Temperature-controlled shipments: how challenges in logistics can be overcome

Temperature-controlled shipments are absolutely essential when transporting medicines or foods, but can pose a major challenge, particularly in the case of so-called ultra-cold shipments. However, logistics companies with the relevant experience can handle them. What is essential when transporting substances such as medicines and foods, when a cool chain is mandatory? Here is one example from real life.

Close-up of the temperature measurement of a shipment using a thermometer

What is a temperature-controlled shipment?

Temperature-controlled shipments ensure that the specific cold chain for the product is followed and the goods reach the next point in the production or delivery sequence with the desired quality level. This not only applies to foods or their intermediate products, e.g. lactic acid bacteria, but also and particularly to medicines, where crucial regulations need to be followed when transporting them. Sensitive substances like cosmetics, paints or varnishes can place similarly high demands on logistics operations. The issue here is not always refrigeration either. Many substances, for example, chocolate, oils and fats, must even be heated when they are transported. Shipments of fresh goods, on the other hand, normally require end-to-end refrigeration or even deep-freeze conditions. Temperature-controlled shipments down to minus 20 degrees Celsius are most commonly necessary. However, temperatures of minus 60 or even minus 70 degrees are sometimes necessary, as the practical example of DuPont or even the Covid-19 vaccines show.

The Rhenus subsidiary, Rhenus Intermodal Systems, has been handling highly sensitive ultra-cold transport services for the US chemicals corporation, DuPont de Nemours, since 2012. Rhenus has to maintain an end-to-end cold chain of between minus 55 and minus 60 degrees Celsius here. Specially manufactured reefers, which constantly maintain Siberian frosty temperatures, make this possible.

Reliably checking the temperature during transportation

These shipments for DuPont involve temperature-sensitive cultures for the food industry – starter cultures that are mainly used in the dairy industry, for example, for making yoghurt and cheese. They have to survive transportation between the production sites and warehouses all over the world without suffering any damage. To ensure this, the deep-frozen cargo is stowed in special reefers and hoisted on to truck trailer chassis. Permanently monitored cooling units maintain the required temperature.

“The organisms are very valuable and expensive. That’s why DuPont was looking for a reliable transport service provider, which would precisely implement the special standards required for temperature-controlled shipments,” says Bastian Vogt, an International Key Account Manager at Rhenus. The truck drivers used for these shipments have therefore received special training. “They actively monitor and control the equipment along the routes at the prescribed checkpoints. There is also an emergency GPS tracking system to provide support. We have 100 percent delivery reliability for this ultra-cold business,” Vogt adds. 

Dependable shipments thanks to a reliable control system

“The routes are permanently defined, the drivers have to report back regularly and may only go to specified fuel stations,” Vogt explains. If a problem emerges with the cargo, the driver, customer and dispatcher are immediately informed by text message via a GPS alarm system. “We had a case like this once. A temperature variation occurred because of a faulty container. We were quickly able to respond thanks to the alarm system and safeguard the cargo,” Vogt reports. The logistics specialist naturally also made full use of its enormous experience with temperature-controlled services for sensitive goods here – and this is a benefit available to many customers operating in different sectors.



Goods transported with temperature-controlled logistics: the basics

What should logistics companies transporting substances, which require a consistent cool chain, consider?  Several factors – and particularly ensuring that they complement each other perfectly – make these shipments reliable,” says Vogt. He summarises the four most important points once again:

  • Reefers: the sensitive, deep-frozen cargo is placed in special high-tech containers at the production site; they are very well insulated and have enormously powerful cooling units.
  • Cooling units: permanently monitored high-performance units keep the cargo cold during transportation.
  • Checkpoints: specially trained truck drivers check the cargo and technology at set points along the transport routes.
  • GPS alarm system: the truck with the cold cargo is permanently tracked by GPS. If any problems occur, for example, a deviation from the required temperature, the driver, customer and dispatcher are informed by text message. As a result, the problem can be resolved quickly.


Whether chemicals, paints or medicines – find out more about why our experts are the right people for your temperature-controlled transport.

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