What Is a Cold Chain Monitoring Sytem?

Cold chain monitoring also known as freight temperature tracking is the system of monitoring and controlling the transportation of temperature-sensitive products through the supply chain journey.

To ensure that conditions are monitored and controlled, freight brokers, 3PLs, and shippers will utilize a freight temperature tracking software/solution.

Other freight tech such as reefer trailer units and temperature sensitive devices are used by carriers to maintain product quality, meet transportation management regulations, and provide the data to tracking solutions.

Features of a Temperature Tracking or Cold Chain Monitoring Solution

Consolidated, Real-Time Trailer Data

During transportation of freight, organizations have access to real-time data on load conditions at any time, from any carrier. This data can then be used to make informed business decisions and analyze patterns on the different lane routes, regions, and carriers.

High quality data is key. It gives organizations the details they need to optimize business operations and the confidence to control their freight through automation.

The other advantage is the ability to access this data anywhere. As long as you have an internet connection, you can track temperature monitored shipments using the power of the cloud.

Condition Monitoring & Alerting

Condition monitoring means users have the ability to set up alerting workflows and thresholds based on the reefer trailer conditions. Set the thresholds based on the product and shipment needs to ensure a safe transport and proper delivery.

In cases where trailer temperatures or conditions go above or below a certain threshold, users will receive updates that their freight may be compromised. These updates allow brokers to go and adjust the conditions and/or contact the driver of their load to help protect product quality.

Without alerts, organizations can easily lose thousands of dollars on a temperature sensitive load and incur the costs associated with failing to deliver.

Load Visibility

More than just an alert or monitoring system, cold chain monitoring systems enable location tracking of a shipment. This allows brokers to keep up to date with delivery times and location, eliminating any need for manual check calls to drivers on the road.

Even better, load visibility data can be communicated with customers to potentially adjust delivery windows in the case of delayed shipments.

Real-time visibility is the most sought-after solution to address the transportation management challenges that the industry is currently facing. Utilizing both freight temperature tracking and visibility is a must-have to manage risk by exception.

Reporting and Analytics

After condition monitoring data becomes available, users then have the ability to set up performance reporting and analytics based on all of your carriers. Set date ranges or select specific carriers for valuable insights into how your operations and partners are performing.

Big rig white technological improved long haul semi truck with refrigerated semi trailer for transportation of perishable and frozen food going on the winter road with snowy frost trees on the hill

How Temperature Tracking Benefits Freight Brokers, 3PLs & Shippers

Prevent Product Spoilage

Maintaining product quality is necessary during the transportation process. Delivering customers spoiled or damaged products is harmful to business relationships and costly to broker’s wallets.

Here are just a few examples of products that could spoil:

  • Foods like meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables need to be refrigerated to maintain their freshness.
  • Many medications and vaccinations become ineffective if not maintained below certain freezing points
  • Certain plants and flowers must maintain higher temperatures and humidity to prevent them from dying

Spoiled products mean losses for brokers and a slash to their profit margins. Freight temperature tracking helps mitigate spoilage risk and protect freight brokers from losing out on high value shipments.

Increase Awareness

With real time condition data and load visibility, shippers, 3PLs and brokers will have increased awareness of shipment status. No more guessing or hoping that your load is in good hands.

Utilizing real time data and an alert system keeps organizations up to date and ready to act in when things go wrong.

Follow Regulations

Tracking temperature isn’t just a cost-saving benefit, it’s regulated by the federal government.

Government agencies and administrations will place condition-based regulations on the transportation of certain products to help prevent spoilage and protect consumers. Take for example, food products that aren’t regulated at a consistent temperature can lead to bacteria development and foodborne illnesses for those who consume them.

FDA has implemented the Sanitary Food Transportation Act (SFTA) which states:

“Food may be at risk for physical, chemical, or biological contamination during food transport: Improper refrigeration or temperature control of food products (temperature abuse).”

Similarly, the recent Covid-19 pandemic required cold transport of vaccines implemented by the CDC: “vaccines are to arrive in a thermal shipping container at ultra-cold temperatures between -90°C and -60°C (-130°F and -76°F).”

Utilizing a temperature tracking solution will help brokers follow regulations, prevent costly penalties and fines, and ensure the protection of consumers.

Improve Customer Service

Shipping cold chain cargo and temperature sensitive shipments to customers means value must be placed on maintaining product quality. Doing so will ensure that customers receive orders in good condition. Customers receiving product in poor quality is bad for business relationships.

But more than that, cold chain monitoring and temperature tracking allows for brokers and shipper to communicate with customers. This is key to retaining customers and following through with good business practices.

Freight temperature tracking helps keep organizations up to date with both load location and temperature data/status, letting shippers and brokers relay the information to customers. This helps build trust and improve customer service satisfaction.

Row of transport truck trailers in a yard

What Industries Can Condition/Cold Chain Monitoring Be Used For?

These industries have both requirement and regulations for products to be consistently maintained at certain temperatures which makes them ideal targets for temperature tracking and cold chain cargo solutions.

Food & Beverage

Statistics show that over 1/3rd of human food is wasted. Ensuring the proper tracking of food during transportation can help trend this number in the right direction.

Certain foods and beverages need to be refrigerated 24/7 to maintain their quality and prevent spoilage to and from storage locations.

In July of 2020, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint. The blueprint “regulates and outlines achievable goals to enhance traceability, improve predictive analytics, respond more rapidly to outbreaks, address new business models, reduce contamination of food.”

To follow the safety blueprint as well as laws and regulations, food distributors need to use proper transportation methods, also known as reefer (refrigeration) trucks. The trailers can be set to the proper temperature for food & beverages and aid in compliance efforts all while preventing spoilage.

Medical & Pharmaceutical

Certain medications and drugs must be properly stored and kept at sub-zero temperatures for them to be effective for human consumption. The use of dry ice, special coolers, packaging, and insulated reefer trucks is necessary.

Vaccines, insulin, chemotherapy drugs must be refrigerated to ensure quality assurance. Many of which are life-saving and help keep people alive.

Transporting such sensitive loads mean high quality data and tracking must be used to ensure these drugs reach their destination in mint condition.

Agriculture & Horticulture

Most plants will start to die when temperatures reach below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and some have even greater maintenance levels than that. Transporting a regular trailer full of plants during cold winter months means a great risk of losing everything – including profit margins.

Utilizing the right carrier and trailer to help regulate temperature, humidity, air circulation, and lighting is necessary, especially during long routes.

Descartes MacroPoint’s Reefer Trailer Tracking Solution

Descartes MacroPoint offers advanced temperature tracking capabilities for freight brokers, 3PL’s, and shipper to manage and move challenging temperature-controlled shipments with confidence.

Whether shipments need to be maintained in extreme heat, acute cold, or somewhere in between, Descartes MacroPoint Temperature Tracking Solution helps sustain the correct temperatures and conditions for any load while simultaneously providing real-time load visibility.

Enhance your supply chain data and protect sensitive freight loads.

Sourcing Reefer Trucks with MacroPoint Capacity Sourcing

Through Descartes MacroPoint’s Capacity Sourcing Solution, freight brokers, 3PL’s, and shippers can source specialized freight capacity such as refrigeration/reefer trucks and carriers.

One of the biggest challenges for industries like food & beverage, is the ability to source specialized freight, with most carriers not having the right trucks to match these loads.

Descartes MacroPoint’s solution helps brokers narrow in on cold chain cargo and capacity to help source numerous carriers to help fulfill their shipments.