Planes, trains or trucks. What it takes to ensure JAX mice are delivered on time
Jim Yeadon, Ph.D
Unless you’ve been living under a rock this winter, or on a remote tropical island (lucky you!) without access to The Weather Channel, you’re probably aware that the Northeastern United States (coastal New England, in particular) has been hammered with continuous storms and unseasonably cold temperatures. (February 2015 was not only the coldest February recorded in Bangor, Maine, but the coldest month on record EVER, since 1926 when temperature records were first collected.) With JAX’s main campus located in Maine, and such an unusually cold and snowy winter, some may wonder how this has affected JAX’s ability to deliver mice on time and in good condition.
Fortunately, we are proud to say that this winter’s unpredictable weather has had little overall impact on our delivery schedules: no deliveries of JAX mice have been cancelled outright, and, in fact, only one delivery has been delayed for more than 24 hours. (Following a recent ice storm, a state of emergency was declared in Tennessee that closed roads and resulted in some mice being delivered 2 days later than their scheduled delivery date.)
At JAX, we are dedicated to delivering our mice when you need them at all times of the year. How we’re able to do this is discussed below.
The benefits of a dedicated ground transportation system
Within the United States and Canada, JAX ships greater than 99% of our mice via a dedicated ground transportation network. Of the thousands of boxes that we ship domestically every week, only about 30 ship by air. Although shipping by ground does add to transit time, it has many benefits that ensure that mice arrive with minimal stress and environmental disturbance:
A controlled environment from departure to arrival
JAX mice are packed in the rooms where they are housed and placed into our sterilized state-of-the-art shipping containers using the same bedding and diet on which the mice are maintained while at JAX. The only difference is the water source – most mice are provided with a gel-based water source instead of liquid water during shipment, with a few exceptions. Additionally, mice are only shipped with others that are familiar to them; we never mix mice from different holding pens into the same shipping compartment, which minimizes aggression and fighting.
During transit the mice are maintained under strict environmentally-controlled conditions that are closely monitored. The temperature is maintained within a strict ±3 degree range, and drivers, as well as central monitoring stations, receive an alarm should the temperature drift outside of the range. Air handling systems onboard every truck also have a back-up, so if one fails the second is activated to keep the conditions constant. Further, the air handlers can be run off of electrical or generator power should the truck’s engine break down. The long-distance transports are also constantly monitored for speed and acceleration to ensure that the mice have the smoothest ride possible.
Highly trained and experienced personnel
JAX works with several logistics contractors to maintain exemplary service and flexibility and to keep year-to-year shipping costs flat. Our logistics team works closely with all of our contractors to ensure that their drivers are trained in our specific handling procedures, and most are also licensed and trained in handling animals through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Regular and frequent audits
Our logistics team also regularly and frequently audit our transportation partners – from reviewing maintenance records, directly observing their truck wash-out and decontamination procedures, to even riding with the drivers in the trucks themselves for one or more days – all to ensure that our mice receive the best care from door-to-door.
The downsides of air travel
How does ground transport measure up to air transport, you might ask? Do the mice that ship by air receive the same level of care and monitoring? These days, most mice that ship by air are handled by the major airlines. Indeed, the mice typically fly on the same planes as you or I, and the environmental conditions in the cargo hold are approximately the same as those in the cabin.
- How many times have you boarded a plane and been either too hot or too cold?
- How many times have you had to sit on the tarmac enduring flight delay, or had your flight cancelled altogether due to weather or mechanical problems?
- How many times have you experienced teeth-rattling turbulence during a flight, not to mention the typical changes in air pressure during take-offs and landings?
Well, mice shipped by air are subject to the same conditions. Moreover, the airline’s cargo handlers may not necessarily be trained in handling lab animals, and the mice travel in the hold with other cargo, including other animals, although the airlines do make efforts to keep different species segregated.
In our experience, ground transport results in mice arriving in much better and under more controlled conditions than shipping by air. Indeed, prior to shifting our logistics to an almost completely ground based-system we found that the number of reports of mice not arriving in good condition was several fold higher for orders that shipped by air versus those that shipped by ground. So the next time you’re considering from whom to order your mice, take a moment to think about how your mice will get to you. Some questions you might ask your mouse provider are:
- Does the transport involve an air component?
- How are the animals’ environmental conditions monitored?
- Who will handle the mice, and how are they trained?
- What other species or cargo travel with the mice?
For additional information regarding shipping logistics from JAX, please visit our shipping information section.