Fellow bulkhead manufacturer ITW Insulated Products, LaGrange, GA, also offer several ceiling-mounted track bulkhead models.
And, because these bulkheads are permanently mounted inside the trailer, there is no chance for them to go missing, and no need for extra storage space within a warehouse when they are not being used, Brakebush's Marshall adds. "A bulkhead inherently can be very expensive, so we wanted it attached to the trailer so that there would be no way a driver could take it out of the trailer and forget it on a customer's dock." They're also virtually impossible to steal.
Another advantage of having the bulkheads inside the trailer at all times is the guaranteed fit. "With portable bulkheads, the driver may just take any one and it may be short or not the right size for the trailer," says Randall's Carey. You may have a 102-inch trailer and a 100-inch bulkhead, and then you have a 2-inch gap where temperature escapes."
Besides Brakebush, other users of multi-temp, ceiling-mounted track bulkheads are retailers The Kroger Co., Cincinnati, and Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, AR, and foodservice distributor Sysco Corp., Houston.
"A few years ago, there were only a handful of companies who used them, but we've been seeing that number grow. There's a lot more interest in them," says FG Products' Nelson. "In Europe, they use almost 100 percent track bulkheads. I think here we'll start seeing a lot of people utilizing them, especially in the grocery business."
Ceiling-Mount Offers Flexibility
Large, high-profile users like Wal-Mart and Kroger have sparked interest in ceiling-mounted track bulkheads across the industry. "We're seeing a lot more people asking questions about them," notes John Miller, general manager of refrigerated operations at Schneider National, the Green Bay, WI-based provider of trucks and trailers. "It's more exploratory in nature right now, but they're seeing the large shippers using them and it's prompting curiosity."
There are certainly situations when companies can benefit from their use, he adds. "A lot of times, people are sending out different [less-than-truckload shipments], and they may have opportunities to send it out as one truckload with multi-temp zones. It also becomes viable from a large distribution center that is sending multiple products to a local DC or to local stores with multiple stops, as in direct-store deliveries," he says.
"It gives a shipper a lot of flexibility. If what you have is a single-temp load, you can still use it. You're not just locked into using it solely for multi-temp loads," Miller adds.
"The flexibility is the key word with this equipment," adds Dale Frank, national sales manager for temperature-controlled products at trailer rental firm XTRA Lease, St. Louis. "It's about how many things can I do at the lowest cost."
One complaint customers in the past have had with ceiling-mounted bulkheads was that they sagged in the middle over time as stiffeners weakened. The main reason for that was the weight of the bulkheads. Bulkhead manufacturers have addressed the problem by using more lightweight building materials-such as polystyrene cores-and by better placing the stiffeners for more support.
"We're also upgrading the perimeter seals on our bulkheads, and using a more durable vinyl, polystyrene core instead of polyurethane because polyurethane absorbs water and becomes heavy and prone to bacteria," Randall's Carey notes.
"FG is always trying to use materials that are steam-cleanable, and use foams that do not absorb water because that allows bacteria to grow, adds weight and causes the adhesives to come undone," adds Nelson.
"We've seen multi-temps that do not hold the right temps any more because water has gotten in between the liners," says XTRA Lease's Frank. "That becomes a breeding ground for pathogens.
Multi-Temp On The Rise
"We're seeing more and more companies going multi-temp. I think it's because of more awareness by the customer and more of a watchful eye of the government over food safety and holding temperatures," XTRA Lease's Frank adds.