Refrigerated trucks need extra care and attention. Unlike normal fleet trucks, reefer trucks carry temperature-sensitive cargo that must always remain in their preset temperature range. If a cold storage system shuts down, or temperature levels get too warm, it can ruin the entire shipment and put you in bad standing with your client (not to mention losing thousands of dollars’ worth of product).
How can these issues be prevented? With GPS tracking, you can monitor the conditions of your refrigerated trucks from your fleet tracking software and be alerted to problems as they occur, so you can handle them quickly and efficiently to keep operations running smoothly.
So, what are some of the most useful tracking features for refrigerated truck fleets?
Refrigerated trucks are set to specific temperatures to ensure that their temperature-sensitive cargo remains at the appropriate temperature for the duration of the trip. If colder shipments become too warm, products can become spoiled or damaged — costing your business potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in ruined product.
When you integrate a temperature sensor with the GPS tracking device and the reefer truck’s temperature tracking system, you can remotely track the temperature of your sensitive shipments at all times. You can monitor temperature changes and know when and why any changes occurred; then, you can communicate these fluctuations with your fleet drivers so they can check if there are issues with the refrigerated truck’s cold storage system.
Manual temperature tracking reports leave too many chances for human error. With automated temperature logs, you eliminate that risk and will receive impartial temperature reports sent directly to your fleet tracking software—providing you and your client with a point-by-point account of your reefer unit data and other general reefer truck diagnostics, such as:
- Humidity levels,
- Defrost cycles,
- Power fluctuations, and
- The opening and closing of cargo doors.
Cold Storage System Failure Alerts
The worst thing that can happen to a refrigerated truck is having its entire cold storage system fail. This puts your perishable and other temperature-sensitive cargo at risk for being ruined or spoiled. However, the bigger issue comes from the drivers not knowing if there is a problem with the cold storage system. Unless they are constantly pulling over at rest stops to manually check the refrigeration unit, it can be hours before the driver becomes aware of the breakdown.
With some specialized GPS tracking devices, you can monitor the refrigerated container’s temperature levels in real time from your fleet tracking software. Plus, you can set custom alerts that will notify you via text or email to any temperature fluctuations or maintenance issues your refrigerated truck may be experiencing. Then, you can contact the driver to immediately check the issue before your temperature-sensitive cargo is negatively affected.
Maintenance Schedule Tracking
Keeping refrigerated trucks in top shape is important to ensuring your fleet operations are running efficiently and maximizing productivity. What can affect this the most is following proper preventative maintenance strategies. Vehicle breakdowns and equipment failures caused by a lack of maintenance increase downtime (and fleet costs) due to untimely repairs and expensive part replacements.
GPS tracking helps eliminate these issues by tracking the refrigerated truck’s diagnostic performance and alerting you to any maintenance issues so you can fix them before they become more serious. You can also monitor which trucks need certain maintenance to better schedule repair services — reducing downtime and maintenance costs. Plus, as mentioned before, if the cold storage system in your refrigerated truck fails, you can immediately notify the driver to pull over and check the refrigerated container so temperature-sensitive cargo isn’t severely impacted from becoming too warm.
Geofencing by Corridor (a.k.a. Route Boundaries)
Delays in shipment can be disastrous for perishable products. When drivers go off-route without cause, it can easily lead to them getting lost on backroads and getting delayed.
Geofencing by corridor is a fleet tracking feature that allows companies to set a defined boundary along a path in which their vehicles operate. If a vehicle leaves that area, an alert is immediately generated and sent via e-mail or text message. This feature is often used to keep drivers on-task.
Location Tracking GPS
The most common use of any fleet tracking system is to monitor the current location of any and all assets in the field.
However, the location tracking feature of a fleet management system can do more than just put dots on a map. Transportation companies often use location tracking to help improve route planning, generate detours around traffic jams, and even prevent the theft of a refrigerated truck.
These uses help improve the overall efficiency of a vehicle fleet and minimize the risk of loss. For example, if a vehicle is stolen, companies can use the GPS tracking data from the vehicle to alert police to the truck’s current location, increasing the chances of recovering the vehicle and cargo intact.
Road Condition Alerts/Route Optimization
Another key feature of many modern GPS tracking systems is live traffic monitoring. GPS device displays often show drivers live traffic feeds—showing them where major traffic jams are located and, in some cases, where roads are blocked for construction or other hazards. This can help drivers find more efficient routes that save time so perishable goods arrive in peak condition.
In addition to these reports, some GPS systems can provide weather alerts for drivers. Severe weather events, like hurricanes, can be especially dangerous for big commercial-class vehicles since they have a large surface area compared to passenger vehicles. A sudden gust of wind can unbalance a semi-truck’s trailer and even cause it to jackknife, while other drivers stuck in the storm will suffer from reduced visibility that increases the risk of a collision.
With built-in weather alerts, a GPS tracking system can help drivers avoid driving during the worst of a storm—finding the nearest truck stop or shelter.
Driver Performance Monitoring
In addition to tracking road conditions, it’s also important to closely analyze driver performance to identify risky behaviors that may contribute to an accident. Aggressive and unsafe driving habits will increase the likelihood of the driver getting into an accident, which puts the reputation of your business in jeopardy.
When you install a GPS tracking device into a reefer truck’s onboard diagnostic system, you can view reports tracking the driving habits of your fleet drivers and look at driving factors such as:
- Hard braking;
- Rapid acceleration;
- Excessive idling; and
- Driver turning habits.
Monitoring for unsafe or wasteful driving behaviors can help you keep your drivers operating safely and efficiently. By identifying bad behaviors early, you can provide the training your drivers need (hopefully before these habits lead to an accident).
The Benefits of Monitoring Refrigerated Container Temperatures with Rastrac
Rastrac offers numerous benefits for reefer truck fleets. A few of the most basic ones include:
Track All Assets, Regardless of Size
At Rastrac, we’re proving that big things can come in small packages. RastracGo, our portable fleet and asset tracking solution, is small and light enough to fit just about anywhere, including your wallet. Because it connects with your existing Rastrac live tracking software system, it provides enhanced monitoring capabilities and can detect a number of conditions, including ambient temperature, acceleration, humidity, light, noise, and pressure.
With RastracGo, you can track and monitor the conditions surrounding even your smallest cold storage assets.
Optimize Operations and Labor
Regular monitoring of the temperature conditions of the space in which your products are stored while traveling plays an important role in helping to reduce product loss or spoilage. To do this without a GPS-temperature enabled device, it would require your driver to periodically pull off somewhere, stop the truck, unlock and enter the cargo compartment, read the thermometer, and manually document the temperature — all of which means time lost and therefore decreased efficiency for your overall operations.
By remotely tracking your vehicle temperatures and making the need for drivers to stop to check the temperature unnecessary, it means less HOS time lost and greater distances covered each day by your fleet. This will result in not only happier and more efficient drivers, but also happier customers because there is less of a chance that their products will show up late or compromised.
Want to learn more about how your business can benefit from GPS tracking? Download our refrigerated truck feature sheet, or contact a Rastrac representative for more information about our fleet management solutions for refrigerated transportation.