Technology

Updated Apr 28, 2012

From farm to fork

Reefer monitoring fills the gaps in tracking food shipments

 

A new U.S. Food and Drug Administration law called the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed by President Obama in January, essentially asks all players in the food supply chain – primarily food producers and processors – to protect food while in their custody. FDA also plans to issue new rules on food transportation in the coming months, but exactly how the new rules will impact refrigerated carriers remains to be seen.

Blue Tree Systems’ R:Com refrigerated monitoring system reports temperatures and other data every five minutes.Blue Tree Systems’ R:Com refrigerated monitoring system reports temperatures and other data every five minutes.

One possibility is that the law will bring a new wave of due diligence for capturing and recording data about temperature-sensitive freight. Data logging capabilities already are built into Thermo King and Carrier Transicold refrigeration units. Both manufacturers also have a standard interface protocol that allows third-party monitoring systems to communicate with their microprocessors. These systems can provide real-time reefer status and send immediate alerts to fleet managers regarding temperatures and reefer operation, among other exceptions.

With the technology that is available today, fleet managers can be notified immediately of any exceptions while a load is in their chain of custody and monitor temperatures and other data remotely to understand and correct problems.

Houston, we have a problem

Rather than log on to a website to check on a load’s status, fleet managers can be alerted to any exceptions while working within their dispatch and operational software. About three years ago, Freymiller equipped all 441 of its trailers with the VeriWise reefer monitoring and tracking technology from I.D. Systems. This technology is integrated closely with Freymiller’s dispatch and enterprise management system from McLeod Software.

As part of the order-entry process, customer service representatives enter the temperature settings for each load into the McLeod LoadMaster system. Once the driver-load assignments are made, driver managers are notified immediately if the temperature set points or return air temperature are out of compliance with customer requirements.

Should an exception occur – perhaps if a driver were to set the wrong temperature – the load is highlighted in yellow or red according to severity, and e-mails and text alerts are sent to management. “[The integration] is what makes it work so well,” says Dennis Freymiller, vice president of the Oklahoma City-based carrier. “It has prevented a lot of claims for us, and it is a good sales tool.”

When a problem is detected, fleets can log on to a Web portal to access more detailed information. If a customer at an unloading dock asks for proof of temperature for the load’s duration, a customer service representative could pull up a graphic and e-mail the information to the customer while on the phone.

Blue Tree Systems recently brought R:Com, a Europe-based refrigerated monitoring system, into the United States. R:Com reports temperatures and other data every five minutes. When logging onto the Web portal, a fleet manager quickly can ascertain any trailer’s status by hovering the cursor over the asset on a digital map. A pop-up window displays the reefer fuel level, temperature set point and return air, and whether the reefer unit is in continuous or cycle sentry mode. Blue Tree Systems also has an in-cab computing platform that integrates with the trailer to display temperature set points, return air and any faults, says Charlie Cahill, Blue Tree chief executive officer.

PAR Logistics Management – which offers the RT-200 system for tracking, monitoring and controlling refrigerated trailers – is developing a new feature to alert the driver to any exceptions by integrating with PeopleNet’s onboard computing platform. The RT-200 also uses cellular, satellite or a combination of communication pathways to send information directly to fleet managers, says Roni Taylor, vice president of marketing and business development.

Two-way communications

Through two-way cellular and satellite communications, reefer monitoring systems also can be used to set temperatures and other parameters remotely, including turning the unit on or off. Two-way control is used by fleets that move trailers or containers via rail intermodal or haul high-value commodities.

CarrierWeb’s ReeferMate monitoring system integrates with McLeod’s LoadMaster software to issue real-time alerts and soon will provide quick access to two-way command and control features. Fleets currently go to CarrierWeb’s online portal to change reefer settings, but the company is planning a new feature to allow McLeod users to log on to the website automatically via a hotlink from their dispatch screen, says Norman Thomas, vice president of professional services.

The advanced technology of reefer monitoring with command and control features extends the focus of fleet operations from managing drivers to managing critical shipments.



IN BRIEF

* Pegasus TransTech

(www.transflo.com) announced Transflo Web, an online document management system designed for carriers to create invoices and send them electronically to speed cash flow. Pegasus says the product helps speed payment cycles and provides an end-to-end document processing solution.

* PeopleNet

(www.peoplenetonline.com) said that more than 200 fleets adopted its technology in 2010, and that about one-third of those firms previously were served by other technology providers, while 112 were replacing cell phones.

* QSI Corp. (www.qsicorp.com), a designer and manufacturer of rugged mobile data terminals, says its new Treq-M4x mobile data terminal meets the hardware requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Rule 395.16 for electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs).

* Blue Tree Systems

(www.bluetreesystems.com) – provider of the R:Com fleet management, reefer monitoring and trailer tracking solutions – established Blue Tree Systems Inc. to support its growing network of partners, resellers and users of its next-generation fleet management system in the United States.

* Xata Corp. (www.xata.com), a provider of fleet optimization software, now is a value-added reseller for SkyBitz, a provider of remote asset management solutions for unpowered units such as trailers.

* Internet Truckstop

(www.truckstop.com), an Internet-based load board provider, developed new website navigation for ease of use, including a new button placement designed to speed posting and searching for trucks and loads.


Qualcomm announces MCP50

Qualcomm’s MCP50 will include Hours of Service, Critical Event Reporting and other applications and is scheduled for availability this fall.Qualcomm’s MCP50 will include Hours of Service, Critical Event Reporting and other applications and is scheduled for availability this fall.

Qualcomm Inc. – a provider of integrated wireless systems, applications and services to transportation and logistics companies – announced the Mobile Computing Platform 50 (MCP50) designed to deliver its applications and help transportation companies manage fleet safety and regulatory compliance proactively and cost-effectively. The MCP50 will include Hours of Service, Critical Event Reporting and other applications and is scheduled for availability this fall. Qualcomm also announced a collaboration with ALK Technologies to make ALK’s CoPilot Truck onboard truck-specific GPS navigation solution available on the MCP50 and other Qualcomm platforms.




PeopleNet to offer driver/vehicle workflows

PeopleNet, a provider of Internet-based and integrated onboard computing and mobile communications systems, is offering new real-time paperless driver/vehicle management workflows designed to automate driver performance, violation management, DVIRs (driver vehicle inspection reports) and Compliance Safety Accountability management.

EBE developed these workflows on its SHIPS platform using PeopleNet data that integrates with third-party systems. By offering workflow solutions, PeopleNet fills a key gap in its product portfolio, as its carrier customers no longer will have to look for workflow applications from other transportation management and compliance software providers, says Ron Konezny, chief executive officer.