As the demand for different types of food continues to grow, the requirement for refrigerated methods of transport does too. An increasing proportion of refrigerated products are being transported around the country and indeed the world in temperature controlled vehicles. These vehicles use the latest technologies to ensure that the produce being transported is kept as safe and fresh as possible. The vans with this technology feature a thermostat, balance and control loops and safeguards to keep the temperature consistent throughout the journey. With the use of thermostats, insulated containers and heat exchangers, products can be transported much more effectively and increasingly for longer journeys.

Temperature control is a complex process that requires careful monitoring of temperature. These readings are compared with heat exchange readings and the vehicle will automatically adjust the temperature to maintain the required level. These advanced devices are used to accurately monitor, regulate and control temperature in many different types of vehicle including refrigerated, freezer, space heaters and air conditioning units.

In the food services industry, you are legally obliged to monitor the temperature of food, particularly perishable items. It is your responsibility to ensure that the products that you provide to suppliers or members of the public are safe and consumable. Monitoring and detection as well as temperature control are therefore crucial

It’s not just the food industry that relies upon temperature controlled vehicles, the pharmaceutical industry does too. Pharmaceuticals will often use temperature controlled vehicles in the testing, production and distribution phase of medications, many of which need to be managed in strict temperature controlled environments.

Temperature sensitive products should never be compromised en route to their destination. High risk products such as vegetables, fish, meat, seafood, eggs and poultry must be strictly monitored and kept at the right temperature during shipment and delivery to preserve their quality and ensure that they reach the destination in a condition that makes them fit for human consumption.

The Use of Temperature Controlled Vehicles

The logistics relating to temperature controlled products will involve a detailed process that aims to preserve, transport and store products that are susceptible to changes in temperature. Any product that needs to be kept at a specific temperature should be transported in a way that will preserve their condition until they are required.

Elevated temperatures or temperatures that are too cold can affect the condition of food and medicines which can result in the product becoming ineffective or unsafe for use or consumption.

While distributors are responsible for the temperature of the products that they transport, manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that the conditions for the product are fully understood by the transportation company. The transportation of temperature controlled products should consider:

Acceptable temperature and humidity range for each product or medicine.
An acceptable margin of error.
Levels of risk which would be acceptable.
Areas of risk and how these could occur.
Specific actions that are strictly prohibited that could compromise the integrity of the product

In addition, conditions for selecting the right temperature controlled system should be based on:

  • The volume of product being transported and the required temperature range to maintain the product or medicine in the best possible condition.
  • Temperature controls.
  • Back up systems in place to regulate temperature if the main controls fail.
  • How the storage unit is set out and how airflow moves around the vehicle.
  • How temperature logging and data tracking is monitored.
  • How cargo is placed inside of the vehicle.
  • Whether the temperatures have been thoroughly tested prior to being used for transportation.

The introduction of temperature controlled vehicles have transformed the way that businesses can distribute perishable products. Whether your business is involved in the supply chain, the cold chain or distribution of products, obtaining a reliable refrigerated vehicle is crucial.

The cold chain is a term used to describe a temperature controlled supply chain which involves an unbroken series of storage and distribution activities which maintain a consistent temperature. It is used to ensure maximum shelf life of food products and medications.

Temperature Controlled Vehicles Explained

Most temperature controlled vehicles are in the form of a small van or truck which are equipped with electrical control systems to monitor and regulate the internal temperature of the vehicle. A freezer van will have a thermostatically controlled cargo compartment which allows the correct temperature range to be kept at a constant level. The refrigerator unit is one of the most important components within a freezer van. When regulating the temperature in these vehicles, the temperature range that you set will very much depend on the products being transported. Products such as vegetables, flowers, chicken, mince and ice cream are refrigerated at various temperatures. When choosing a vehicle, it is important to understand what cargo you will be carrying and the legal temperature levels that are specified for each of these products.

Temperature Controlled Vehicles and Insulation

Temperature controlled vehicles must include the correct levels of insulation and the levels required are of a much higher quality than those you will find in a standard fridge or freezer. A freezer van will function by exchanging heat from the vehicle and the movement of air in and out of the van, distributing the air around trays, racking and fittings to maintain the correct temperature. In a freezer compartment this will cool food from between 0 degrees and -25 degrees.

Temperature Consistency

A consistent temperature should be maintained throughout the process of loading and unloading the products as well as the time in between. It is therefore important to discuss the required temperature with your distributor to ensure full compliance with the correct temperatures and guidelines.


The Food Safety (Temperature Control) Regulations 1995 outline that certain foods should be stored at specific temperatures to prevent the growth of bacteria or toxins that can prove hazardous to health. Under this legislation it is an offence to allow food to be kept at temperatures that would pose a risk to health so food businesses and distributors must make sure that any foods that require temperature control are properly managed from the start to the end of the supply chain.

Foods that should be kept cold should be at or below 8 degrees and the following foods will fall into this category.

Dairy products – Most dairy products should be kept chilled unless it states on the packaging that they can be stored at room temperature.

Cooked products – There are lots of food products that can be kept chilled until they are ready for consumption and these include most foods that contain eggs, meat, fish, dairy as well as rice, cereals, pulses or vegetables.

Prepared, ready to eat – Ready to eat foods should always be kept chilled. These foods will include prepared vegetables, salad leaves, vegetable salads and coleslaw or any product that contains mayonnaise

Uncooked or part cooked pastry and dough – This incorporates fresh pasta and pizzas as well as meat, fish or vegetables.

There is a considerable amount of EU and UK legislation surrounding the carriage of perishable food products and the legislation states that perishable food products should be kept at temperatures no higher than 8 degrees and transported in suitable temperature controlled vehicles and containers suitable to maintain this temperature for the entire journey. All vehicles should be able to monitor and adjust the temperature as required.

Measuring instruments should be fitted to vehicles carrying quick frozen products to monitor the air temperature at periodic intervals. The instruments used must be accurate and must be within 1 degree either side of the acceptable temperature and they must be shock proof and durable to withstand the movement of the vehicle as it travels along the road. Temperature records for the vehicle should be recorded and retained for a period of at least 12 months and made available upon request.

There are also requirements in terms of the transportation used to distribute the food products.

  • All vehicles must be constructed and maintained in a way that the food carried will be kept fresh and clean.
  • Containers should be in good condition and a good state of repair.
  • Receptacles, containers and or tankers used for transporting bulk produce must be clearly marked as carrying foodstuffs only.
  • Vehicles must be kept clean and any wooden floors should be fitted with moveable duckboards which should undergo a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule.
  • When meat is being transported, clean towels, soap and a nail brush must be carried in the vehicle.

Risk Management

In transport operations, a number of touch points will exist between various individuals and organisations involved in the supply chain. It is during these exchanges that the product is at the highest risk of being incorrectly handled. Electronic temperature monitoring is an excellent way to achieve consistency in terms of the temperature and established systems and processes should be in place to ensure that the required temperature is maintained.

The importance of maintaining the correct temperature should never be underestimated in the food services industry and as a distributor of perishable food items or medication to the pharmaceuticals industry you have a legal and moral obligation to ensure that you have a well maintained vehicle that fully complies with the temperature regulations and standards.