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SABS thermal test chamber for refrigerated vehicles welcomed by Serco

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The establishment of a test chamber which gives thermal ratings for refrigerated vehicles has been welcomed by leading South African truck and trailer body manufacturer, Serco. Built in Johannesburg and managed by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), the chamber is the first of its kind in the country.

It offers manufacturers the option of sending their refrigerated vehicles for a thermal rating certified by the SABS. Managing Director of Serco, Clinton Holcroft, said the establishment of the chamber was good news for the market place.

“We will definitely send our units there for testing and make our ratings available for customers. “Official thermal ratings have been a mandatory requirement in the industry in Europe for a long time and are something long overdue in our country where the thermal capacity of refrigerated vehicles has not been certified before by a highly respected body such as the SABS,” said Holcroft.

“The new facility in Johannesburg will play a major role in raising the standard of refrigerated trucks and trailers built in South Africa which should help reduce CO2 emissions.’ Holcroft said an improvement in the quality of refrigerated vehicles would also assist in maintaining the effectiveness of the cold chain. Transport played a vital role in maintaining the cold chain, making it possible for goods to have an optimum shelf life."

“Usually there are parameters set and agreed to between the transporter and the customer as to what temperature perishable goods need to be transported at, based on industry norms."

“In the transport industry it’s all about maintaining optimum conditions in the vehicle until the load is delivered to its end destination.” Holcroft says Serco has invested in a new injection polyurethane foaming plant at its factory in Durban which is expected to improve the thermal properties of the insulated panels the company uses for its refrigerated truck bodies and trailers."

“The new panels are already being manufactured and they will set new standards compared to previous.”

Serco, which also has factories in Johannesburg and Cape Town, specialises in building refrigerated truck bodies and trailers using polyurethane foam panels of different thicknesses and reducing thermal bridges to achieve superior insulation. Also on offer is temperature monitoring solutions and load dividers to enable optimum temperatures management in vehicles.

“We offer two main solutions for multi temp vehicles – plug-in partitions or partitions fitted onto a sliding rail system. Our partitions have been rated to ensure the thermal performances are in line with European standards as South Africa do not have official standards currently,” said Holcroft.

Serco manufacturers multi-temp vehicle bodies in which different products can be transported in the same vehicle at varying temperatures, using moveable partitions to separate zones. Customers have the choice of either glass fibre or PVC partitions inside the vehicle.

The moveable partitions make it possible to carry fresh, frozen and dry goods in a single vehicle. The lightweight PVC partitions can be moved manually to adjust the inside space configuration while the heavier glass fibre partitions are moved using an assisted lifting mechanism.

Holcroft says there is a continuing trend to improve control of the cold chain using telematics and remote temperature monitoring systems. Serco’s long standing partnership with telematics company Ikhaya Automation has kept Serco up to speed with the latest innovations. Stringent health laws on food safety made traceability in the cold chain essential.

Added to this, the current challenging economic climate meant transporters and retailers were under increasing pressure to find ways of reducing waste and return as well as to provide accurate data in the event of insurance claims for rejected loads which are out of temperature specification. Holcroft added that recently local standards had been increased whereby pharmaceutical products now had to be transported in insulated vehicles.

This follows trends in Europe whereby temperature monitoring solutions are becoming the norm for perishable goods and pharmaceutical products.

“Having a web-based temperature monitoring system, allows transporters to be able to take immediate action should the temperature vary from the set level. Spins-offs include reduced risk of loss as early detection can assist in resolving problems proactively”.

The system, developed by Ikhaya for refrigerated vehicles, allows operators to set pre-determined temperature zones for each load and provides alerts via email or sms. The system records a history of data and generates graphical reports either on request or at set intervals to email for easy analysis. A major advantage of the system is peace of mind and the relatively low cost compared to other products.

“The alerts that the system sends out when things go wrong are vital,” said Holcroft.

“For example, let’s say a customer wants a load of fresh produce transported between Durban and Johannesburg to arrive at a temperature of between -18degC and -20degC. If there is no monitoring system and something goes amiss causing the temperature to be say between -12degC and -15degC on arrival, the customer either rejects the load and the transporter has an insurance claim against it or the customer accepts the consignment and possibly the shelf life is compromised meaning the retailer ends up with losses while the customer loses confidence in the store.”

Holcroft says Serco builds a large quantity of refrigerated trucks and trailers for large retailers and supermarkets such as Shoprite which uses trailers fitted with insulated roll over doors and multi-temperature load dividers. Shoprite is very aware of maintaining the cold chain efficiently, and are also in the process of installing temperature monitoring solutions.

“As specialists in the area of manufacturing high quality refrigerated trucks and trailers, we have a lot of experience assisting our customers maintain the cold chain correctly.”

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