September 28, 2020

Food Safety in Transport Refrigeration

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The significance of food safety

During this challenging time, safely transporting refrigerated essentials such as food, medicine, and blood plasma is a priority.

Take action to mitigate risk in your cold chain by adopting the following standard operating procedures (SOPs). If temperature-sensitive cargo is improperly handled, there is risk of temperature excursions, which can negatively affect public health, reduce product shelf life, or lead to rejected loads. These situations can increase your operating costs and negatively impact your reputation within the industry.

Maintain precise temperature control

Ensure your trailer is optimized to maintain the desired temperature. There are various configurations that improve airflow within the trailer and can help the trailer refrigeration unit work as efficiently as possible to maintain tight temperature control.

Air chute

Airflow throughout a trailer is key to ensuring that the entire trailer is at the desired set point and reducing the risk of hot spots, especially around temperature-sensitive cargo.

With the use of an air chute down the top of your trailer, cold air is funneled to the back of the trailer before it cycles through back toward the front, which reduces risk of short cycling.

OptiSet Plus

Featured in both the single-temperature and multi-temperature Thermo King truck and trailer units, OptiSet Plus ensures that temperatures are optimized and personalized with pre-set profiles for your cargo.

OptiSet Plus has over 500 cargo profiles available to ensure your refrigeration unit delivers what you expect. Trip after trip, you can be confident that temperature set points and ranges are locked into best match your needs while resulting in fewer shipper and driver errors, and improving the efficiency of your reefer unit.

Door switches

It’s best practice to turn off the trailer before the doors are opened and cargo is loaded. If the doors are open and the unit is running, hot air is pulled into the trailer.

In food distribution with multiple stops throughout the day, drivers may forget to turn off the unit before the cargo is unloaded, which will increase the overall trailer temperature.

With door switches, the unit can be configured to turn the unit off when doors are opened. This process will automatically protect the integrity of your cargo until the last skid is unloaded.

Maximize logistics traceability

If you know immediately when a problem occurs, you can gain the visibility needed to initiate an effective response. This will ensure that your fleet is kept up and running.


TracKing, a 4G LTE temperature and asset management system offered by Thermo King. This technology delivers real-time and historical temperature data alongside fleet information – all to help you increase fleet efficiency and reduce the potential for cargo loss.

With TracKing’s reporting features, easily share your trip status from pick up to delivery for transparency to your end customer as well as for regulatory compliance records.

Independent sensors

Independent sensors are ideal for providing a separate data point on the temperature within the trailer. The main two sensors are on the refrigeration unit - the return air sensor and the discharge air sensor. With increasing regulations, there is a need for independent sensors to confirm the accuracy of the host unit as a risk mitigation measure to protect against instances of unit sensor errors.

Achieve quality assurance 

Take simple steps to achieve quality assurance by doing the following:

  1. Integrate load practices into your SOPs.
  2. Work with your transporter to review their trailer and how it is optimized for tight temperature control. Does it have air chutes, door switches, sensors, etc. and is it reliable?
  3. Validate the various levels of visibility set up to reduce risk and catch problems before they occur such as TK Notify and status lights.

TK Notify

Set alerts for your cargo so you are immediately notified of any event. Is a door open? Was there a change of set point? Was there a shutdown alarm or increase in temperature? With TK Notify, provided by Thermo King, you’ll know exactly what’s happening inside the trailer and can contact the driver immediately. You can even set up an escalation process if an event continues to occur with no action taken to change the status.

Status lights

With status lights, your driver will have a visual reminder of the set points within the trailer, the refrigeration unit fuel levels, and any alarms occurring on the unit. With real-time feedback, the driver won’t need to exit the tractor to verify immediate condition changes. This redundancy measure, paired with monitoring via TracKing, will reduce risk.

Checklists and tips

Loading and delivery checklists and tips for proper airflow to ensure even greater protection for your cargo, can be found on the Thermo King website.

A strong partner

Thermo King is a dedicated business partner who offers a wide variety of products and services that can help you deliver peace of mind to your customers by ensuring temperature-sensitive goods make it to their destinations safely. Learn more at