Just as they have throughout the pandemic, truckload carriers are once again coming to the rescue. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, states and cities are in lock-down for a second or even a third time. Except for essential workers, the U.S. population is mainly at home, avoiding restaurants and indoor group activities. Instead, they spend money on products purchased via e-commerce and delivered by truck drivers classified as essential workers, from truckload to parcel. A year ago, nobody could have imagined the myriad logistical challenges facing the United States. Today, we face the need for rapid and effective COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Vaccines were just approved and rolled out by truckload to more than 100 hospitals and eldercare facilities. At least one vaccine requires unique cold chain distribution. The requirement is for -80 C cold storage until the vaccine is administered. The initial access to the vaccine includes health care workers and the elderly. Some vaccines need a second dose after two weeks.
Truckload Carriers and Distribution Challenges
Operation Warp Speed is charged with exploring the existing vaccine delivery infrastructure while identifying new ways to handle issues like the cold chain distribution requirement. Shippers and their helpers implement innovative strategies, establish public-private partnerships, and engage with the state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments to ensure efficient and equitable access.
COVID-19 vaccines face daunting distribution challenges:
- Truckload capacity is short: According to Commercial Carrier Journal ), the [federal] Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse has removed 27,000 drivers from the industry since January 2020. Trucking school closures and social distance limitations also keep new entrants out of the labor force.
- Distribution requirements and locations vary. For example, Supply Chain Dive notes that vaccine manufacturer Pfizer plans to focus on hospitals, outpatient clinics, community vaccination locations, and pharmacies, but vaccination points “will vary.”
- We are facing incredibly tight cold-chain requirements. Keeping vaccines at the correct temperature requires the right partnerships with the right refrigerated trucking firms and warehouses and the right tools to monitor tight temperature-control storage specifications and time limitations. The strict temperature control needed may supercharge the deployment of internet of things (IoT) devices that monitor for temperature safety and compliance.
Best practices to keep vaccines flowing to consumers
To support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other parts of Health and Human Services (HHS) that will coordinate the production and distribution of vaccines, manufacturers and their allies, such as truckload carriers, are using best practices for vaccine distribution. These include:
- Real-time shipment monitoring. Tools like IoT sensors can monitor temperature and humidity to make sure the vaccine stays cold.
- They are tracing with real-time GPS connectivity. GPS enables companies to monitor a driver’s location and destination, plan the most efficient transportation route, dispatch another truck in the event of a truck breakdown, and ensure truckers follow the plan.
- Electronic logging devices (ELDs). These devices enable companies to monitor driver performance (including speeding, hard braking, over-acceleration, or sharp cornering) and alert managers when a driver is driving safely; risks a police stop (which could delay the shipment) or is driving erratically (which could damage the load).
- The right transportation management system (TMS): A TMS system will optimize transportation, so the correct driver is driving the right truck to the right location at the right time. A TMS will also automate workflow and operations documentation, ensure the use of proper paperwork and trip compliance, and enable post-trip data review so that companies can explore potential areas for improvement.
Whether you’re a truckload carrier gearing up to move vials of vaccine or increase e-commerce freight volumes, get more information on how the Axele TMS provides one of your best paths to improve productivity and efficiencies. We’re the first intelligent TMS system for truckload carriers.