"We've done a lot of hard data testing and we've tracked every gallon of fuel that's gone into the reefers," says Jason Kosubal, operations manager for Paradise. "With our costing to run that unit on diesel versus running it on electric, we've determined that it's actually 90 percent cheaper for us to run on electric for an hour than it is to run it on diesel."
Paradise's drivers make their deliveries during the day and then come back to the facility at night, where dock workers reload it and stage new product for the driver, who picks it up the next morning. Before its fleet was switched over to the hybrid refrigeration units, reefers were running for eight to 10 hours straight on diesel fuel to maintain their cold temperatures. Because the reefers are now plugged into the building's electricity, the wasted fuel issue has been eliminated.
Kosubal is quick to praise the savings in maintenance costs with the hybrid refrigeration units. "There's about half the moving parts that a regular diesel reefer has and that means way more uptime for our fleet, which translates into more productivity."
And, with the hybrid refrigeration technology, dangerous emissions are completely eliminated at the dock.
Another problem that has been eliminated is noise pollution. Kosubal says Paradise experienced a big residential build up around its facilities over the past few years and in the past received complaints about the noise from neighbors. Now, with the hybrid refrigeration units in use, it hasn't received any complaints because the units are extremely quiet in electric standby.
"It's actually about 60 percent quieter than the diesel engines. The neighbors love it."
Dialing For Dollars
Another method companies can use to save reefer fuel costs is through the setting of the microprocessor that controls a reefers' temperature. According to the experts, many drivers are running their reefers in "continuous run" mode when they shouldn't be.
In fact, they should be running them in automatic start/stop mode. In this mode, the reefer is sitting at the dock at its temperature set point. If the temperature rises, the engine kicks back on and cools the refrigerator back down. Then the engine shuts off again.
"We've had fleets that say they're 100 percent automatic start-stop and then I do a download from the data recorder and you find a three week period where the unit was running in continuous run, until somebody realized it was the wrong setting," says Carrier's Kiefer.
He and other experts say that fleet managers need to make sure their drivers are trained to know what the settings on the unit should be. They should be aware of what the parameters of settings are, based primarily on what cargo is in the reefer.
"Basically, the tighter the temperature control is, the more fuel you're going to use and the more relaxed the temperature control is, the less fuel you're going to burn," he adds.
Products such as lettuce typically need a very narrow temperature window. Companies should set it at 34 degrees, plus-or-minus a few degrees in the load.
If the load is candy, that's a less narrow window. A company would want to set an upper limit of 75 degrees and a lower limit of 35. As long as the reefer is within that band, it won't run.