Refrigerated trucking trends & regulations

Refrigerated trucking trends & regulations

Some of the most recent truck and trailer refrigeration unit trends offer fleets greater flexibility and cost savings.

Some of the most recent truck and trailer refrigeration unit trends affect how fleets are doing business. Doug Lenz, director of global product management for Thermo King, recently outlined some of the key issues.

Non-diesel solutions
Lenz states that for trucks, the clear industry non-diesel trend is toward electric power take-off from the truck drive system to leverage other R&D in truck engine emissions technology, alternative fuels and hybrid propulsion. For trailers, customers remain very interested in non-diesel solutions for both stationary operation and over-the-road applications from shorepower to alternative fuels, such as CNG, to totally new approaches like cryogenic or
nitrogen-based systems.

Emission regulations (EPA, CARB, PIEK, engine, noise, refrigerants) have a direct impact on fleets. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (specifically the Agency’s Regulatory Compliance 2013) governs the order of magnitude reduction in particulate matter and NOx emission levels for engines used in reefer units. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) now mandates seven years of life, engine repower, diesel particulate filter (DPF) or level 3 device. A DPF is required for any engine-based APU being run on a tractor with a 2007 or newer engine. These regulations require the addition of new technologies for reefers, and consequently add some cost to the end product.

Lenz points out that there are 29 states with anti-idling legislation (for a  list, go to Fleet Equipment’s website, and click on the Resource Shelf tab). These regulations further motivate fleets to find alternatives to diesel power to control life costs.

In Europe, the Dutch noise reduction standard, PIEK, governs that noise emissions during loading and unloading must not exceed 60 dB(A). Refrigerated transport fleets may want to be aware that laws such as this one could find their way to the U.S. In addition, Lenz said they are closely monitoring the European Directive 2006/40/EC automotive phase-out of R-134a to lower Global Warming Potential beginning in 2011 with complete phase out by 2017—GWP must be 150 or less. This changeover could possibly affect reefers in the U.S., but Thermo King is already researching R-134a replacements.

“Technology that is not impacted by the regulations is attractive to customers, as it frees them from the actions, procedures and paperwork required for compliance with regulations,” according to Lenz.

Efficiency & optimization
Asset management, energy efficiency and application optimization continue to be of great interest to reefer fleets. The core of the green trend is about energy efficiency improvements, and customers are willing to buy technology that has a demonstrable impact on fuel consumption.

“Our focus is on getting equipment specification right for customers upfront (choice), tailoring equipment operation to meet customer-specific needs and to back this up with the best possible service,” says Lenz. “Customers need help offsetting increased size and weight of Class 8 tractors and buses from emission changes to improve freight efficiency and fuel consumption. In addition, customers are more open to telematics solutions to help improve overall fleet efficiency, such as reducing out of route miles, precooling trailers, trailer detention charge backs, etc. We also offer unit configurator tools to optimize unit operation to meet customer specific hauling needs at the lowest operational costs.”

To be seen as ‘green’
Among many fleets, there is a growing need to be “seen as green.” Lenz says this is particularly true of food companies, public companies and public institutions. Environmental stewardship is being used as a market differentiator.

Most “name brand” fleets have significant sustainability initiatives in place to reduce environmental impact, control costs and present a positive image to the communities in which they operate. Companies investing in alternative technology are frequently using the trucks and trailers as a rolling billboard to advertise their sustainability message and demonstrate they are making appropriate investments to realize those objectives.

Additionally, non-profit operations like food banks are seeing green technology as an important part of their broader mission to help people by reducing the environmental impact of their operations. Regulations are pushing the fleets to be more efficient and reduce emissions, resulting in “greener” fleets.

Food safety & traceability
Food safety issues are complex; retailers admit that they have difficulty keeping up with recall activity and many Americans ignore food recalls (most want to be personally notified). An estimated 76 million Americans become ill each year from foodborne bacteria. However, based on Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), only four reported instances of transportation-related foodborne illness have occurred in the last 36 years, Lenz points out.

Even so, the Food and Drug Administration is seeking comments on ANPRM Docket No. FDA-2010-N-0013—Implementation of Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005. The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) recommendation states, “the most appropriate way to ensure food safety through the regulatory process is to require each food shipper to develop a food safety plan that identifies the risks in the transportation of their products and implement appropriate risk mitigation measures.”

The regulations often are customer-driven. McDonald’s has communicated that by the end of 2013, the requirement will be that all temperature-controlled load carriers will have the capability to monitor their reefer units from a remote location. “Beginning in October 2012, new lines that we source will be awarded to carriers with this capability. In addition, the carriers will need to be capable of electronically sending key temperature data for the life cycle of the shipment to a centralized website,” the company has stated.

Grants to drive change
Federal, state and city governments, as well as the private sector, have been offering grants to initiate change. For example, the Federal Great SmartWay Rebate Program was extended until May 31, 2011, to help truck owners purchase fuel saving upgrades up to $1,000 ( APUs, TRUs, New TRU engines, etc.). In addition, a variety of state and local grant programs are funding adoption of hybrid truck chassis (Department of Energy, CARB, etc.), which are generating interest in integrated refrigeration packages.

States are also involved; for instance, Utah offered Truck Auxiliary Power Unit grants (bids opened Aug. 11 and ended Aug. 31, 2010). Some of these grants don’t last very long. In addition, there is the Cascade Sierra Electrification Program (a truck-stop electrification grant involving APUs and TRUs)—which offered partial funding of equipment with electric standby operation for building infrastructure for up to 50 truck stops to tie into grid power.

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