Cold-Weather Shipping Tips for Small Businesses

Shipping products to customers in the winter can have its challenges.

Wintery road conditions mean shipping delays are more likely, and low temperatures mean freezing damage is a real possibility. If your products are at all temperature- or time-sensitive, you need a pragmatic approach to shipping safely and quickly during cold weather.

All packages at risk of cold-weather damage should be insulated carefully to protect them from the cold. You may even want to include heat packs in your package, or use cold chain technologies to keep things at a consistent temperature throughout transit. Make sure you’re taking advantage of your carrier’s fastest shipping options, but build some extra time into your shipping schedule to account for the weather-related delays that often occur this time of year.

Insulate Your Packages

Package insulation can protect your temperature-sensitive shipping contents from cold temperatures outside. Use a shipping box that’s appropriately sized for your contents so that you have room to pack around the contents for insulation and impact protection, but also so that the contents don’t slide or move around in transit. The contents should be held firmly in place inside the layer of insulation and impact protection, for maximum protection from shocks, vibrations, and impacts that can occur during shipping.

Insulation options for packages include styrofoam boxes that can be inserted into cardboard cartons, as well as styrofoam panels that can be placed around something in a box. You can also use thermal box liners and thermal bubble wrap to protect your contents from freezing. If you’re shipping entire pallets, look into insulating pallet covers or blankets to further protect your shipments from the cold.  

Use Heat Packs

Heat packs can be a valuable tool for keeping especially temperature-sensitive items adequately warm during wintertime shipping. Heat packs are often used to ship live plants and animals, like bees, scorpions, and other insects. They can keep the contents of your package warm for up to 40 hours. Place them inside the insulation so that the insulation can work to keep the cold out and the heat in. Make sure you follow the instructions on the heat packs carefully because you might need to place them with a specific side up or wrap them in paper to protect your package contents.

Cold Chain Technologies Can Be Your Friend

Cold chain technologies are used to keep things like perishable food, fresh flowers, pharmaceuticals, and other temperature-sensitive items cold as they move through the supply chain. It might not be the first thing you think of when you think about keeping packages from freezing, but cold chain technologies can play an important part in your wintertime shipping strategy, too. 

For example, a refrigerated truck will keep your package contents at a consistently cold temperature – above freezing. Gel packs, when used appropriately with the right package insulation, can have a similar effect – they’re good for temperature-sensitive items that can’t be allowed to freeze but also can’t be shipped with heat packs because they can’t get too hot. Don’t discount the possibility of shipping your products using cold chain technologies like gel packs and reefer trucks in the winter.

Pay for the Fastest Shipping Option

When you’re shipping time- and temperature-sensitive products, it’s always a good idea to use the fastest shipping option your carrier has available. The less time your products spend in transit, the less likely they will be to freeze. Getting your products through the supply chain before the heat packs or gel packs stop heating or cooling is paramount. Use overnight shipping whenever possible, and don’t go for anything longer than two-day shipping in any circumstances.

Anticipate Delays

You should build your wintertime shipping schedule to account for delays because there are going to be snowy and icy road conditions in the winter and carriers are going to struggle sometimes to get packages to their destination in poor road conditions. It’s better to tell your customers that shipping is going to take longer and have them be pleasantly surprised when their packages arrive early than to promise fast shipping and not deliver because of weather-related shipping delays. Similarly, you should always ship temperature- and time-sensitive products on Monday or Tuesday, so they have time to arrive before the weekend. If you’re going to plan on shipping over the weekend, make sure your carrier continues to operate on those days.

When you’re shipping packages in the winter to fulfill orders from your small business, you need to take freeze protection seriously. It’ll keep your package contents in good shape throughout shipping, so your customers will stay happy and your business can continue to grow.

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