Shipping temperature-sensitive products without losing your cool

Tom Sellin

By Tom Sellin Director of Business Development at King Solutions

Shipping temperature-sensitive freight isn’t like packing a cooler for a weekend at the lake. Rather, it’s a precise method of storage and transport that requires accurate timing, proper packaging and a full understanding of the products being shipped. Whether you’re shipping life-saving pharmaceuticals, refrigerated or frozen foods, flowers, or any other type of perishable goods, losing a shipment due to improper practices means taking heavy losses. That’s why it’s important to choose the right packaging and store products at the right temperatures, including deep freeze, refrigerated, cold/cool, and normal room temperature.

Perishable shipping can be a high risk endeavor, but it can be mitigated by keeping a cool head and following these best logistics management practices.


Choosing the right packaging and storing products at the right temperatures is always the right idea.

Know the law of the load
If you don’t want the federal government freezing your shipping process, understanding the rules and regulations governing the shipping of perishable products and temperature-sensitive materials is essential. Many organizations have regulations based on the types of products being shipped. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), via Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), outlines many of these regulations. Section II of Practitioner’s Manual of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) breaks down the legally dispersed substances in the U.S. and how to register to be able to handle and distribute them.

If companies are packaging goods using dry ice, they should refer to Title 49 of the CFR for the applicable guidelines and regulations. Finally, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has a guide on the air transport of dangerous goods and substances. While not regulation, it is a rulebook that most air carriers follow when transporting these types of goods.

To maintain regulatory compliance, it’s a great idea for businesses to work with supply chain partners who adhere to the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) put forth by the FDA. All suppliers, manufacturers and warehouse partners should follow the best practices and regulations that govern their industry, from normal room-temperature compliance to cold chain and other controlled-room temperature (CRT) best practices.

Choose the right packaging for the job
Packaging is one of the most crucial parts of cold chain shipping. Temperature-sensitive goods require precise packaging to keep them within an acceptable thermal range for the longest period possible. Temperature-controlled packaging can be broken down into active temperature control, usually consisting of refrigerated trailers or battery-powered pallet shippers, and passive temperature control, which involves insulated packaging and some type of refrigerant. Which kind of packaging to use is dependent on things like:

  • Type of material being shipped
  • Estimated time of transport
  • Route conditions (average temperatures, etc.)
  • Carrier type (air, sea, rail, road)
  • Budget restrictions

Packaging material options include:

  • Expanded polystyrene (EPS) or Polyurethane (PUR) foam
  • Vacuum-insulated panels
  • Wet or dry ice
  • Gel packs
  • Phase change materials

Think beyond the box
While packaging is one of the most important aspects of shipping temperature-sensitive freight, there are many other ways to mitigate risk. Freight tracking and monitoring allows shippers and supply chain companies to keep an eye on freight and quickly react to issues that occur during transit. If a truck breaks down, a train gets halted or a plane grounded, it’s critical to have a contingency plan for retrieving the freight and delivering it to its destination before the method of active or passive temperature control fails.

The best things you can do are track your freight, expect and stay prepared for the unexpected, and choose a shipping partner that really knows their stuff.

Want to learn more about temperature-sensitive shipping? Contact us today!