Without them, retail would be in big trouble: refrigerated trucks. They transport temperature-sensitive goods from point A to point B – whether that is a supermarket, kiosk or a catering business. Dr. Bertold Biffar, Managing Director at TBV Kühlfahrzeuge GmbH spoke with EuroShop.de about energy-efficient transport of fresh produce and the new generation of refrigerated trucks.
Dr. Biffar, what is important when it comes to the special production of refrigerated trucks?
There are always four essential aspects when it comes to refrigerated truck production. First, you need to optimize the payload. The individual components in the cooling zone should also be flexibly moveable and adjustable. In addition, ease of use for the crew should be guaranteed. Another challenge is to keep cooling loss and therefore operating costs as low as possible.
We optimize the payload by reaching a compromise when it comes to the equipment of the refrigerated truck between the necessary robustness of the platform, which always involves a certain basic weight and special customer requests.
As far as the driver is concerned, you need to pay attention that vehicle handling itself is simple and smooth. On the one hand, vehicles need sensible ergonomic walk boards and steps. On the other hand, the well-insulated doors need to be easy to open, so a driver with a loaded truck is able to open them with little effort so he/she can work safely.
The preventable cooling losses are actually problematic in two different aspects. On the one hand, temperature fluctuations need to be minimized with refrigerated products, so they don’t spoil. On the other hand, cold air escapes, when the driver opens the doors during transport to load and unload merchandise. It is costly to replenish the cold air again. In this case, strip curtains and good isolation can save a lot of energy and cold air.
How do you prevent cooling loss while the driver needs to open the doors?
First, it depends on how many times you need to open the door per trip. There are catering suppliers that need to open the doors five or six times during their route and no more. And then there are other tours where the driver opens the doors about 30 times. Each time, cold air escapes. This is an enormous amount of energy and therefore also a cost issue.
For the transported goods to stay fresh, the truck generally needs to ensure as few temperature fluctuations as possible in the vehicle. Flexible room dividers and strip curtains can provide internal wall adjustability, so the cooling capacity is at a minimum. That is to say, I need to have flexible partition walls in the container itself and design the door strip curtains to where they can be optimally used.
What are the current challenges for temperature-controlled transports?
We are presently working hard to make the vehicles more flexible. This means, the customer is able to design his/her vehicle as variably as possible. To accomplish this, there are flexible room dividers, variable shelves and multi-chamber trucks, which can cover up to three temperature ranges simultaneously. This way, fresh produce, frozen foods and dry goods can be transported at the same time. If the order quantity changes, the cooling zones can correspondingly be optimally adjusted based on the volume needed.
Another issue is heating. Oftentimes, people forget that you also need to consider the heat output of the cooling unit in a refrigerated truck. Especially when it comes to cut flowers, fruits and vegetables, you also need to heat inside during the winter when it is minus 15 to 20 degrees Celsius outside and therefore need to have a refrigerator unit design that generates sufficient heat output.
Where is the market trend headed in frozen food logistics?
In the future, the 7.5-ton truck will become less important. The simple reason for this is that the number of drivers with the old class 3 driver’s license is decreasing. Persons with this type of driver’s license don’t need a commercial driver’s license to drive a 7.5-ton truck. Since the class 3 driver’s license has changed, today drivers need a commercial driver’s license to drive a 7.5-ton truck. At this point, they might as well operate the toll-free 12-ton truck, because it can transport more merchandise. However, if a company also wants to employ drivers without a commercial driver’s license, they are only allowed to drive a 3.5-ton truck. This is why there is a trend to transfer the solutions and applications that were suited for the 7.5-ton truck onto the 12 and 3.5-ton trucks.
And what about environmental safety and energy management?
Refrigerated trucks are optimal, when cooling loss and weight are as minimized and efficient as possible. After all, less weight means more payload; that is to say, less dead, unusable weight during transport. What’s more, if cooling losses are minimized as much as possible, energy is being saved, which contributes to sustainability. The infamous jack-of-all-trades with the best possible payload and no cold air loss also doesn’t exist in vehicle manufacturing. However, when we achieve 80 percent of what would be optimal, we are doing a great job and our customer has a vehicle with which he/she is able to run a successful business.
Interview conducted by Elisabeth Henning; EuroShop.de