How exactly do refrigerated carriers implement new technology into their operations to keep food safe? The American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council is funding a study to determine just that–and what the maintenance needs are for these changes.
As food retailers are utilizing new supplier and sensor-based tech options for fleets, regulators have begun voicing worries regarding a variety of food safety concerns. Because of this, the Technology and Maintenance Council’s Fall 2021 meeting saw an announcement by Business Accelerants CEO Paul Menig stating that he would be working on relevant food safety analysis and surveys along with WillGo Transportation Consulting CEO, Charles Willmott.
“Health problems from food continue to be a particularly big problem,” said Menig in his announcement. “[A health problem] might have occurred way back with fecal matter in the field, or during the processing of the food.” Problems can, of course, also occur during the transport process, although it can be difficult to determine when or where exactly a food safety issue took place.
The North America Trailer Rental/Lease Company Survey was initially conducted last year, in which a dozen major trailer leasing and rental companies were asked about their predictions and expectations regarding up-and-coming trailer models and the new technologies that would be implemented onboard many of these vehicles.
Now, The Refrigerated Transport Study, which has just begun its surveying efforts, will likely wrap up in January of 2022 with a report to be released in February. In this new study, various additional surveys and interviews regarding refrigerated good transport will be conducted while transportation organizations will offer insight into the current reality of supply chains. According to Menig, other industry professionals may be joining in these survey efforts by conducting presentations or online webinars, as well.
In regards to food supplier accountability, Walmart has announced that it would be launching a program called the “Supplier Quality Excellence Program,” which will focus on supplier actions and order accuracy. The program’s fourth phase will look into the “handling and transportation” of food supply “so we know what they are doing is going to come and impact us,” Menig explained. These impacts will likely come in the form of changes related to packaging, load segregation, and pallets themselves.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration is already working to set forth new additional traceability record-keeping regulations for those involved with the processing, packing, holding, or manufacturing of foods as part of its Food Traceability List. These requirements will be added to the already-existing regulations in place for inclusion on this list.
The FDA added that this potential regulation addition, deemed the “Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods” will play a major role in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint within the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.
For new technology being implemented into these trailers, around 65% of reefer trailers available at leasing and rental companies are already equipped with telematics capabilities, according to Menig. He added that by boosting refrigerated transport-focused conversations in the industry, “we will see more of a need for a willingness among [food transporters] to be the early adopters for technologies for smart trailers,” such as tire pressure management systems, electronic door locks, trailer location tracking devices, and remote cargo temperature monitoring capabilities.
Of course, “all of these things have implications for maintenance, too,” explained TMC’s technical director, Jack Legler. “It’s not only what the technology can do, but you have to be able to handle the data. The minimum for tractor-trailer communication 10 years from now is going to be 1,000 base T.”
1,000 Base T, or the IEEE 802.ab standard, is a Gigabit Ethernet standard for transmitting large amounts of information at once.
“It’s not simply going to be fixing a wire,” added Legler. “You will have to be a data diagnostician to go along with being a highly-skilled electrical technician. You will have to understand what the data is that is going through that wire you are repairing.”
In addition to these kinds of technology upgrades that will bring sweeping changes across the refrigerated transport sector, low-emission standards will affect these vehicles as well. For example, TRUs sold or operated in the state of California will be subject to zero-emission requirements by the end of 2029.