Illness stemming from contaminated food or beverages has a major impact on public health, resulting in 1 in 6 Americans getting sick each year and some 3,000 deaths. Foodborne illness is also detrimental to the economy, costing the United States $17.6 billion annually. 

Because of the dire outcomes associated with foodborne illness, lawmakers enacted the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011. Among the measures created to implement FSMA is a rule on the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food, which has the goal of “helping to prevent practices during transportation that create food safety risks, such as failure to properly refrigerate food, inadequate cleaning of vehicles between loads, and failure to properly protect food.” 

The sanitary transport rule applies to shippers, receivers, loaders and rail and motor carriers that transport food and beverages. Some key requirements include: 

  • Ensuring that vehicles and equipment are designed and maintained to ensure that food remains safe during transport. 
  • Having food transportation practices that ensure food safety, including avoiding cross contamination and having adequate temperature controls. 
  • Training personnel in sanitary transportation practices. 

In this article, we will focus on the provision requiring adequate temperature controls – specifically on how often carriers should monitor the temperature of their refrigerated (reefer) trailers and how technology can help. 

How Often Should Reefer Containers be Monitored? 

FSMA does not provide specific requirements for how often reefer trailer temperatures should be monitored, stating instead that shippers and carriers should “agree to a temperature monitoring mechanism for shipments of food that require temperature control for safety.”  

Under FSMA, responsibility for maintaining proper temperature controls lies with the shipper, carrier and receiver of the perishable products. These stakeholders are required to establish and implement temperature monitoring and control procedures as part of their food safety plans. 

Modern Methods for Monitoring Reefer Trailers 

Even in the absence of hard-and-fast rules for monitoring reefer trailers, it is in the interest of shippers and carriers to ensure food safety to avoid food contamination and the potential for illness, waste and lost revenue associated with it.  

Technology solutions available today provide motor carriers with unprecedented cold chain visibility and control, helping them to ensure – and prove – that perishable products are transported safely and within the parameters agreed upon.  

A huge leap forward from time-consuming and costly manual temperature checks, advanced reefer monitoring tools allow carriers to  

  • Monitor reefer temperatures continuously and in real time, including individual trailer compartments, with IoT sensors 
  • Monitor core temperatures of specific products with artificial intelligence and advanced algorithms 
  • Set and receive automated temperature alerts to detect and address issues before a load is lost 
  • Control reefer trailers remotely   

Ideally, reefer containers should be monitored continuously throughout transportation, with real-time monitoring systems and automated alerts in place to detect temperature deviations promptly and two-way reefer controls to address them early. Adopting an advanced reefer monitoring solution can help motor carriers prove temperature compliance, reduce rejected loads and avoid revenue loss and reputational damage. 


Click here to learn how EROAD’s next-generation reefer monitoring solution can transform your cold chain operations 

How Often Should Reefer Containers be Monitored?

by | May 31, 2023 |

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