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Refrigerated Trailer Temperature Monitoring

By Kevin Aries June 22, 2021

Updated: June 22, 2021

U.S. carriers who haul food also carry the responsibility for protecting the public’s health by maintaining their cargo at regulated temperatures to maintain freshness. Wireless trailer monitoring systems play an important role in maintaining proper cargo temperature in refrigerated trailers, commonly referred to as reefers.

In this article, we will review the requirements for trailer temperature monitoring for reefers and show how modern fleet management technology such as asset monitoring sensors help cold-chain fleet managers fulfill their jobs with confidence and provide the digital record to verify compliance with cold-chain transport rules. This compliance helps freight and delivery companies avoid fines and reduce wasted trips and rejected deliveries.

What is a cold chain?

Maintaining a cold chain refers to keeping food and other perishable items at a safe and consistent temperature from processing through transportation and sale. Federal regulations in the United States make drivers and reefer fleets responsible for guaranteeing safety for the food in their possession via the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Because of the high risks associated with consuming spoiled goods, these regulations are strictly enforced, and high standards are expected. Cold supply chain shippers and carriers are staying compliant using asset tracking sensors in their reefer trailers to monitor temperature and other environmental variables.

Using telematics sensors to monitor reefer container temperatures helps carriers accomplish the following:

  • Protect consumers from foodborne illness
  • Reduce food waste
  • Decrease cargo waste
  • Reduce rejected loads

Carrier’s responsibilities for cold chain under FSMA

The FSMA gives the FDA new ways to regulate the way food is grown, harvested and processed. The Sanitary Transportation ruling is the part of the FSMA that makes shippers and carriers responsible for maintaining proper temperatures during food transportation within the United States with the goal of preventing contamination of perishable loads.

Carriers and shippers are under increased scrutiny by FDA inspections and are being held responsible for documenting that proper reefer temperatures are maintained throughout the cold supply chain. Under FSMA, it is critical that drivers and transportation companies prove that a shipment of food was kept at safe temperatures all the way through its journey. This is made easier with reefer trailer tracking and monitoring.

What is reefer monitoring?

Reefer monitoring refers to maintaining regulated temperatures in refrigerated trailers and containers, or reefers. Regulating reefer temperatures and maintaining temperature control is critical to shippers for several reasons:

  1. Reefer monitoring helps prevent unsafe temperature fluctuations for shipments of perishable goods.
  2. It helps save carriers money by reducing the number of rejected deliveries due to spoilage.
  3. It helps ensure customers receive quality goods, on time, with safety guaranteed.

Protecting public health and safety through reefer monitoring

Foodborne illness burdens 48 million Americans. It is estimated that nearly 3,000 Americans die of foodborne diseases each year. Improper and fluctuating temperatures affect the growth of bacteria in food, which is the leading cause of foodborne illness1. This is especially true for temperature-sensitive products like frozen food, produce, and meat.

Freight transportation is one of the principle methods of food transportation in the U.S.2, so shippers involved in the cold supply chain have a responsibility to protect public health and safety by ensuring reefers are monitored and safe temperatures are maintained inrefrigeration units.

Reducing cargo waste

Aside from helping prevent foodborne illness, maintaining proper reefer temperatures reduces the number of rejected loads and the amount of wasted food cargo. Roughly a third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted every year3 and many efforts are being made to dramatically reduce this number. By improving vehicle tracking solutions and standards in the cold chain and transportation, including the ability to manage truck temperatures with near real-time monitoring using Lo T-based temperature sensors, carriers and shippers are able to reduce food waste while also improving operational efficiency and the bottom line. 

In the past, temperature tracking was a manual job that required drivers to get off the road to safely check reefer temperatures. Near real-time remote monitoring, logging and temperature alerts for reefers via wireless temperature sensors eliminate the need for drivers to get on and off the road to check temperatures in their reefer unit. Reducing the number of stops for drivers, preventing wasteful engine idling and decreasing engine wear and tear all have an impact on fuel efficiency and costs to carriers.

Reducing rejected loads impacts revenue

By adding a trailer temperature monitoring system into their overall fleet management solution, freight carriers are also able to reduce the number of rejected loads, delayed deliveries and loss claims, all of which can have a significant impact on revenue.

When a receiver accepts a load, they also accept responsibility and liability. If a shipper cannot prove that proper temperature range was maintained meticulously throughout transport, a receiver has good reason to reject the load. With reefer container monitoring systemsr, drivers have a digital log of temperature data maintained en route that proves the safety and reliability of the goods they are delivering. Having on-demand temperature readings means drivers and freight companies have the proof they need to provide to the receiver when the load is delivered. Fewer rejected loads leads to higher revenue.

Find the right solution for reefer temperature monitoring and more

Automating reefer management protects the cold chain process and backs it up with digital data. It protects public health by helping prevent foodborne illness caused by storing food at improper temperatures. Carriers and shippers could save money by cutting back on spoilage and rejected loads, reducing the number of loss claims and improving fuel efficiency.

Learn how FreshDirect, an e-grocery in New York, made food safety a priority in the cold chain.

Carriers that haul food face specific challenges that can be addressed with smart implementation of fleet management software, from GPS truck tracking and route optimization, to ELD compliance to reefer monitoring sensors. Find out how Verizon Connect's integrated GPS fleet tracking solutions can help you streamline and simplify your business.


1 https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/how-temperatures-affect-food/ct_index

2 http://www.afdo.org/blog/6708713

3 http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/

Kevin Aries

Kevin Aries leads Global Product Success for Verizon Connect, helping build software solutions that optimize the way people, vehicles and things move through the world.

Tags: Productivity & Efficiency, Service level compliance, Safety

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