BRAMPTON, Ont. — Nothing makes a kid – or ice cream deliveryman – sadder, than a puddle of melted Neapolitan-flavoured ice cream on the ground. But in the ice cream business, spoilage can happen quickly if temperatures aren’t sustained while in transit.
Just ask John Manousaridis, an owner/operator with eight trucks that primarily deliver Nestle ice cream products to retail outlets in southern Ontario. Manousaridis has lost his share of loads due to refrigeration unit failures and has searched the world for a better solution. He has long been a believer in electroplate technology, but the first such units he deployed about 15 years ago were too heavy. More recently, however, the technology has improved to become viable. Unlike a conventional diesel-powered refrigeration unit, electroplate technology features cold plates along the roof of the truck body, which are charged up overnight. They can then sustain temperatures of -40 C for about 14 hours, consuming no fuel in the process. And because there are no moving parts, they’re more reliable than traditional reefers, Manousaridis claimed.
“We’ve always had problems with conventional reefers,” Manousaridis said, before rhyming off some of those problems. “In the middle of the night a reefer breaks down or it doesn’t start. A belt breaks on the road. It’s unpredictable. Now you have to call in for maintenance and in the summertime, when the reefer maintenance guys are busy, by the time they get to you it could be two to three hours, depending on your location. You could jeopardize your product in the middle of the summer. Or a gasket breaks and you have oil all over your trucks, so you have to power wash it. That’s another cost. And they’re noisy.”
The first cold plate bodies Manousaridis tried were so heavy, they required a tandem truck and any fuel savings were negated by the extra weight. Manousaridis uses primarily Classes 5 and 6 Kenworth straight trucks for his deliveries. Seven years ago, he began running newer-generation cold plate bodies, which thanks to the improved design were now viable in his application. Most recently, however, he discovered an Italian design that he says takes the technology to another level. He first learned of Cofi bodies from Nestle, whose European delivery contractors speak highly of the product. Manousaridis became the first to import Cofi bodies to Canada – and maybe even North America. Even with the delivery charges, he said it cost about $8,900 less than other cold plate bodies. And now he says he’s saving about $7,000 a year in fuel compared to conventional refrigeration units.
“Our cost savings is probably about 25% on fuel,” he said. He also likes the design of the body, which includes side doors for easy access to product without having to open the large doors and introduce heat into the main compartment. One of the side compartments is used to house frozen top-up orders and a non-refrigerated section is used to store confectionaries. He also likes that the body employs European-style side guards to reduce the risk of pedestrians or cyclists being struck by the wheels.
The 18-ft. Cofi body also weighs about 400 kgs less than his other designs, thanks to aluminum cross-members and other weight-saving design features.
Each night, the bodies are plugged into a 240-volt power outlet for charging. It’s takes five to six hours to charge them and then they can be used for a 14-hour delivery cycle while holding temperatures as low as -40 C. This summer during a heat wave with ambient temperatures of 30 C, Manousaridis said he was impressed the Cofi maintained -40 C while his other cold plate bodies running the same routes lost about 12-15 C throughout the day.
“When you have 12-15 C difference at the end of the day, it’s a lot. Especially in the ice cream business,” Manousaridis said.
The cold plate system has no moving parts and no maintenance is required, except for routine cleaning.
“Once a week, you’ll brush the cold plates because it builds ice and snow, and you clean out the truck,” Manousaridis explained. “Then, once a month, you air out the truck over the weekend, let everything melt and clean it out, then you’re good to go. There’s no other maintenance.”
And because the units are soundless, Manousaridis said it’s easier to make early morning deliveries without waking up the neighbourhood. He also enjoys that they’re tamper-proof. Drivers can’t adjust the temperatures – they’re set by the owner and can only be changed by someone with access to, and knowledge of, the control panel.
Manousaridis is hoping to get 10-12 years out of the bodies and he trades in his trucks every five to six years, so he is planning to use the bodies over two lease-terms. Manousaridis said Cofi is looking to set up a distribution network in Canada.
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