Fuel consumption, emissions regulations and noise abatement issues associated with diesel truck engines are also concerns for operators and manufacturers of transport refrigeration units (TRU).

“The unpredictable nature of fuel prices and new EPA Tier 4 emissions standards, which impact new refrigeration unit models beginning this year, continue to affect refrigerated transport operations,” says David Kiefer, director of marketing and product management at Carrier Transicold’s Truck, Trailer, Rail Div. “The response to this need for more sustainable solutions is found in new technologies.”

Thermo King’s Doug Lenz, director of product management and marketing, notes that using intelligent solutions to reduce fuel consumption can help address the volatility of diesel prices. “Refrigerated fleet operators need to focus on finding new and innovative ways to reduce their fuel consumption and mitigate the impact of rising per-gallon prices,” he states. “Today’s refrigerated trucks and trailers are more energy-efficient than those built even a decade ago, thanks to improvements in design and refrigeration and control technology.”

REDUCED RUNTIME

Lenz reports Thermo King is meeting these needs with its new T-80 Series truck temperature control platform, which incorporates an EPA/CARB-compliant engine and the QuickTemp Control system that reduces run time to save fuel. The company’s new Precedent trailer temperature control platform, also compliant with EPA Tier 4 regulations, includes the Precedent S-600, a greater-than-25-hp. single-temperature unit that has met the CARB ULETRU (ultra-low-emissions transport refrigeration unit) in-use performance standard, and the C-600, a less-than-25-hp. single-temperature unit with an allowed service life in California of seven years prior to modification to meet ULETRU standards.

Carrier Transicold’s newest trailer refrigeration solutions include ecoForward technologies and comply with EPA Tier 4 emissions requirements for engines rated less than 25 hp. and with CARB standards for the first seven years of operation. “The APX control system in our new X4 Series trailer refrigeration platform has new power-management algorithms, intelligent refrigeration system controls, and the ability to communicate with the engine and other distributed electronics,” David Kiefer says.

Completely eliminating the use of fuel to power refrigeration units is another way to meet emissions and noise regulations. All-electric refrigeration technology, an alternative championed by Great Dane subsidiary Johnson Refrigerated Truck Bodies, can be used effectively to address those challenges for some types of refrigerated fleets. Besides saving fuel, all-electric systems eliminate the need to turn off units to comply with noise abatement rules, the company points out.

A growing number of refrigeration units now can use electric standby power to run when trailers are parked. Thermo King’s SmartPower solution and Carrier Transicold’s Flex Power option gives expanded stand-by capability to its hybrid diesel-electric Vector models.

Refrigerated haulers also have to address their customers’ concerns regarding the Food Safety Modernization Act. Although rulemaking for the 2011 legislation is ongoing at FDA, it is almost certain that greater accountability will be required for maintaining food safety throughout the supply chain.

Manufacturers are continuing to develop advanced control technologies and make data on system performance available. Coupled with more sophisticated analytical and modeling tools, those capabilities will enable refrigerated fleets to ensure loads are protected under a wide range of conditions.

RELIABILITY

“Unfortunately, the idea that TRUs are less reliable and precise has lingered in the minds of some shippers. As a result,” says Lenz, “in the belief that they are providing an additional margin of safety for their loads, they often specify shipping temperatures for fresh and frozen goods that are lower than the temperatures they require for warehouse storage.

What they are actually doing is causing the TRU to work harder and consume more fuel without necessarily providing any additional benefit.”

While refrigerated fleets are constantly looking for ways to address customer needs, reduce costs and leave a smaller environmental footprint, advances in refrigeration unit technology continue to enable a more intelligent approach to meeting those challenges.