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XPO Logistics provides truck transport for Pfizer vaccine

Company prepares to help with more vaccine rollouts, cautions about service impact for general cargo

XPO Logistics is using refirgerated trucks to haul COVID vaccines for Pfizer Inc. (Photo: XPO Logistics)

XPO Logistics Inc. (NYSE: XPO) said Friday that its expedited transportation division has been moving shipments of Pfizer Inc.’s (NYSE: PFE) COVID-19 vaccine this week on an outsourced basis in support of the U.S. government’s emergency distribution effort.

FedEx Express (NYSE: FDX) and UPS (NYSE: UPS) are handling the vaccine delivery for Pfizer in partnership with Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership managing the supply chain side of the nationwide immunization campaign. Both companies are also using trusted subcontractors to handle some of the work. Companies that have confirmed their involvement in the historic effort to stop the coronavirus pandemic include specialized carrier Boyle Transportation, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines

XPO is working on behalf of UPS, a source familiar  with Operation Warp Speed said.

In a statement, the trucking and logistics giant said it is involved in the vaccine distribution process in North America and Europe, but spokesman Joe Checkler said most of the activity is in the U.S. transporting the vaccine to airports, distribution points and cold storage facilities. XPO is also helping with distribution to major urban centers and final points of use, such as pharmacies.

The company is using temperature-controlled equipment with multiple sensors that can monitor the internal temperature in different parts of the trailer and alert the driver if the temperature deviates from set parameters.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines require storage and transport at minus 70 degrees Celsius. Refrigerated equipment helps keep the dry ice that is packed around special thermal containers, and is the primary method of preservation, from breaking down quickly. 

XPO executives said they expect to be involved with the delivery of other vaccines in the pipeline. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve Moderna Inc.s (NASDQ: MRNA) as soon as Friday evening. On Thursday, an advisory panel recommended the agency issue an emergency use authorization for the Moderna product, citing its 95% efficacy and minimal side effects.

FDA approval would trigger a large choreographed logistics operation, starting with warehouse personnel packing containers with vials of vaccine and dry ice. Trucks could roll out of Moderna plants and distribution centers Sunday morning.

“This is an evolving situation, and we’re working closely with manufacturers and other major carriers to make sure the states have everything they need,” said Malcolm Wilson, XPO Logistics CEO for Europe. “In addition to the vaccine, we’re also moving large volumes of saline, syringes and gloves. I’m proud of how quickly industry competitors became collaborators to complete these critical shipments.”    

Squeeze on general cargo?

XPO is also supporting shipments of Styrofoam, dry ice, refrigerant and temperature control packaging, plastics, labels, and other products used for the FedEx and UPS shipments, the company said in a new fact sheet provided to FreightWaves.

In Fort Worth, Texas, XPO is starting to purchase large coolers and looking for ways to provide supply chain, last-mile and distribution services for cities that are not equipped for widespread processing and distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“The vaccine is priority one, two and three,” the document said. “There’s so much focus on effectively transporting the vaccine that there could be a trickle down effect impacting capacity in other sectors. We’re taking several steps to mitigate these capacity issues,” the document said.

XPO routinely transports vaccines for its pharmaceutical customers and can store medicines at its refrigerated warehouses.

“We have specialists who focus on arranging urgent shipments of pharmaceuticals and biologics using our XPO Connect digital transportation platform,” Wilson said. “The technology adds another layer of security to the strong protocols maintained at ground level by our drivers and dispatchers. We have continuous visibility of the trucks and external conditions, so we can make adjustments in real time.”

Throughout the pandemic, XPO has transported products used in the treatment of COVID-19, including therapeutic drugs, over-the-counter medicines and personal protective equipment. Recently, the company dedicated additional resources to deliver supplies needed for large-scale vaccination efforts in North America and Europe.

XPO’s major transportation business is less-than-truckload. The company announced plans earlier this month to split its transportation and logistics businesses.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]