Refrigerated carriers have an extra fuel tank to fill, the one for the refrigerator unit. This means the high cost of fuel can give the bottom line an extra jab every month. ReeferTrak from StarTrak Systems LLC, a division of Alanco Technologies Inc. (www.startrac.com), is working to help offset that, however, with its wireless refrigerated assets monitoring unit.

The Web-enabled system was designed to let fleets remotely manage refrigerated assets, with critical alarms and remote activation capabilities that even enable fleets to change temperature setpoints and parameters remotely. The system's ability to help fleets better manage fuel has also been attracting attention recently, according to Thomas Robinson, executive vp for StarTrak Systems.

“We have about 25,000 total units installed,” Robinson said, “and now many customers are starting to take advantage of the ReeferTrak system to help reduce their fuel costs, too. For example, reefer units are typically turned on to pre-cool the trailer before loading, and they are also left idling to maintain temperature while waiting to be unloaded. During those periods, there is usually a change of responsibility for the load — a time when it moves from the shipper/consignee to the carrier or vice versa. With ReeferTrak, you can properly assign responsibility for the cost of the fuel used.

“Carriers can create a contract, for instance, that says a trailer must be unloaded within five hours or the cost of fuel used becomes the consignee's responsibility,” he said. “The system can identify the exact location of the unit, time the events and measure the fuel consumed.

“There is also a tendency to treat all facilities the same, and they are not necessarily so,” Robinson continued. “ReeferTrak enables you to measure fuel consumption over time at each stop and create a unique profile for that location, which accurately reflects the costs, including fuel.

“On the private fleet side, the system enables users to remotely turn on reefer units for pre-cooling rather than having someone walk through the lot manually turning them on one at time,” he added. “This means some units aren't running longer than they need to be. You can organize loading to eliminate excessive idle time. We have one customer, for instance, who holds trailers at idle after pre-cooling, sometimes for a short time, sometimes for a very long time. The huge variation in time and in costs was shocking when they saw the actual data. It was really eye-opening.

“The system can also pick up fueling events and make sure they are accurate, Robinson said. “Reefer tanks hold fuel, but they don't gauge fuel. We can make sure drivers really did fill the tank, for example. Or say a fleet gets an invoice from a customer noting that they had to refill the reefer fuel tank. Did they really? Data from the system can take the haggling out of the operation.”

The always-on ReeferTrak system has complete coverage throughout North and Central America, as well as Europe and Australia. StarTrak has agreements with both Carrier Transicold and Thermo King.