Protecting perishable loads by remote control

Feb. 1, 2002
Although freight rates don't always reflect reality, hauling perishables is a harder job for carriers and their drivers than handling dry freight. Refrigerated

Although freight rates don't always reflect reality, hauling perishables is a harder job for carriers and their drivers than handling dry freight. Refrigerated trailers and refrigeration units cost more than dry vans; drivers are asked to do more; and the price of a service failure is much higher as evidenced by the cost of cargo claims.

Not only are drivers asked to meet extremely tight delivery schedules, they must monitor the load in transit to ensure proper load condition at delivery. Such load babysitting adds stress to the driver's job and reduces the amount of rest available. An obvious solution would be to ask drivers to drive and let others monitor the load. The Internet provides that opportunity, and several software companies have systems that allow load tracking and monitoring from a distance.

One such application is AirIQ, a service launched in Canada in 2001 to protect loads in refrigerated and heated trailers. It is a web-enabled system for tracking, monitoring, and managing trailers and loads in transit. The system provides a single-source monitoring and management tool for fleet managers, says Don Simmonds, AirIQ president and CEO.

Originally designed for management of tractors, straight trucks, and van trailers, the system has been expanded to monitor refrigerated and heated trailers. It uses on-board computing, the global positioning system, digital maps, and wireless communication to provide information and control of fleets.

In addition to vehicle tracking, including untethered trailers, AirIQ for refrigerated trailers offers a unit fault alert to report refrigeration unit faults just as soon as they are detected by the unit's microprocessor control system. Knowing that a unit is malfunctioning allows a fleet manager to take immediate action to secure the value of a perishable or frozen load.

The ability to take action quickly helps preserve the value of refrigerated trailers and perishable or frozen loads. Although expensive, refrigerated trailers represent only 15% of the North American highway trailer fleet. An insulated van with refrigeration unit costs almost three times as much as an average dry van. The cost differential between heated trailers and dry vans is roughly two-to-one.

“Avoiding the cost and operational difficulties resulting from spoiled goods is a tremendous value for any carrier or distributor, not to mention the value of always knowing where assets are located,” says Miguel Gonsalves, Vice President of AirIQ's Commercial Transport Division. “Refrigerated and heated trailers carry perishable, temperature-sensitive goods that are often of higher value and at greater risk than those hauled in dry vans. Our product allows our clients to deliver quality goods consistently.”

Three major Canadian carriers — Canada Cartage, Beacon Transit Lines, and Cam-Scott Transport — already use AirIQ to manage tractors, straight-trucks, and dry vans. These carriers now are equipping their heated and refrigerated fleets with AirIQ. With this system, fleets can protect cargo by acting immediately to remedy refrigeration unit faults, locate vehicles remotely, maintain a constant fleet inventory, track loads in real time, provide accurate arrival estimates to receivers, locate lost or stolen equipment and disable stolen vehicles remotely, check driver reports against tracking data, check on highway speeds and border crossings to reduce the impact of driver or dispatch errors, maintain a complete management report at the beginning and end of every dispatcher work shift, and provide information for accident reconstruction.

The hardware is built for a highway environment and can withstand extreme temperature, constant vibration, and harsh weather such as rain, snow, ice, or dust storms.

AirIQ is based in Pickering, Ontario, near Toronto. It was formed in 1997 as a partnership of Bell Mobility, Lenbrook Inc and Veridian Corporation. For more information, visit AirIQ at www.airiq.com.

About the Author

Gary Macklin

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