Perishable goods are problematic to transport over long distances. They need to be kept under specific temperature and humidity conditions at all times, and their short shelf-lives mean that their value reduces over time, even if they are handled correctly throughout the supply chain. The main priority for any manager responsible for this process is ensuring the integrity of temperature-sensitive products. Operating a fleet of vehicles is challenging enough on its own, but shipping cargo of a delicate nature can turn it into a logistical nightmare. Field managers have to be meticulous throughout the delivery process to ensure the safety of perishable goods and that every shipment arrives in perfect condition.
Fleet management systems are by far one of the most reliable solutions on the market to safely transport all types of delicate and perishable goods. These sophisticated systems integrate GPS tracking devices with IoT-enabled sensors, offering around-the-clock remote temperature and humidity monitoring. Let’s take a quick look at some of the challenges associated with transporting perishable goods and the tools offered by fleet management systems to overcome them.
What are perishable goods?
To avoid needless mistakes when planning a delivery, it’s important to first distinguish which products are perishable. Most packaged foods and products come with guidelines on how they should be stored, and it’s always worth checking that your transportation or delivery conditions meet these. Perishable goods are foodstuffs and other products that have short shelf-lives and tend to spoil, decay or deteriorate unless kept under specific temperature and humidity conditions. For example, food products such as meat, dairy, poultry, fish, vegetables, fruit and pre-cooked foods must be kept at low temperatures, otherwise, mould or harmful bacteria can develop. As well as harming the odour, taste and/or visual appeal of the food product, bacterial growth and decay eventually make it unsafe to eat. Other perishable goods include certain chemicals, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and even flowers. These products are susceptible to severe deterioration during transportation due to their delicate or volatile nature.
Things to know when transporting perishable products
When transporting perishable goods, it’s essential to ensure the shipping conditions are correct. A simple oversight could spoil the entire shipment, which is both financially painful and a source of excessive downtime. Maintaining the correct temperature during transportation is by far the biggest factor in retaining the quality of perishable goods until delivery. However, monitoring the temperature of a cargo hold is challenging. For decades, companies only had rudimentary methods to monitor cargo, such as manual inspection by the driver at each delivery or even mid-delivery for long-haul trips. Naturally, this caused undue downtime but was considered necessary to avoid the all-too-familiar disaster of a shipment arriving in a completely ruined state.
Integrated temperature and humidity monitoring
Fortunately for the companies and drivers transporting perishable goods, modern GPS tracking devices can be integrated with advanced sensors to monitor the condition of commercial vehicles and their cargo holds. This means they can do much more than just track location; they can also accurately measure and track the temperature and humidity levels in the cargo hold around the clock. This information is sent to a remote server that can be accessed on-demand, offering full awareness of the condition of transported goods. Field managers can set up event alerts with pre-determined temperature and humidity limits, which will trigger an automated warning to the vehicle’s driver and responsible supervisor if surpassed. What’s more, the system will send an alert if it detects abnormalities such as fluctuating temperature or humidity levels, which can indicate a malfunction.
Role of GPS tracking devices
So, what makes GPS tracking devices better than alternative solutions on the market for remote temperature monitoring? One reason is that vehicle tracking systems can be used with any type of vehicle or trailer, as both portable and hardwired tracking devices can be integrated with IoT-enabled sensors. However, the key reason is that real-time and accurate monitoring of the condition and location of vehicles in a fleet has been proven to significantly optimise fleet operations, leading to reduced downtime and reduced paperwork.
Ensuring that each shipment arrives on time and in excellent condition can seem like an impossible task for fleets with hundreds or thousands of vehicles, but sophisticated fleet management systems simplify the entire process. The sensors integrated into the tracking devices allow field managers to ensure that the cargo hold of every vehicle in the fleet is optimised for the delicate cargo inside. Changes in temperature, engine ignition, start/stop locations and many other factors that could affect the condition of the goods in the cargo hold can be recorded, viewed and analysed, helping managers make informed decisions for future deliveries and improve business operations even further.
When there’s a problem with a vehicle, identifying the problem is the first step. The vehicle tracking device will send an automated warning by an instant alert if the cargo hold conditions change unexpectedly or the vehicle breaks down. If the issue can’t be rectified, the cargo may have to be transferred to another truck to ensure its integrity. In such situations, having accurate location data to hand is invaluable; the manager can instantly locate the malfunctioning vehicle, as well as any vehicles nearby, and contact each driver remotely to update them with new instructions and destinations, saving a considerable amount of downtime.
Another important aspect of delivering perishable products is the increasing demand from customers for proof-of-service, which entails a specific set of information such as temperature and humidity levels throughout transportation. Fleet management systems provide accurate and up-to-date information about the condition of the products, and can produce reports and delivery logs automatically, leaving drivers and managers with the precious extra time that was once spent on paperwork.
Products ranging from vegetables to vaccines all need to be monitored and shipped in controlled environments; that is why the introduction of vehicle tracking devices, IoT-enabled sensors and fleet management systems has been revolutionary for their transportation. Since companies started using these advanced systems, perishable goods have become safer to consume and use without worrying about health concerns. Fleet management systems are essential for any company that transports delicate or perishable goods and wants higher quality deliveries and optimised fleet operations with less downtime and paperwork.
Ekim Saribardak, Rewire Security