperature, you need to know the basics of cold chain logistics and why it’s important to your supply chain.


Basics of CCL

Cold chain logistics is simply a temperature-controlled supply chain, including refrigerated items, frozen items, and any cargo sensitive to temperature changes. Additionally, it’s called a cold chain because it’s not just one part of the shipping process that needs to work. It’s a chain­ with links that fit together. If one part of the chain doesn’t hold together, the entire thing falls apart. Here’s what we mean by chain:

  • Refrigerators or freezers in warehouses located in cold chain production areas.


  • Refrigerated or frozen transportation.

  • Refrigerated warehouses for normal shipping (IE: not enterprise level).


  • Local refrigerated transportation. (Think local carriers and warehouses in transit).

  • Proper refrigeration equipment at all destination points, such as retailers and wholesalers.

  • Commercial or enterprise-level refrigerated warehouses.

Making sure your temperature-sensitive cargo maintains the optimal temperature during the entire shipping process means reduced risk of spoilage, damage, or product loss. While you want the chill of a properly running cold chain, you don’t want the chill of unhappy customers!

Importance of the Cold Chain

Let’s say you’re a retailer shipping produce, flowers, or pharmaceuticals. Your items are temperature-sensitive and require special cold-chain shipping and handling. If one link in the cold chain doesn’t work properly, you risk losing money on spoiled cargo and having unhappy customers. So, the importance of a well-oiled, properly functioning cold chain cannot be overstated.

In fact, according to the International Trade Administration, worldwide losses in the food industry total more than $750 billion each year. Additionally, more than $260 billion of bio-pharma products rely on cold chain logistics to ensure their efficacy.

Cold chain logistics shipping regulations and standards are created to help shipping providers know how to ship these types of items properly. Who sets and enforces the regulations?

How Does Cold Chain Cargo Get Damaged?

With all the regulations and information about properly shipping cold chain items, you might wonder how cold chain cargo gets damaged. Here are some reasons:

Equipment malfunction—Sometimes equipment breaks down, causing product damage or loss. Common examples include power outages or issues with the cooling system, coolant or insulation failure, poor air circulation, and lack of fuel.

Distribution and delivery issues—From shipping to remote areas to breakdowns to carriers being stuck in traffic, sometimes distribution and delivery issues happen.

Human error—Nobody’s perfect, and human error, such as bad handling, leaving a refrigerator door open, and not filling out the paperwork properly, can lead to damaged cargo.

Cargo theft—Argh, mateys! There be pirates! And those pirates target cargo that is easy for them to steal and resell on the black market. Food, drinks, and medicines are among the top items thieves target.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Cold Chain Cargo?

You can reduce your shipping risk by ensuring you are following all the best practices and regulations you need to before you ship. This includes properly packaging your cold chain cargo, knowing and following regulations set by the FDA and other agencies, properly labeling your cargo, communicating with all parties involved in the shipping process, and working with a third-party logistics provider (3PL).

As a 3PL, we have the cold chain resources you need and shipping experts who can help you source capacity, find the right cold chain carrier, and more.

Our logistics team is available to help with cold chain shipping. Call us at 800.7167.608 or get your instant, free online quote today!

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