You don’t need to be a truck driver or logistics chain manager to know that a lot goes into the distribution process.

Moving products to and from their destinations, whether they’re going straight to the customer or headed to another warehouse or retail outlet, is a time-consuming but necessary process that can really affect a lot of other business operations and the potential for profit.

During these long journeys to their destination, the sad reality is that a lot of things can happen along the way. From product loss to spoilage to things plain-old not reaching their destination, the process of transporting goods can carry with it a lot of risks – risks that can often be avoided in many cases.

Here’s the five most common (or most dangerous) risks facing goods in transit, and what you can do to help minimize the danger:

 

Risk #1: Contamination

Sensitive goods such as chemicals, household products, pharmaceuticals, and especially food are in near constant danger of getting contaminated or spoiling en route to their destination if the proper precautions aren’t taken; in fact, nearly 222 million tons of food is lost every year due to spoilage, and much of that occurs on the road. This can have a huge impact on your bottom line, not to mention your relationship with your customers and business partners.

How to Prevent It

Understanding the needs of the products you’re transporting is key in preventing contamination or spoilage. Pharmaceuticals need to be packed as safely as possible and never come in contact with one another, especially drugs of a dissimilar type. Cleaning supplies and chemicals, no matter how safe they may seem, must be constantly inspected for leaks and be packaged & padded sufficiently to prevent breakage along the way so they don’t contaminate the rest of the truck. Finally, make sure you follow all food transportation laws and requirements to the letter – above and beyond understanding what temperature/climate the products need to be transported in, you may also need to make sure you’re following federal or state food transportation laws as well.

 

Risk #2: Product Damage

Whatever you’re transporting, or no matter how durable you think it might be, product damage is a leading cause of lost product at various points during the transportation process, and can lead to reduced revenue and issues meeting deadlines if products have to be replaced.

How to Prevent It

Proper item handling is key here, at all steps along the way. Make sure all trucks are loaded in a way that won’t allow products to tip and fall, or crush anything that can’t support the load above it. Train your employees on proper handling at the shipping & receiving levels to prevent damage during unloading even after the products have arrived, and make sure you have plenty of wire shelving and industrial storage to keep everything safely stored when it arrives to prevent overcrowding or product damage.

 

Risk #3: Machinery Failures

At various steps along the way, the products you need to transport will be at the hands of different machinery and equipment, and making sure this equipment is working properly and effectively can prevent both product damage and keep your workers free from injury.

How to Prevent It

Proper training and frequent maintenance are both critical here. In warehouses that require the use of heavy equipment such as forklifts and cranes, only allowing licensed and trained operators to use these machines is not only crucial for product and worker safety, it’s required by law in many cases. Perform frequent maintenance on all equipment involved in product transport, from forklifts to the semi trucks themselves, at a regularly scheduled basis and to the best of your ability to prevent them from breaking down and/or affecting your products.

 

Risk #4: Accidents In Transport

The road can be tough on drivers and the products they transport, and a lot of product damage can happen on the road even in the hands of the most experienced truck drivers.

How to Prevent It

A lot of these tips may seem ‘common sense’ but they’re worth enforcing. Partner with logistics providers that have a good safety record and look out for things like speeding, fatigued drivers, and the like. Unfamiliar roads and/or roads with a lot of damage and potholes can affect products if drivers aren’t careful, and safe driving schedules/realistic deadlines need to be enforced to prevent driver fatigue.

 

Risk #5: Theft

No matter how much you trust your crew and your logistics partners, theft is a very real threat out on the road. Looting of semis is still a very common practice and can be disastrous for your products and the safety of those who drive them to their destination.

How to Prevent It

A lot of cargo theft can be prevented through vigilance and training. Talk to your logistics provider and make sure their drivers are trained on safe areas to leave their cargo, set reasonable time limits and realistic schedules for how long truckers can go while on the road to keep the drivers and cargo safe, and make sure to do frequent counts and keep up-to-date records of what’s expected on every truck to get a better idea of when something goes missing.

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