Bridging the digital divide

New technology is helping to shape the way food is handled and distributed. Becca Wilkins gets behind the physics

Fleet managers in the meat industry are having to grapple with new legislation introduced earlier this year while preparing for further regulation looming on the horizon. The biggest challenge they face is installing digital tachographs which must be fitted in all vehicles bought after 1 May this year, but this is proving a challenge after years of using analogue systems.

Jeff Dossetter, of the Freight Transport Association (FTA), says there are four or five issues that will affect transportation and distribution over the next few years, including more stringent driver training regulations in 2009, which could see drivers forced to take additional vehicle training to stay qualified. But, he says, by far the introduction and implementation of digital tachographs is proving the thorniest so far, particularly for fleet operators who want to run both systems at the same time.

"We have already seen that this is a problem for fleet operators who want to run both digital and analogue systems. This is simply delaying the inevitable - all new vehicles have to have digital tachographs and all fleets have to renew their vehicles at some stage.

"The drivers and back-office managers all have to learn the technology of the new digital system."

A number of seminars offering guidance to operators about how best to cope with new legislation are being hosted by the FTA.

The seminars provide information on imminent changes to enforcement strategy, employment law, vehicle emissions, national road pricing, taxation and fuel duty, Dossetter claims. Meanwhile, technological advances in the manufacture of temperature-controlled vehicles, are making it easier for companies to comply with EC regulations relating to the transportation of food in refrigerated vehicles.


Carrier Transicold, which supplies the UK with trailer and multi-temperature trailer systems, says sales of direct drive systems from Carrier Advantage has now reached record-breaking levels.

Andy Jarvis, sales and marketing director at Carrier Transicold, says it is increasingly the case that the people carrying the products are being driven by legislation.

"Manufacturing our products is also affected by law. We have got to give them (the drivers) the ability to work within the legislation that they have to work to." Given this, the systems provide more accurate temperature controls. Jarvis says food distribution is one of the most demanding to compete in but says, more or less, all the UK supermarket groups chose Carrier as their preferred supplier of refrigeration systems for trailers.

And this is not all it does. Carrier also supplies diesel overcabs and direct drive temperature controlled systems which use Supra and Xarios systems.

The latest arrival has been the Xarios 600, designed for the transportation of fresh and frozen goods in large sized delivery vehicles. This system is available as a true multi-temperature system with remote evaporators.

In line with the growing trend for customers to specify systems with contract maintenance support when buying new systems Xarios 600, as with all Carrier Transicold systems, is available with a Golden Cold contract maintenance programme.

Jarvis says: "With Carrier Transicold, customers deal directly with the manufacturer, which we believe is the most efficient route to market. There are no intermediaries, no agents, and no distributors' in our selling chain.

"Our bodybuilder, rental and key account customers all benefit from a direct relationship with ourselves, the manufacturer, so speeding up the whole process."


GRP Leeds is one of the longest established specialist refrigerated van conversion companies in the UK, having been involved in the temperature controlled transport industry for over 33 years.

"There is no such thing as a standard panel van conversion," says GRP sales director Ian Lang. "Customers tend to have different requirements. Some may want a side loading door to remain in operation, another will want shelving, or some other form of load restraint.

"And, of course, there are very different temperature requirements - ambient, chilled, frozen or a combination of all three."

A recent conversion for the company involved a contract for 'The Ginger Pig'. Its two London based retail outlets use an Iveco 65C17 refrigerated panel van for transporting meat from its farm on the North Yorkshire Moors to its shops. This vehicle uses a GAH Super Rapier refrigeration system and was specially commissioned with a T-section meat rail system.


Hubbard Transport Refrigeration is a true heavyweight performer in the sector and its latest unit, the grandly named 520 Alpha, is designed for vehicles up to 10t, and is suitable for both single and multi-temperature delivery vehicles, according to sales director, Roland Gibson.

The 520 uses the latest refrigeration design and technology to deliver superior reliability and control.

The 520's high capacity refrigeration system offers safe storage and fast pull down times, described by Gibson as a vital factor in the growing multi-drop, multi-temperature grocery delivery sector. It has a capacity of up to 28m3 at -20°C, or up to 36m3 cubic metres at 0°C, in external temperatures up to 30°C.

The refrigerated compartment uses Hubbard's slim line Series 20 'Clean-Line' evaporator, which uses the latest technology to generate a highly efficient airflow pattern, with no swirls or hot/cool spots, ensuring optimum temperature throughout the whole cabinet.

The driver-friendly, in-cab, digital controller provides a constant temperature readout. Both single and dual-temperature versions have automatic defrost, but manual defrost is just a button-press away.

With the launch of its Large Direct Drive refrigeration system, the 720 Alpha - the company's largest Alpha unit and the first for the 10t to 15t (and over) mid-truck market - the company has ventured into a new area. Designed for the transport of chilled and frozen goods, down to -25°C, it is aimed at a wide range of markets, from long haul to the rapidly developing grocery delivery sector.

Gibson says: "Our direct-drive expertise gives the 720 Alpha its heavy duty, high performance and its low cost. The capital cost is considerably less than the equivalent diesel-powered fridge and running costs are way lower - there's no additional engine to service, so none of the extra costs associated with conventional diesel powered self-contained systems."


