Best Practices for Transporting Fresh Produce
Joe Dickman | December 2nd, 2020
Fruits and vegetables have long been recognized as a cornerstone for any healthy diet. But for many, they aren’t aware of the threats one must overcome to get their greens to the store safely. Many dangers exist that can threaten the quality of the foods that we rely on to survive. Here are the best practices for transporting fresh produce.
There are many challenges that companies who transport fresh produce must face. From the moment the product first starts to ripen, it is a race to get the product to the store shelf as quickly as possible. Fruit and vegetables past their prime can lose flavor, nutrients, and even make you sick.
Another challenge to produce transportation is weather problems. Natural disasters can destroy crops and slow down deliveries. If there are delays, the transport company will typically do everything possible to still get the food to the store, even if it is later than originally desired.
Finally, there are communication problems difficulties that must be overcome. It is important for producers and buyers to be able to know where their products are at all times to avoid over- or under-ordering. Good communication can also help to strengthen the relationship between the buyer and seller.
It isn’t just at the grocery store where produce is picked through. This step is critically important because eating food that isn’t fresh, especially produce, can lead to several health concerns. Produce that is no longer fresh can start to grow mold, and you have to start worrying about microorganisms that can cause severe illnesses if ingested.
Those picking the produce should be mindful of what makes produce ready for picking. Factors like color and firmness are used as guides for when something is ready to be picked. The workers harvesting the produce are not only responsible for selecting the produce that looks the best, but that will also will be able to survive the shipping process. This stage is important for the shipping process because produce can be very easily damaged during transport.
There are many steps to follow to be in compliance with harvesting best practices. Pick in the morning when there is still condensation on the plants. You should also be sure to shade the produce so that it doesn’t dry out. Finally, be sure to be gentle yet firm when picking the fruit to avoid unnecessary damage. Produce that sits out for an hour can lose as much as a day of shelf life.
The next step after picking the produce is to pack it for transportation. Fruits and vegetables should be packed in boxes that allow for air to circulate. Most of the time, these are cardboard boxes, but plastic bins with holes drilled in them will also suffice. While some fruits can be stacked, it is important to remember that some produce, like tomatoes and peaches, should be packed in individual layers to prevent bruising. Many times, produce has been washed and sanitized before it is packed away for delivery.
The delivery vehicle that is used to transport the produce is highly important to the entire shipping operation. You will need to use a refrigerated vehicle to properly ship the produce to its final destination. Refrigerated trucks, sometimes called “reefers,” are vehicles that have been equipped with a special cooling unit that is designed to help keep refrigerated products fresh on their journey. They also help stop the sun from shining on the food and spoiling it before it has a chance to be enjoyed.
The main reason why refrigerated vehicles are used is that they can help keep your product within safe temperature limits during the entire shipping process. For the majority of fresh fruits and vegetables, the accepted safe temperature range is between 35 and 45 degrees. The nice thing about this is that you can deliver more products before you have to return to pick up more for delivery. Storage shelves are great for keeping produce off the floor and can make it easier to locate orders within the vehicle.
Depending upon the type of delivery that you will be doing, an inspection of the vehicle might be necessary before beginning. One common thing to watch out for in these inspections is standing water. This can lead to high humidity, mold, and possible damage to the cooling unit if not repaired in a timely manner. This can be a sign that there are more severe problems with the cooling unit or the vehicle’s engine.
It is important to remember to document and report any problems with your delivery vehicle. This can make it easier to keep track of scheduled maintenance and other problems with the vehicle. Documentation such as this can make replacing an old vehicle simpler because you will know what you can get from the new truck based on the old one.
Another of the best practices for transporting fresh produce is to keep a log of temperatures. This is another way to tell if the freezer or engine might be struggling to meet demand. Another potential cause of temperature fluctuation is damage to the seal of the vehicle. Drivers should also remember that cold air can escape every time they make a delivery, so keeping the door shut as much as possible can help save gas and improve the life expectancy of the vehicle.
Documentation should be kept throughout the produce delivery process in the same way that it is with other deliveries. Documentation can tell where a product is from, where it is going, and how much of it there should be. Maintaining documentation of all of these things can make dispute mediation much easier.
There are many ways that the fresh produce shipping market can benefit from the use of refrigerated trucks and vans that will ensure that everybody receives food that is safe and healthy to eat. At Emerald Transportation Solutions, we specialize in custom-made refrigerated vehicles that serve a wide array of industries. Visit the store page today to learn more about all the ways that our reefers can help grow and protect your business.
Feel Free To Contact Us If You Have Any Questions
What does under DOT mean?
Questions regarding DOT requirements come up often. 10,000 lbs GVW (gross vehicle weight) and over are commercial vehicles that fall under the Department of Transportation regulatory requirements.
What is the difference between GVW and payload?
GVW or Gross Vehicle Weight is the entire weight of the vehicle including the payload. The payload weight represents the amount of cargo you are hauling.
What is a self-powered unit and a vehicle-powered unit?
A self-powered unit has its own fuel source and will run independent of the truck. This is the heaviest and most expensive option. While vehicle-powered units run off the engine via a compressor mounted on the engine. These are less expensive and lighter in weight but you must run the truck or plug the electric standby into shore power.
What does K-factor mean and why is that important?
K-factor is a term that stands for the overall insulating value of the container (truck body). Quite simply the lower the K-factor the better the truck body will be able to maintain a given temperature and require less energy to do so.
How much lighter is a Poly Van vs a US spec body?
Poly Van bodies are very light. On average we estimate we are 75-150 lbs per foot lighter than a traditional sheet and post foamed in place body. These weight savings translates to less fuel burn and less CO2 emissions, along with added payload, the most important benefit.