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International Forwarding Association Blog » Specialized transportation » Temperature Control Challenges in Short-Distance Refrigerated Transport

Temperature Control Challenges in Short-Distance Refrigerated Transport

Refrigerated transport in Europe presents unique challenges in maintaining temperature control. The main difficulties include the short run times of refrigeration systems between stops and challenges with load distribution which can affect temperature management.


Temperature Control Challenges with Frequent Stops

Consistent temperature control can be a challenge over short distances due to frequent stops and door openings that introduce bursts of external air with varying temperatures.

Complicating matters, on routes where stops are close together, the engine—and consequently the refrigeration system—may not run long enough to restore the optimal temperature between stops. Standard refrigeration systems, designed primarily to maintain a consistently cool temperature, struggle to quickly reduce temperatures that have risen.

External environmental conditions also challenge refrigeration transport services. On hot days, the refrigeration system needs more time to counteract the heat introduced when the doors open. Each door opening adds to the system’s workload, and it can take even longer to cool down the space. On colder days and in colder climates, the refrigeration system may need to work harder to counteract cold air, and each opening challenges its capacity to reheat the space to the required temperature.

Furthermore, the specific types of goods being transported can complicate temperature management with frequent stops. For instance, floral products release moisture which can raise the humidity inside the vehicle. This increase in humidity can make it difficult to maintain the necessary dry, cool conditions. With frequent stops, air from outside increases humidity inside the truck and exacerbates the problem further. As a result, the flowers may wilt faster and lose their freshness which reduces their market value. Similarly, fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables releases moisture and raises humidity inside the truck, with frequent stops further raising humidity. Additionally, these items emit ethylene gas, and the combination of higher humidity and increased ethylene concentration accelerates spoilage and reduces the shelf life of the produce.


Challenges with Load Distribution

The way goods are distributed within a vehicle also influences temperature control. For example, items packed tightly together can impede air circulation necessary for maintaining consistent internal temperatures. Poor circulation can lead to the formation of warm or cold pockets within the cargo space, depending on external temperatures.

Inadequate load stabilization also presents challenges during transport as it can lead to shifting and alter the planned configuration and airflow patterns. Displaced items can block air vents or create uneven gaps between items that exacerbate temperature inconsistencies across the cargo space. Additionally, when cargo shifts and compacts, it can restrict airflow within the truck and make it difficult for the refrigeration system to maintain consistent temperatures.

Another issue arises when insulated packaging shifts and becomes dislodged, which compromises its effectiveness as a thermal barrier. This can lead to increased thermal conductivity at the exposure points and cause damage even when ruptures are minor. For example, in a shipment of electronic components that are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, even a small area of exposed packaging can lead to condensation buildup inside the package. This moisture can cause corrosion or short-circuits that could damage the electronics irreversibly.