The major focus now is tracking the temperature of the trailers, according to Lancer's Behrmann. The new units have a tracking device that enable operators to track temperature of the trailer by the hour, by the day, whatever time that unit was running. The most sophisticated trailers now have a GPS system on them that can track location at any time.
"The other trend has been what we call ‘temp tails' where shippers now are putting temperature recorders inside boxes" he says. "A distributor like us can't even see them. When we deliver the product, the customer can open the boxes and they can find the temp tail in there. It will tell them what temperature this product's been held at for the last 24, 48 hours, whatever it's been.
"Years ago, if you had a unit go down and the product got warm, there was no way of ever finding it out," he went on to say. "Nowadays, almost everyone checks temperatures on receiving. They didn't before."
Behrmann tells the story of receiving loads of carcass beef years ago from Kansas or Nebraska. It was obvious that some of the cargo had gotten warm, but there was no proof since the units were running correctly. With temperature controllers, these instances of temperature fluctuation can be proven.
"The other thing is that the units today are more sophisticated and a lot more reliable," he says. "We hardly ever have a unit go down."
Carrier Transicold's Aguerrevere agrees, saying, "There's much more intelligence built into the system today in order to run the best conditions to ensure product safety while minimizing operating costs."
Concern about the environment as it relates to trailers largely deals with controlling emissions and fluorocarbon discharge into the air. For example, reefers from Carrier and others run on non-ozone depleting refrigerant called R4048.
Meanwhile, Thermo King has introduced new technologies and system enhancements in recent years to address environmental responsibility. Examples include EMI 3000 extended maintenance interval, which reduces the amount of disposable waste products such as used engine oil, filters and engine coolant, with the added advantage of lowering the maintenance costs.
Another example of environmental responsibility is the availability of electric standby systems for its truck and trailer refrigeration units. Electronic standby allows the operation of refrigeration units on electric power and eliminates all diesel emissions when units are stationary, such as during loading at distribution centers. Operators have the option to operate on either electric or diesel power to minimize emissions, lower operating costs, and reduce noise.
Maintaining proper temperature of perishables in transit is closely related nowadays to concern about terrorism through food tampering. There are safety checks built into the equipment as well as safety procedures to be followed.
For example, all of Thermo King refrigeration units can be equipped with door switches that monitor and record all door openings. This can indicate unintended access to food cargo and thwart tampering. Door switches work in conjunction with a feature that records the time and duration of door openings. This feature can also record temperature throughout the truck or trailer to ensure the integrity of food cargo.
"Also, the sealing of trailers now is a lot more prevalent," says Behrmann. "All trailers that leave any shipping location have to have a seal on them, and they have to be received with the seal. If you do receive a trailer with a broken seal, there are laws that say you have to report them and audit them. These shippers will not let you accept them.
"The other bigger thing is on the product being returned or received," he continued. "If any seals are broken, the product is now destroyed. Years ago, they would send it back and rework them. Those days are over with. That's probably a new practice that has come in because of 9/11."