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Managing trucks carrying cold produce

Truck fleets have been tracked with GPS systems for a while. And trucks carrying cold or frozen food contain devices monitoring temperature for a long time. But there was no integration of these two applications. Now, European companies in Ireland and Spain are using an integrated solution for managing produce transport fleets.

Truck fleets have been tracked with GPS systems for a while. And trucks carrying cold or frozen food contain devices monitoring temperature for a long time. But there was no integration of these two applications. Moreover, they were not combined with work-order management. Now, European companies in Ireland and Spain are using an integrated solution for managing produce transport fleets. So far, this integrated fleet-management system is used by about 800 trucks. And if this is an efficient way to manage trucks, even the creators call it 'a big-brother style solution.' But read more...

Here is how the software developed for the Cold-Trace project works according to IST Results.

Where in the past fleet managers have relied on calling drivers to find out where they are or to check if a pick-up or drop-off went ok, the Cold-Trace system gives them the information for the whole fleet on a PC screen. A 'black box' in each truck is connected to a server in the fleet manager’s office via a GPRS connection, while each driver has a standard PDA. GPS location data and information from sensors placed around the vehicle are all fed into the black box, and from there fed back to fleet headquarters.

Below is a diagram showing the Cold-Trace components and architecture (Credit: Cold-Trace project). This figure has been extracted from this ColdRoad project description written by the Fraunhofer's Integrated Publication and Information Systems Institute (IPSI) in Darmstadt, Germany (PDF format, 1 page, 579 KB).

The Cold-Trace components and architecture

Obviously, the promoters of this program claim that it will bring significant cost savings.

"In terms of the economic savings, we estimate that remote-controlled pre-cooling would save companies over two thousand euros per driver per year, roughly six percent of labour costs, or result in an equivalent increase in productivity," [says Yolanda Ursa, the manager of the Cold-Trace project at INMARK in Spain.]
Other cost and time-saving benefits of the system have also been quantified by the project team. For example, the validation trials indicated that companies could save as much as 1,600 euros per truck per year, just by using the system to optimise routes and cargo and thus lessen the amount of time the truck is on the road empty.

And of course, drivers will not have to use their cell phones to call their company to tell them where they are.

"It really is a big-brother style solution," Ursa says. "Fleet managers know where all their trucks are at all times, if the driver has stopped, if there have been any accidents and if the goods are at the right temperature."

For more information about this project and its future applications, the business case "Cold-Trace: a Mobile-based Traceability Solution Rendering Fleet Management more Effective" (PDF format, 8 pages, 277 KB) was presented at the e-Challenges Conference, held in Barcelona in October 2006.

So will this integrated solution be deployed elsewhere in Europe and in other places? Or will truck drivers refuse such a system? Time will tell.

Sources: IST Results, November 13, 2006; and various websites

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