Two refrigerated trucks left the Brakebush Brothers' chicken plant in Westfield, WI, for California a week apart. Both were carrying the same loads along the same route to the same stops along the way, and dropped off the same products at each stop. Both had the same backhauls on the return trip. But, when they returned to Wisconsin, one had burned 100 fewer gallons of fuel.
With diesel fuel prices averaging $2.40 a gallon nationwide-according to the U.S. Department of Energy's July 11 statistics-the potential to cut fuel consumption by 100 gallons per run could mean huge savings for Brakebush.
So what accounted for the different fuel readings? Both trucks were identical, with one major exception. The driver of the vehicle that burned less fuel shortened the load after each delivery with a ceiling-mounted, BH-2000 track bulkhead from Randall Manufacturing, Elmhurst, IL. The other truck's trailer was not equipped with a bulkhead.
Typically, Brakebush drivers log about 90,000 miles a year delivering product to thousands of foodservice accounts across the country. They can make anywhere from one or two stops per week to 10 or 12, depending on the route. As product is removed from the trailer at each stop, drivers end up "cooling a lot of dead air," explains Brian Marshall, shop supervisor for Brakebush Transportation, the company's separate transportation division. "We are not a multi-temp carrier but a single-temp carrier with multiple stops. We wanted to shorten the trailer so that we weren't cooling dead air unnecessarily."
"Because of fuel issues, many companies are using multi-temp bulkheads to shorten the load," explains Chuck Carey, national accounts manager at Randall Manufacturing. "When you're making two stops, why would you want to refrigerate an entire trailer when you've already dropped off half the load? You can use a movable bulkhead to just keep the half that you need to have refrigerated cold."
That is the latest use for the bulkheads-a combination of compression-fit foam with a vinyl outer layer-that are typically used to divide trailers into multi-temp zones. Brakebush, which operates a fleet of 37 tractors and about 100 trailers, began using the bulkheads to shorten its loads about a year ago, and has since installed them in 20 trailers.
Driver Safety Concerns
These ceiling-mounted track bulkheads generally lift up to the ceiling for easy storage when not being used. Depending on the size of the load, they can slide forwards or backwards against a load via a roller track or no-bind trolley, with little effort on the driver's part.
For Brakebush, key to selecting the Randall bulkheads was the electric, push-button motion. "We don't want to have to worry about the driver hurting himself lifting and lowering bulkheads. The floors inside the trailer are usually pretty slippery, and we don't want the drivers falling," says Marshall. "With these [units], we use power from the reefer unit to run the motor, which does it automatically."
Other units rely on pulleys for motion and locking mechanisms to secure them in place. But in either case, bulkhead manufacturers are thinking about the driver in their latest designs. "We've all become more conscious about the safety of the driver," says Matt Nelson, vice president of marketing for bulkhead manufacturer FG Products, Rice Lake, WI. "A driver who is moving a bulkhead around and throws out his back is no good to a company."
FG Products offers two track bulkheads models. The CubeSaver is designed so that each half of the bulkhead can be moved forward or back independently via a lift-assist. The SmarTrack is similar, but each bulkhead half is attached to a common crossbar that prevents it from moving independently forward or back.
ROM Corp., Belton, MO, offers a ceiling-mounted track option on its LoadMaker and Center ZoneMaker bulkheads. Both offer seals built right into the track to prevent added temperature escape, and will pop out of their tracks when hit to prevent damage and driver injury, says Dan Caffrey, national account manager at ROM.