Trucking companies play an important role in the transportation of food from farms and processors to distribution centers, grocery stores and restaurants. Motor carriers are responsible for ensuring that perishable goods are transported safely, at the correct temperature and in compliance with regulatory requirements.
To accomplish this, carriers use refrigerated trailers (also called reefers) to transport food and manage trailer temperatures during a journey. In this article, we’ll cover the primary ways that carriers monitor reefer containers to ensure that proper temperatures are maintained.
Why Is Temperature Monitoring Important?
Tens of millions of Americans get sick each year due to foodborne illness, the Centers for Disease Control reports, resulting in more than 120,000 hospitalizations and some 3,000 deaths. In addition, foodborne illness has a huge financial impact in the U.S., costing $15.5 billion annually, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.
Because of the detrimental effect of foodborne illness on public health and the economy, governments have created regulations to ensure the safety of the food supply chain. The most significant of these regulations is 2011’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which set out to standardize food safety practices at every point in the supply chain – from farmers and processors that produce food to carriers that haul it.
Key FSMA requirements for carriers include:
- Vehicles and transportation equipment must be designed and maintained to ensure that food does not become unsafe during transport.
- Measures must be in place to ensure proper temperature controls and prevent food contamination.
- Personnel must be trained in sanitary transportation practices.
- Carriers must keep records of procedures, agreements and training related to sanitary food transport.
How Do You Monitor a Reefer Container?
Each of the requirements outlined above is important for ensuring and documenting that food is safely transported. Proper temperature control is among the most important, as food and other perishable products can quickly become unsafe if correct temperatures are not maintained, leading to rejected loads and potential public health hazards.
That’s why it’s so important for carriers to be able to effectively monitor the temperature of reefer trailers. Here are some of the primary ways carriers monitor a reefer container.
Temperature sensors: Temperature sensors are essential to reefer monitoring. They allow carriers to measure the temperature inside a trailer and its compartments. Today’s reefer monitoring technology removes the burden of checking a trailer’s temperature from the driver by facilitating near real-time, remote reefer monitoring that allows the appropriate personnel to track reefer temperatures and take action to address temperature deviations. Door sensors, reefer fuel sensors and others also provide data crucial to ensuring the integrity of the cold chain while perishable products are in transit.
Product temperature readings: In addition to maintaining the proper trailer temperature, carriers must also ensure that products within a reefer container are kept at the correct temperature. This may involve drivers periodically pulling off the road and using a probe thermometer to take product temperature readings manually and recording the data in a logbook. However, advanced reefer solutions are available that use sensors, artificial intelligence and algorithms to constantly and accurately predict the core temperature of products, eliminating the risk of human error or intentional manipulation. This data can be monitored remotely in real time.
Automatic alerts: A key component of remote monitoring of reefer trailers and the products in them is the ability to set automatic temperature alerts. Automatic alerts inform the appropriate personnel that there is a temperature issue (or a problem with the reefer unit itself) so they can act before a load is lost. Such action may entail contacting the driver directly to fix the problem or using two-way reefer controls to address the issue remotely.
Consistent monitoring of reefer trailers is critical to ensuring that food and other perishable cargo is kept at required temperatures during transport. Temperature sensors, product temperature checks and temperature alerts are essential to effective reefer container monitoring. By implementing advanced reefer monitoring tools, carriers can do their part to ensure food chain safety while reducing monetary losses and food waste that result from rejected loads.