August 17, 2021

Part One: Criteria to consider when selecting new shipping partners

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Find out what to ask when expanding preferred shippers lists in the first part of this series.

Expanding your current preferred shipper list no easy task, but there is a large amount of risk involved if your current carriers do not have the capacity to support your growing demands. When a patient requires treatment, your supply chain needs to be able to deliver it on time and at temperature. With more preferred fleets, you can reduce the risk of potential constraints during shipment and remain flexible to react to any logistics challenges.

Adding a new fleet to your preferred list, however, is a laborious process and missing any potential red flags could introduce risk when the goal of increasing capacity is to reduce it. If you decide that adding new shipping vendors is a must for your business, this question guide can help you ensure you do not miss any potential gaps that your new partner must address before they can call themselves a “preferred partner”.

Experience equals value

The more experience the better, but knowledge is the inherent value of those with experience and that is what you need to understand as vendors answer these questions. Listen to how they respond, evaluate their answers and dive into their knowledge via their past experiences of shipping medicines or blood plasma. As them if they have been using a pharmaceutical vocabulary and whether they are unfamiliar with the acronyms or standard processes. As the pharmaceutical market is rather secretive, how they speak about their experience is vitally important, as they likely cannot reveal much of what or who they currently work for due to heightened privacy and security in the market.

Sample questions to gauge the experience of a shipper could include:

  • What experience do you have hauling pharmaceutical products?
  • Have you performed lane validations before? What were the results and did any learnings change your current operations?
  • What is your experience in handling temperature excursions and subsequent Corrective Action and Preventative Action (CAPA) plans?

Traceability via data

Real-time or near real-time data is a growing demand and understanding a shipper’s ability to give you that data today or in the near future is key. Ask about their current capabilities to monitor the GPS location of their truck and other equipment, as well as their ability to control assets remotely.

To understand data capabilities better be sure to ask:

  • How do you monitor your assets today? Do you have the ability to locate asset’s location and temperature during shipments?
  • Are you able to provide real-time data during shipment or reports at the end of trips?
  • Are your temperature sensors independent from the refrigeration system to enable trust in data?
  • Does the data have backup systems in place to ensure no technical challenges connecting with the system during shipment?

Cybersecurity and physical protection

The physical protection of your medicines and the resulting and cybersecurity required are essential to getting the medicine to your patients on time. Any delays as a result of gaps in security or potential theft ceasing delivery altogether are unacceptable. Many fleets that deal in lower value cargo may not have experience with the intense security measures required to make sure cargo is kept safe at all times and you need to ask questions to determine if they understand the severity required to protect your medicines for your patients.

Key questions relating to the security of your medicines could include:

  • What are the physical security measures in your facilities, processes and equipment that will help to keep pharmaceutical cargo safe from potential theft?
  • What cybersecurity measures are in place to protect the location of your assets?
  • What personnel has access to your equipment, facilities, and shipment information?

Trusted technology

It is important to check how a shipper utilizes their temperature-control technology as it should reveal how they would fit within your current vendor list. Ask whether they depend on passive thermal shippers or if they have thermal blankets, for example, and be sure to check if they have a sophisticated fleet with active refrigeration systems that maintain truck or trailer environments. If you are looking for fleets with one or multiple technologies, you first need to understand what is most important to you so you can score the fleets accordingly on this criterion.

In the area of technology make sure to ask:

  • What technologies do you leverage to maintain temperature control?
  • How much experience does your fleet have with leveraging your technology?
  • How do you spec your trucks, trailers, or refrigeration equipment and why?

At Thermo King, we understand that if the quality of pharmaceutical product shipments is compromised, the risk is more than loss of cargo – it can compromise the health and well-being of patients. Our refrigeration and temperature-controlled storage solutions enhance the quality of life by keeping products at their optimal temperature throughout the pharma cold chain. Learn more at