2020 vision: a look at the key trends in refrigerated transport

19th December 2019

The world of transport refrigeration continues to evolve, but what should you be paying close attention to, and what key trends offer real-world benefits? Find out.

The future of refrigerated transport looks to be in good shape. Certainly from a financial perspective everything looks healthy, with the global market projected to grow from $15.5 billion (estimated value for 2019) to $21.6 billion in 2023.

But aside from these predictions of growth (which equates to almost a $ billion a year for the next five years), what other factors are driving transformation across the industry? To provide the answer we’ve taken a look at 7 major trends set to impact cold chains in 2020.

1. A stronger focus on food and pharma safety

Sure to be a high priority for cold chain distributors, due to recent changes that are encouraging significant upgrades:

  • EU regulatory authorities also introduced new rules for pharma distribution (2013), requiring refrigerated transport for up to 80% of products and medicines
  • In the US, the NDA has finalized new rules based on their 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act

The big emphasis here is on traceability and standards, and being able to trace shipments back to source – alongside verifiable records showing that loads have been shipped at the proper temperature. Meeting this demand places the emphasis on strong telematics.

2. Connected insight

Connected Solutions, telematics, is another trend that’s generating a real buzz with distributors and their customers alike. This is because of the desire to put the vast quantities of data generated by cold chains to work in stimulating, smarter operations:

  • Optimize routing, pick-up, and shipping configurations
  • Monitor temperature conditions in a real-time, consistent way that can be clearly demonstrated for compliance
  • Respond instantly to any potential issue to avoid spoilage
  • Transform transport fleets for the challenges of inner-city distribution

3. Intelligent operations

Two other approaches to ‘putting data to work’ are analytics and AI. Indeed, many commentators are predicting a greater emphasis on contextual intelligence to help reduce operating costs, better satisfy customers, and predict near/medium term futures.

Benefits include:

  • Enhance planning of manpower and capacity requirements
  • Anticipate service failures caused by weather, road works etc.
  • Follow recommended ‘next best actions’ calculated by the system

4. Greater visibility

Continuing with the theme of technology in the cold chain, it’s also expected that cloud computing and IoT solutions will be big growth areas into next year. In fact, it’s estimated that the sector’s investment in this area will reach $40 billion by 2020.

The reason is simply the promise of greater visibility, accountability, and performance in both refrigerated transport and storage.

Many carriers already offer customers the option of remotely tracking the temperature of their shipments. With new IoT devices this also means remote alerts if conditions reach unsafe levels. While with cloud and global 24/7 connectivity, logistics firms will become even more responsive to customer needs.

5. The expanded offerings of 3PLs

With logistics costs on the rise, many customers are finding it increasingly difficult to operate their own fleets. As a result they’re turning instead to 3rd party logistics providers (3PLs) and intermodal transportation to find new opportunities.

In response 3PLs are ramping up the creative solutions and value-added services they offer, including:

  • High-pressure processing for killing microorganisms for the food sector
  • Sectional refrigerated trailers that can keep products in multiple temperature zones in the same trailer

Intermodal cold chain logistics are also on the up. This is set to continue into 2020 as trucking capacity remains stretched, and supply chains continue on the path to being truly global. Hence the expanding role of sea, air, and rail transport.

6. Re-imagining the last mile

Maybe the area likely to experience the greatest levels of innovation is the ‘last mile’. Driven by regulatory concerns and changing consumer expectations, 2020 will see movement in areas that include:

  • Rolling delivery robots that are already being tested on the streets of Europe
  • Experimentation with flying drones – particularly for remote and rural areas
  • Crowdsourcing, where people drive their own vehicles (like Uber) to drop off items in temperature controlled packaging

7. All-electric comes of age

Last but by no means least of the major trends for 2020 is electrification. This is of course not new: over the past decade, reefer solution providers have offered all-electric options.

This is a trend that’s set to continue, with the refinement of units that don’t use a diesel engine to drive the compressor, and instead use a battery-based system.

The benefits of all-electric start with a compressor that uses fewer moving parts than traditional compressors. Add in electro-mechanical expansion valves, simplified wiring, accurate temperature sensors, and sophisticated control modules, and you end up with better temperature control, higher reliability, and fewer maintenance costs.

Get your business ready for 2020

As these top trends help highlight, there are a variety of areas in which the cold chain continues to evolve. To help you stay ahead, Thermo King offers a range of solutions that embrace all the latest innovations.

These include:

To find out more, contact your nearest dealer for a fleet audit, and to obtain recommendations for aligning an integrated solution to your day-to-day operations.