Operating a fleet of refrigerated trucks is more than just inserting a key and stepping on the gas. Even before a vehicle sets out on its first trip, the checklist of what's needed in terms of technology can be extensive.

Consider what Millerstown, Pa.-based H.F. Campbell & Son Inc. factors into its fleet: needs a four-year cycle in its fleet of 54 Kenworth tractors; relies on Great Dane and Utility to supply its 186 trailers; uses Thermo King refrigeration units with data-loggers for cooling performance; subscribes to GeoLogic Solutions for tractor satellite monitoring; uses products from Integrated Decision Support Corp. for trip planning technology; and commits to the Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay Transport Partnership program for constant business improvements in fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission reductions.

The company, also known as the Camel Express, has been around since 1933 and is considered to be on the technological forefront of the trucking industry.

Part of the successful equation was the inclusion of the TriPac auxiliary heating/cooling temperature management system from ThermoKing into its tractor fleet.

"Our drivers tell us that's the best thing we've ever done," said Mark Campbell, vice president of finance. "It is definitely the latest illustration of our company's efforts to improve its ability to abide by growing anti-idling laws, drivers' comfort and performance levels, the harmful effects prolonged idling has on the environment, over all mpg, and the bottom line."

According to the company, the bottom line was being impacted by rising fuel prices and an increasing number of $300 plus idling tickets coming through for sometimes as little as 3-5 minutes of idling time.

The TriPac system also is called an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). It is comprised of a combination of components that provide a method for sleeper cab heating and air conditioning, truck battery charging, accessory power, and truck engine block heating. A two-cylinder, diesel engine powers an air conditioning compressor and a 12-volt alternator, both of which are the belt driven, automotive style. These components power the air conditioning system, keep the truck batteries charged, and provide tractor engine heat. The truck engine block is heated by incorporating the engine coolant systems between TriPac and the truck engine. This approach means the engines warm each other while running, to ensure easy starting in all climates. The system incorporates engine coolant temperature sensing.

Cab heating is provided via a fuel-fired heater. Accessory power is delivered to the cab by providing 12 VDC. If 120 VAC is required, an optional 12-VDC to 120-VAC inverter can be provided. These components are all incorporated via a programmable microprocessor. The TriPac control panel is backlit and mounts in the sleeper compartment.

TriPac's programmable microprocessor and control board allow the dealer to set control parameters and optimize the operation of the TriPac system for customers, such as adjusting the limits for battery charging.

TriPac can be installed in a variety of truck models and configurations. The engine assembly or APU is mounted on the truck frame rails. The air conditioning evaporator and fuel-fired heater are installed under the sleeper bunk. The condenser is installed on the rear cab wall. The control panel is mounted on an interior wall of the sleeper. Ducting for the heat and air conditioning is also flexible; it can be routed directly to the cab or integrated with existing air distribution ducting.

TriPac is differentiated by the use of a fuel-fired heater and start/stop technology to achieve maximum fuel efficiency. In cool climates, the TriPac engine will only operate if battery charging or engine block heating is required. If not, only the fuel-fired heater will operate to warm the cab while consuming minimal fuel. When battery charging and block heat are necessary, TriPac can automatically start to address and satisfy the needs and then, shut down to save fuel.

"I first received some information on the TriPac this past fall, seeing it in the trade publications and asking Mike Pickup at our Thermo King dealership, Motor Truck Equipment Co., about it," said Donald Campbell Jr., vice president of maintenance. "After some initial product comparisons and factoring in the 50-year relationship our company has established with the dealership, we quickly assessed that the TriPac product was ahead of the pack."

Now with 33 units installed out of the 54 ordered - one for every tractor in its fleet - the third generation owners of Campbell & Sons said they know they made the right decision.

"The units pay for themselves," said Mark Campbell. "We saw significant idling time decreases immediately through our satellite engine monitoring - from roughly 49 percent to 26 percent. Through increased driver training and continued studying of our engine run data, I have no doubt that we'll drop total idling times to below 20 percent."

"Not only are the TriPac units saving us money in fuel, but we're decreasing engine wear and tear, saving money in general maintenance as oil changes are being extended and dead batteries are minimized, lessening our chances of idling tickets/fines, and improving the environment our drivers sleep in - from less noise, to more consistent cab temperatures," added Donald Campbell Jr.

"While you can't put a number on that, we know a better quality sleep improves driver performance."

For more information, visit www.thermoking.com.

Publication date: 04/03/2006