Bright sun could solve reefer challenge

by Today's Trucking Staff

LOUISVILLE, KY – Fleets that are looking for new ways to ensure that freight stays cold may find help in an unlikely source. The power of the sun.

Thermo King personnel showcased several tracking and chilling solutions during the Mid-America Trucking Show. But Paul Kroes, business development manager – solar, attracted much of the attention by describing the way a new generation of solar panels can keep reefer batteries charged. “Anything that has a battery and wheels can use solar power,” he said.

In addition to protecting battery life, the 13×26-inch panels mounted on a reefer roof can reduce downtime, extend monitoring through telematics, and enhance fuel savings, he said.

Glass solar panels that were available five years ago struggled to deal with challenges such as vibrations, jump starts, and the increasing array of electronics that drain batteries. In contrast, today’s five-layer panels can bend, are about 1/8 inches thick, withstand snow loads, and can stick to the top of an aluminum trailer roof with an adhesive. The related $500 Return on Investment can also be covered in less than a year when considering downtime and road calls, he said.

Such power supplies become increasingly important with changes under the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act, which will place a greater emphasis on measuring and tracking the temperature of food in transit. The last decade has already seen more fleets use sensors to track door positions and fuel levels, in addition to ambient and internal temperatures. Now there is more interest in pallet-level temperature sensors, and sensors that will shut down a reefer’s engine when doors are open, said Gayatri Abbot, product manager – telematics and intelligent services.

 

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