Formerly GRP Westbury, Trumac is another well established player in the sector, manufacturing refrigerated box bodies for commercial vehicles from 3.5t up to 26t. Under the Polar banner, Trumac has established a division manufacturing refrigerated panel van conversions, covering both single and multi-temperature applications for ambient, chilled or frozen goods.

Jarvis MacDonald, managing director at Trumac, says: "Polar works with all the major refrigeration manufacturers to offer the very latest in refrigeration technology for commercial vehicles. Investing in a Polar refrigerated conversion is part of a long-term relationship with us over the full life of that conversion."


Vehicle tracking, trailer tracking, and temperature monitoring systems are expanding at Seven Eye.

There are several new products on the horizon since the company acquired Worthing based manufacturer of the TranScan range of temperature recording devices, Cold Chain Instruments (CCI) .

The new TranScan Solo, a concept temperature recorder, will 'revolutionise the refrigerated panel van and small truck market', the manufacturer says. With a fast thermal printer and simple installation, the Solo is the company's newest addition to the range, specifically aimed at the smaller refrigerated vehicle.

Designed for installation on any vertical surface or bulkhead within the cab, the quick release mounting bracket provides a simple and secure method of location. Installation of the temperature probes and on/off input sensors can be undertaken without having to remove the recorder module from its housing, and the 'plug and play' push fit connectors enable the sensors to be connected as required without the need for complex programming or setting up recorder parameters.

In fact, the Solo can be programmed using a simple web-based application to provide customised printouts including a corporate logo.

Certification of refrigerated vehicle temperature recorders is essential to ensure compliance with the requirements of Directives 92/1/EEC, which is enacted in the UK via the Quick Frozen Foodstuffs (Amendment) Regulations, and 93/43/EEC Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), which through the provisions of the Food Safety Act and Food Hygiene (Amendment) Regulations imposes the task of being able to demonstrate due diligence. Distributors of chilled and frozen foods are required to maintain the foods they handle at specific temperatures. A spokesman for TranScan says, if there is a temperature related problem, it is most unlikely that due diligence will be proved unless adequate records, which ensure compliance with the temperature requirements, have been maintained.

TranScan 2 recorders have been type-tested and approved against the new EN 12830 norm for vehicle temperature recording systems and are certified as Class 1 devices. This is the highest classification of performance that can be awarded. Additionally TranScan 2 recorders have met the requirements of the German interpretation of the EEC directive 92/1/EWG and have received certification by the German Test House TUV Bau-und Betriebstechnik.


Meanwhile, Seven Eye has developed a system for use within refrigerated vans, trucks, trailers and even portable cold stores. The system has up to seven temperature sensors, five switches and three relays allowing the temperature recorder to be controlled remotely. It provides securely accessible web-based historical records, allowing operators to supply proof of temperature integrity throughout a delivery.

Seven Eye's 'Cool Track' registers temperature fluctuations as they occur, sending alarms, when temperatures change outside predetermined parameters, allowing immediate corrective procedures to be taken.


There are an array of vans on the market that can be converted into refrigeration systems for the distribution of meat.


Isuzu's N-Series of lightweight trucks, not only benefits from a brand new cab styling, but also features the automaker's new Easyshift transmission, a manual gearbox that thinks it is an automatic.

Easyshift comes as standard on both the Isuzu NQR 7.5t and NQR 6.2t chassis cab models, although a conventional six-speed manual gearbox remains an option.

"Isuzu is the first manufacturer in Europe to launch an automated manual gearbox as standard within its truck range. Based on extensive trials elsewhere in the world, the introduction of Isuzu's Easyshift transmission has gone down extremely well with UK operators as it is a proven added feature, with attractive driver and operator benefits alike," says Keith Child, marketing director at Isuzu.


A market trader's truck, with an extra-long counter area, has been developed by UK bodybuilder, Bespoke Bodies, based on an Isuzu NPR 6.2T GVW chassis. The truck achieves the feat through the use of a special 'low profile' refrigeration unit, located along the back wall of the serving area. Incorporating sliding doors, the unit releases space that would otherwise be occupied by a conventional larder-type fridge. The result is an extra long counter area running the length of the body.

Craig Boardie, manager with the truck's operator, Rhyl-based Anglo-Welsh Meats, says: "We've been extremely pleased with the configuration as it gives us both a bigger serving area and better display. It's certainly attracted a lot of interest from other market traders."


Toyota's latest generation of Hiace vans offer a business-friendly combination of reliability, practicality and adaptability with competitive purchase and running costs.

Toyota has introduced six new versions including new entry-level 280, 300 and premium GS-Xtra grade. Hiace is powered by strong-performing 88 and 102bhp 2.5-litre D-4D common rail turbo diesel engines.

The Hiace is offered with two versions of Toyota's 2.5-litre

D-4D engine. Using direct injection, common rail diesel technology, these provide a strong combination of performance and economy.

As well as generous fuel economy and robust load-lugging characteristics, the Hiace is engineered for quiet operation, instant starting and low exhaust emissions. Key components have been designed for increased durability, further contributing to the Hiace's low cost of ownership profile.

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