Exclusive Interview Part 1: Dan Vache VP United Fresh Produce Association on the Challenges of Transportation, Cold Chain Management & Traceability
Over the past decade, the food safety landscape has undergone tremendous change. In this exclusive interview Dan Vache, Vice President of Supply Chain Management for the United Fresh Produce Association speaks to Andrea Charles from Cold Chain IQ, about the growth of temperature controlled logistics and the movement to real-time monitoring. Vache also highlights the key challenges of transportation, cold chain management and traceability the industry is trying to overcome.
Cold Chain IQ: What trends are you witnessing in the temperature controlled logistics of food products?
D Vache: First of all, the volume has certainly increased with the push for the consumers to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables. So temperature controlled logistics has grown somewhat at a very good pace for our perishable food products. Probably the biggest changes that I've seen recently are a movement towards real-time monitoring, which really does help the industry as product is moved from point to point. If one can be more proactive in the visibility part of temperature-controlled logistics, we can be proactive rather than reactive. Historically, during transportation, if the temperature fluctuates dramatically, that is not noted until the receipt of the product at a receiver's dock. So now that we have the capabilities whether it's through cellular communications or satellite communications to have real-time monitoring, and when events occur we can be proactive to eliminate any of the issues surrounding temperature control, this gives everyone in the food chain a sense of quality so that they can maintain a good supply of temperature-sensitive products.
The other thing that we've seen are the construction of the trailers themselves, with better insulation, more lightweight insulation so that we're moving product over our highway systems in a good conducive manner from a weight perspective. Transportation is quite expensive. It fluctuates, but the more we can move in one trailer, the better for everyone involved in the process. There are also smart units built into the refrigeration systems themselves, which are another advantage, because they do have some built-in sensors to control and be able to observe the fluctuation of temperatures in transit. If you're not using real-time monitoring, the driver at least has some indication if he's out of control temperature-wise.
Cold Chain IQ: What are some of the key concerns raised by the industry in meeting the challenges of transportation, cold chain management and traceability.
D Vache: That's a great question, and the challenges really start with the drivers themselves. Here in the US we are non-regulated, so that it's easy to enter the business. And it's unfortunate that we sometimes have a lack of professional drivers when we're dealing with temperature-controlled cargo. Most or many drivers want to just drive their vehicle and not understand the nuances when you are transporting fresh product. So we need to make sure that we have educated drivers that understand the perishability of the cargo that they are hauling. This also equates to the shipping point and receiving point and the treatment of drivers. So if we don't have good professional drivers that understand produce, we're just asking for more trouble.
The other thing that has started to happen in some parts of the industry are the receiving criteria. And when dealing with cold chain management and using monitors that record the temperature fluctuations, if the receiving criteria is not consistent, many times, transporters are caught in the middle between the shipper who certainly always claims that they ship good product, and the receiver that may reject that product based on some temperature fluctuations. That often times lands in the middle, and the transportation is the one that is caught in the middle of that dispute and oftentimes it costs them. And, as we know, carriers run on thin margins also. And many of the small owner-operators can't afford to have numerous claims from rejected loads or adjustments to the freight rates.
So it all starts, really, at the loading facilities, making sure that the trailers are loaded properly, the product is pre-cooled properly if it needs to be, and understanding that it starts at that point. And the driver takes control of that, if it's not loaded and cooled… pre-cooled properly, he's already at a disadvantage. So with the higher freight rates due to fuel costs, everyone needs to be more detail-oriented in moving our perishable products that are refrigerated.
So the other issues that we're seeing now are thefts, which again is a challenge for transportation. If you lose a load, and right now, statistics are showing that the food and beverage market is 23% of all theft in transportation. And this really comes down to the fact that it's perishable. When markets fluctuate and the open market, as we've had serious considerations in the last couple of years with tomatoes, the supply becomes very high-valued commodity. And it's unfortunate, they do track and can steal an entire truckload of produce. And this is not just produce but high-value items such as nuts that are going to market and could be easily moved into secondary markets without any traceability. And unfortunately there are situations where people do accept that type of product that they may not know the source.
Part 2 Coming Soon
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