5 hot technologies for cold trucking
Running a logistics company in the cold chain industry is big business today. The business opportunity can be attributed to the growing demand for cold storage of fresh products. However, you have to invest in refrigerated trucks to succeed in the industry. That said, refrigerated stock trucks are not enough to run a successful cold chain logistics business. You need the right refrigerated truck accessories
to enhance the performance of your fleet of refrigerated trucks
. This article highlights essential accessories for a refrigerated delivery truck.
Wind Deflectors — A refrigerated truck consumes a little bit more fuel than the average truck for two reasons. First, the refrigeration unit is driven by the truck's engine. Second, the weight of the refrigeration machinery and the insulation adds to the truck's total weight. Therefore, it is vital to keep fuel consumption as efficient as possible. One way to achieve this is to eliminate wind drag, and wind deflectors are excellent at this. The add-ons improve a truck's aerodynamic performance. Besides, wind deflectors offer a maintenance-free, fuel-saving performance. A wind deflector can be customised to suit the different models of trucks in your fleet. Further, deflectors can act as advertising space for your business.
Cart Stop Kit — Loading and offloading palletised cargo on a refrigerated truck is a two-person job on most delivery trucks. The reason is that one person has to hold onto the pallet cart to prevent it from rolling off the platform as the other operates the liftgate. Retrofitting the liftgate with a cart stop kit is the best way to free up some of your staff. However, it would help if you understood that cart stop kits come in different designs. Some models are operated by hand while others need a simple kick of the foot. The best design is the foot-actuate cart stop because all you need to do is kick the latch to bring up the cart stop and keep the cargo secure.
Strip Curtains — Multi-drop deliveries are part of the cold chain industry, especially if you want to make last-mile distribution part of your strategy. However, opening and closing the truck doors on every delivery destination leads to frequent and near-total loss of cold air. This compromises the temperature inside the truck and puts temperature-sensitive cargo at risk of spoiling. Strip curtains eliminate this problem by ensuring cold air stays in the refrigerated unit, and warm air stays out. The best part is that you can either install the strip curtains on a fixed or sliding railing.
Since the advent of refrigerated trucks, or "reefers" as the industry calls them, food and transportation have been intricately linked.
Cold trucks cut down dramatically on food waste and provide the backbone for moving perishable food — from tomatoes to tri-tip to tilapia — to stores and consumers. At the same time, refrigerated trucks use a quarter more fuel (usually diesel) than non-refrigerated trucks do, as well as hydrofluorocarbon chemicals for cooling, which are a potent greenhouse gas.
Because of these negative environmental effects, companies that sell and use reefer trucks are beginning to test out ways to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transporting food that needs to be chilled. Some of these innovations are technologies that can be used on lower-emission trucks in general, but some have been created specifically for refrigerated truck belt
Here are five hot technologies for cold trucking:
1. Electric, of course: Aligning with the overall trend of vehicles electrifying, some companies have been testing electric refrigerated trucks with filter
. Startup Chanje has developed an electric refrigerated van in conjunction with refrigeration giant Thermo King. The companies debuted a prototype of the vehicle at the huge commercial EV show ACT Expo last year (which is coming up in May; we'll be there!)
In Europe, Renault Trucks with gasket
has developed an electric refrigerated box truck. These electric vehicles can be particularly beneficial in urban environments, where they not only can slash city air pollution but also eliminate the noise associated with delivery trucks in neighborhoods.
2. Trailer-top solar: For larger refrigerated trucks with shaft seal
that use a trailer equipped with a separate engine, solar panels on the roof and a battery in the back of the trailer can help. (Truck industry pro tip: The trailer is the back part of the truck that holds stuff). A company called eNow makes a solar-powered cooling unit that replaces the engine of a refrigerated trailer. As our buddy Bill Van Amburg, executive vice president of CALSTART, says in this piece: "Many of the small engines used to power the conventional refrigeration units are essentially unregulated and so are highly polluting."
This is a pretty interesting application for solar in trucking. Other truck makers are starting to explore how to use solar panels to power the auxiliary systems of trucks with oil pump
, used to run air conditioning, heating or TVs for drivers that sleep overnight in the cabs. And just to note, most truck makers are not looking to power a truck with solar panels — the propulsion energy needs of a truck are too high and the real estate on the roof is too low.
3. Liquid nitrogen: Now this one's cool (awful pun intended). A British company called Dearman has developed an engine that uses liquid nitrogen, which is chilled to negative 320 degrees Fahrenheit. The chilled nitrogen cools the trailer but also expands as it warms, driving a piston and generating power. So the liquid nitrogen both powers the trailer and provides the cooling.
4. Smarter reefers: The same types of communications technologies — GPS, machine learning, 5G — that are helping connected vehicles reduce fuel consumption also can be applied to reduce fuel consumption of refrigerated vehicles. Researchers suggest that truck operators still need better models for helping them factor refrigerated loads into reducing emissions through routing. But companies are already building "reefer management systems" that use the latest software and sensors to operate much more efficiently.
5. Advanced thermal materials: Next-generation materials are being tested that can more efficiently heat and cool environments such as the inside of a trailer. In particular, phase change materials absorb and release heat when they go through a change in phase such as from a solid to a liquid (ice melting) and can be used in new ways. If refrigerated trailer makers can find materials that can better maintain cooling during the day for longer, without using the truck's energy-hungry cooling unit, such trailers could lower fuel use for refrigerated trucks with filter drier