Canadian carrier uses hybrid refrigeration systems to protect cargo in sub-zero temperatures

March 1, 2008
Northwest Transport distributes food, retail and manufactured goods to Canada's most remote and isolated regions

It Could be said that Edmonton, Alberta, Canada-based Northwest Transport specializes in extreme trucking. A division of the Manitoulin Group of Companies, Canada's largest freight management provider, it distributes food and retail and manufactured goods to Canada's most remote and isolated regions.

This task becomes all the more challenging during the winter months, as outside temperatures often drop to -40°F and beyond. Serving British Columbia and Alberta, as well as the Yukon and Northwest Territories, including Inuvik north of the Arctic Circle, equipment reliability becomes critical on these remote long-haul routes.

Northwest Transport is using Carrier Transicold's hybrid Vector 1800 MT multi-temperature trailer refrigeration systems, which feature Deltek hybrid diesel-electric technology. The units were chosen not only for their refrigeration capability but also for their heating performance. Compared to the heating technology of conventional refrigeration units, the vector systems better handle very frigid outside temperatures.

“When hauling groceries on top of the world in January, maintaining proper trailer temperature is less about cooling than heating,” says Bob Chatwell, Manitoulin's director of maintenance. Heating capacity takes precedence.

“With the older style reefer units, refrigeration performance was okay, but the heat in the wintertime was where we were having difficulty. Temperatures get down to 40, 45 or 50 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.”

Even with four inches of insulation on Manitoulin's 53-foot, two- and three-compartment trailers, such ambient temperatures remain a challenge.

Electric heating

Electric heating overcomes the obstacle that extreme cold creates for conventional refrigeration systems, says Ignacio Aguerrevere, Carrier Transicold's director of marketing and product development. “Conventional units divert hot refrigerant gas from its normal path to deliver heat to the evaporator. But as outdoor temperatures drop, heating capacity decreases when you need it the most.

“Heat loss occurs,” he says, “when metal compressor walls and refrigeration piping are exposed to cold ambient temperatures, further diminishing heating capacity.”

Carrier Transicold's Deltek technology replaces the traditional hot gas circuit with efficient electric heaters for improved temperature control, heating, and defrost, regardless of ambient temperatures.

“In our first winter with the units, some guys wanted to run extra heaters in the back, but it wasn't necessary,” says Chatwell. “The Vector units were more than adequate for the job.

“They also performed well cooling in the summer, so we've got all the bases covered,” he says, noting that after the units' successful performance last winter, Manitoulin purchased additional Carrier Transicold hybrid units to help meet its needs for the 2007-2008 winter season.

A “radical departure” from conventional mechanical refrigeration, the Vector 1800 MT unit integrates a diesel engine with a high-performance generator, and an all-electric refrigeration system “to deliver outstanding reliability, longevity, performance, and environmental benefits on the road,” Aguerrevere says.

The Vector 1800 MT system's streamlined Deltek technology and maintenance-free electric components are important to Manitoulin, says Chatwell. With its simplified design and fewer parts, the system helps reduce life-cycle costs because maintenance and operating costs are lowered.

Carrier dealer Reefer Sales and Service of Toronto supplies the Vector 1800 MT systems to Manitoulin, as well as the ComfortPro auxiliary power units (APUs), which feature the same Deltek technology found in the refrigeration units.

ComfortPro APUs provide sleeper cab heating, engine warming, and full-battery-charge assurance, and Manitoulin specifies the shorepower option so drivers can run the APUs off standard household electrical supply when the tractors are parked.

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