Greener options for refrigerated transport

Greener options for refrigerated transport

Advancements in transport refrigeration unit (TRU) technologies make it possible for operators to improve environmental performance, reduce fuel consumption and improve cost structure.

According to Tom Kampf, trailer product manager for Thermo King, “Volatile fuel prices and the need to prepare for new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 4 Final emission standards have converged to make 2012 a challenging and eventful year for small and midsize refrigerated fleet operators.”

The good news is that advancements in transport refrigeration unit (TRU) technologies make it possible for operators to improve their environmental performance, reduce fuel consumption and improve their cost structure—all at the same time.

TRU original equipment manufacturers have applied proven emission control technologies, similar to those used to reduce tractor engine emissions, to ensure that they are ready to deliver TRU engines that are fully compliant with the new EPA standards on Jan. 1, 2013.

These new engines use electronic controls, turbochargers, diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs), exhaust recirculation devices and other innovations to improve performance and reduce lifecycle operating costs, Kampf said.

But despite these important advancements, the most effective way to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions produced by refrigerated trailers and trucks is to improve TRU engine fuel efficiency. This also makes good business sense for fleet operators, who see the impact of fuel cost reductions fall directly to their bottom lines.

Kampf noted that technical innovations have made today’s TRU engines 10% to 20% more fuel-efficient than those produced even just a decade ago. Operators can multiply this number several times by making full use of available technologies and adopting good operating practices. For example:

• Using cycle-sentry features that automatically turn the TRU on and off to maintain load temperatures within specified tolerances can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 80%, compared to the same unit operated in a continuous-run mode.

• Setting controls at the optimum temperature to protect the load can have a dramatic impact on fuel consumption. New computer models developed by Thermo King, a manufacturer of temperature control systems for a variety of mobile applications, show that increasing the setpoint on a given load by just one degree F can reduce TRU engine fuel consumption by 2%. Conversely, choosing too low a setpoint can increase costs significantly without providing any benefit to operators or their customers.

• Choosing new TRUs with microchannel condenser coils instead of traditional tube and fin coils increases fuel efficiency and sustainability. Microchannel coils also weigh 35 lbs. less, use 10% to 15% less refrigerant, and are easier and less expensive to maintain.

• Using refrigeration units that can create multiple temperature zones in the same truck or trailer, have electric standby capabilities and employ other features to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

• Training drivers and technicians and embracing simple practices like using shore power whenever possible, keeping door openings to a minimum, installing automatic door switches and strip curtains, and practicing proper loading techniques also can have an enormous impact on fuel consumption.

New EPA regulations figure prominently as refrigerated fleet operators develop and implement equipment strategies for this year, next year and beyond. Fortunately, the steps they need to take to improve environmental performance will pay for themselves and drive better financial performance over time. While some operators are taking an incremental approach, others are becoming early adopters so they can begin to capture the cost benefits of new technologies that will ultimately become the industry standard, Kampf added.

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