Technology helps Gulf refrigerated transport industry stay cool

Damage to perishable cargo can be prevented by using telematics systems in refrigerated transport, experts say

PHOTO: Customers in the Middle East are now recognising the benefits of telematics systems in refrigerated transport, industry professionals say. Credit: Shutterstock

Fleet-management systems known as ‘telematics’ are gaining popularity in the Gulf for refrigerated-transport applications, as they can help operators boost efficiency and minimise cargo damage, experts say.

According to a United Nations study, a third of perishables is lost or wasted globally, amounting to 1.3 billion tonnes per year. As the UAE imports 90% of its food, a high level of supply chain safety is crucial to protect perishable cargo in harsh weather conditions characteristic of the region.

Telematics systems can help bridge the gap by ensuring that temperature-sensitive cargo, such as food products or pharmaceuticals, are distributed safely and efficiently, industry professionals say.

Customers in the Middle East are now recognising the benefits of technology in refrigerated transport, said Paul McGarrigle, area manager for Middle East & Africa at Thermo King, a manufacturer of transport temperature-control systems. Thermo King is seeing increased uptake for its fleet management systems as a result, he said.

“There is quite a bit of demand. It has taken off in the Middle East I would say in the last maybe four to five years, where we’ve seen increased awareness about solutions in the market,” he told MEConstructionNews.com.

Thermo King’s telematics offering range from simple systems to more complex options, helping customers ensure their cargo is safely transported at a set temperature throughout, McGarrigle said.

The more advanced systems offer a host of different features, he added. For instance, some systems enable fleet operators to program door locks on vehicles not to open before a truck or trailer enters a particular area.

When asked if there is a demand in the region for more sophisticated systems, McGarrigle pointed out that it depends on the industry, with pharmaceutical companies showing interest in advanced systems due to the valuable nature of their cargo.

Brent Melvin, general manager of supply chain solutions at Abu Dhabi-based Massar Solutions, echoed McGarrigle’s comments on the growing demand for telematics systems, adding that his firm is also turning to technology to boost efficiency in cold chain operations.

“We spend a lot of time and money on telematics,” Melvin said, noting that the use of telematics systems for Massar Solutions is two-fold: to help ensure that cold chain integrity is protected, and to gather operational data on the vehicles.

Driver behaviour can also be monitored via fleet management systems, giving operators data on undesirable practices such as harsh braking and acceleration, and high idle time, Melvin said.

“We’re also interested in driver behaviour from the point of view of efficiency, for instance, getting to the right number of customers on time as per the client’s requirements. So we use telematics to build up a huge amount of data on every vehicle every day,” Melvin said.

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