City Of Industry, CA-based Utility Trailer builds over half of the refrigerated trailers in North America. As a California-based company, Utility’s senior vice president sales and marketing, Craig Bennett, is acutely aware of CARB’s rules and regulations.
“CARB accepts electric standby as a zero-pollution system as long as you carefully document the hours you’re running under electric power,” says Bennett. “While the trailer is at the dock being loaded, whether it’s one hour or 10 hours, CARB recognizes it as polluting no emissions whatsoever.”
That means no engine retrofits or add-on exhaust treatments, each of which generally has a starting price of $5,000.
Another way to reduce fuel usage is to ensure the multi-temp unit is well-insulated. Poorly insulated trailers have to work harder to maintain the temperatures required to keep foods safe and fresh.
Great Dane Trailer of Savannah, GA, has developed a unique liner specially made for reefer units called ThermoGuard. Chris Hammond, vice president of dealer sales, Great Dane, explains the problem with traditional liners. “Over time trailers lose their ability to insulate as the foam inside breaks down. Over a number of years it could lose 30 to 50 percent of its ability to insulate, and the effect is the refrigeration unit has to work harder to make up for the thermal loss, requiring more frequent oil changes because the engine runs more,”
“ThermoGuard has a barrier that prevents the foam from out-gassing, or breaking down quickly,” Hammond continues. “It allows the trailer to run longer and the logistics company to use less fuel over time and increase the intervals between PMs.”
A continuing trend for 2011 will be the use of LED lights in the interior of the compartments in multi-temp trailers. Lighting has increasingly become more environmentally friendly over the years. Incandescent lights were once used, but they had many limitations, such as a short lifespan and a dim cast. Then fluorescents took their place as a more efficient option. They use less energy and last a bit longer, but LEDs lead the way when it comes to efficiency.
“The use of LED lighting is big,” says Hammond. “In a year or two fluorescent lights may not be offered. Our customers continually are asking for something that will last longer and keep bulbs out of the landfill, and that’s LED.”
Using CO2, a non-ozone-depleting refrigerant, instead of fuel or electricity to power refrigeration units is a relatively new trend that may gain popularity within the next five years, according to Thermo King’s Kampf. The EPA recently approved CO2 for use as a primary refrigerant in commercial refrigeration system applications for grocery facilities, so it may soon naturally progress to the transportation side.
GreenChill, an EPA partnership with food retailers to reduce refrigerant emissions, states that transcritical CO2 refrigeration is a type of refrigeration cycle in which CO2 is the sole refrigerant, evaporating in the subcritical region and rejecting heat at temperatures above the critical point in a gas cooler instead of a condenser.
“CO2 has been particularly popular in Europe and a handful of customers in the United States are testing it,” Kampf explains. “It’s reclaimed CO2, so we’re not producing any additional CO2. The ideal candidate for this model is someone who makes the same stops everyday and has a pre-determined trip schedule. Many multi-temp users fall into this category, so it may be an avenue to explore in the coming years.”
Food Safety Regulations
Great Dane’s Hammond predicts that food safety regulations will begin to impact multi-temp trailer designs and features.
“Five years ago there was no discussion on this, but today people want to know, from farm to table, that their product has been protected and handled safely,” says Hammond. “We’re starting to have customers ask us about food safety regulations and our trailers’ ability to keep their loads at the right temperature.”
Although government mandates on food safety have come slower than the industry expected, Thermo King’s Kampf says the industry is proactively self-regulating and many companies already offer tools to help their customers comply with mandates yet to come.