TORONTO, Ont. - Trailer refrigeration units are becoming more versatile and intelligent, arming fleets that haul temperature-sensitive cargo with additional tools that help improve efficiency and cust...
TORONTO, Ont. –Trailer refrigeration units are becoming more versatile and intelligent, arming fleets that haul temperature-sensitive cargo with additional tools that help improve efficiency and customer service. Truck News took a closer look at some new developments in the refrigerated transport world that have recently caught our attention:
Intelligent set points
Both Thermo King and Carrier Transicold now have an option available with certain controllers that provides commodity profiles, allowing a driver to easily select the optimum refrigeration temperature for whatever product happens to be onboard. Thermo King’s OptiSet + is a new offering that will be available this summer on units equipped with its SR2 controller. It contains a library of nearly 500 commodities and the ideal temperature set-point for each of them. A driver can simply select the cargo he’s hauling from the menu and the reefer will automatically be set at the optimum temperature for that type of freight.
Jerry Duppler, trailer product manager with Thermo King, said “The system makes it very, very easy to program the refrigeration unit for optimum refrigeration and it makes the driver’s job that much easier. It will contribute to the elimination of errors, and that could be a big advantage for drivers from a peace of mind standpoint.”
Since many reefer fleets try to balance the need for optimum refrigeration with their quest for maximum fuel economy, many of the profiles built into the OptiSet+ system will provide an acceptable temperature range, rather than a single set-point, Duppler explained.
“Really tight temperature control in the trailer will cost you a little more in terms of fuel consumption. If you can relax the temperature requirements a bit, you can save fuel,” Duppler said. “A lot of our profiles will give an acceptable range and then our customer and the shipper can decide the desired set-point for that particular shipper. Customers may start by using our profile in the library and then modify that for a specific shipper. You can change profiles any way you want and can create profiles from scratch.”
This summer, OptiSet+ will be available for single-temperature TRUs, with a multi-temp version expected to be released in the future. Software updates will be available for older SR2 controllers, so fleets with existing Thermo King reefers can visit their dealer to receive the upgrade for their existing units.
Carrier Transicold has been offering an intelligent controller of its own for several years. Dubbed IntelliSet, the feature is an option on Carrier TRUs with the company’s Advanced controller.
Ignacio Aguerrevere, director of marketing with Carrier Transicold, said the system was first launched to help fleets cope with rising driver turnover rates. It made the training process for new hires simpler and also made life easier for the driver.
“We wanted the driver focused on driving, not focused on the reefer,” Aguerrevere explained.
He likens the system to the interface found on most microwave ovens, which allow you to simply select the item you’re cooking rather than manually entering the time required to cook it. Once you click the popcorn button on the microwave, it knows exactly how long to cook the item based on its internal settings.
TRUs equipped with IntelliSet operate in much the same way, Aguerrevere explained.
“You can have 100 drivers, and all of them will be hauling lettuce exactly the same way, with no errors, and getting the best possible fuel consumption,” he said.
Plugging it in
With record fuel prices placing enormous cost pressures on fleets, companies are taking a closer look at ways to reduce their fuel consumption. Fortunately for refrigerated fleets, significant fuel savings can be achieved by choosing a reefer with electric standby capabilities.
Carrier’s Vector 1800MT TRU features the company’s Deltek diesel-electric technology, which allows the operator to plug into a shore power supply when the truck is parked. Many companies in the food distribution business load their trailers overnight and then leave the reefer running in the yard until the driver shows up in the morning to deliver the load.
Based on $4/gallon diesel and current electricity prices, the cost of running a typical reefer unit in electric mode is about 66% cheaper than running the diesel engine, Aguerrevere said. But when doing a quick conversion to Canadian figures (where diesel costs more and electricity can be cheaper), the savings are even greater than promised in the US. The reefer engine typically consumes 1.1 gallon/hr (4.16 litres/hr), meaning it will cost about $39.60 in Canuck bucks to keep the load cool for eight hours while running the diesel engine, based on $1.19/litre diesel. By comparison, it takes 15.23 kilowatts per hour to keep a typical load refrigerated in electric mode, or 90 cents/hr at today’s electricity rates in Ontario, totaling just $7.20 for an eight-hour wait. That’s an 82% reduction.
Thermo King has also noted increased interest in electric standby availability on its own reefers.
“It has gained in popularity recently and we expect it to continue,” said Duppler. “We’ve seen a significant increase in orders of units with electric standby and inquiries about the costs of operation.”
Duppler wouldn’t be coaxed into providing a payback estimate for electric standby, since there are too many variables to consider. However, he did say that a payback can be achieved fairly quickly, especially if the reefer can be switched to electric mode during loading and unloading. All that’s needed is a power source.
If the power cord should become disconnected when a reefer is operating on electric standby, it senses the loss of power and restarts the diesel engine. Duppler notes there are maintenance savings available as well.
When operating in electric mode, hoses, belts and other components connected to the reefer’s diesel engine are at rest.
Keeping it clean
A nifty new product for refrigerated trailers caught my eye at this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show. Thermo King’s parent company, Ingersoll-Rand has developed an environmental management system (EMS), which can be mounted inside a refrigerated trailer to provide continuous air purification.
The trailer version of the product, which is already widely used in warehouses and cold storage facilities, is about the size of a shoe box, Wayne Benson, director of sales and marketing for the EMS product with Ingersoll-Rand, told Truck News.
“We create a non-thermal plasma field, and take air from inside the (trailer) and run it across this plasma,” Benson explained. “When air from the (trailer) runs across the plasma, the oxygen in the air is broken down into reactive oxygen species.”
It sounds complex – and it is – but what’s important is that pure air comes out the other side of the unit. Also exiting the unit are some more of these ‘reactive oxygen species,’ which seek and destroy bacteria and viruses throughout the entire trailer, effectively providing “surface sanitation.”
The end result is a much cleaner trailer interior which can noticeably extend the shelf life of perishable cargo, Benson said.
“It slows the ripening process of fruits and vegetables,” he explained, noting a truckload of berries from California will arrive in Canada looking fresher and ready to enjoy a longer shelf life.
But is it really necessary? Startlingly, Benson said refrigerated trailers are often home to some pretty nasty stuff. A reefer’s evaporator coil, for instance, provides a cool, damp surface that’s a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
“We’ve done some testing of coils and air sampling in trailers and found very high colony-forming units per cubic metre in reefer trailers,” Benson noted.
“One particular reefer trailer had the number of colony-forming units per cubic metre that was near that of a killing floor at a beef plant.
It can be fairly bad.”