Mile Hi Foods cuts fuel costs with hybrid reefer system

Updated Nov 2, 2011

Taking advantage of the electric standby capability of its 27 Carrier Transicold Vector multi-temperature trailer refrigeration units, Western food service distributor Mile Hi Foods Company is saving an estimated $85,000 annually in fuel costs while also improving the sustainability of its operations.

A specialty food service company serving more than 300 national brand restaurants, Mile Hi Foods began adding Vector multi-temperature units to its fleet in 2007. Within the past year, Mile Hi Foods completed the infrastructure needed to introduce electric standby at its central distribution center.

As hybrid diesel-electric systems, the Vector units have all-electric refrigeration architecture. Unlike mechanical refrigeration systems, the diesel engine is dedicated to one function: driving a high-performance generator, which powers the compressor, fans and operating system. When stationary, Vector units can be plugged into an electric power source, eliminating the need to run the engine and generator.

Mile Hi Foods added 17 460-volt electrical outlets to its loading docks and installed 20 freestanding receptacles in its yard, so that loaded trailers can be parked and run electrically while waiting to be dispatched. When taking advantage of electric standby, fuel is conserved, emissions are eliminated, noise is reduced and operating savings of 40 to 70 percent can be achieved, depending on the price of fuel and electricity at any given time.

The acquisition of Vector units to take advantage of their electric standby capability “was a good business decision,” according to Mile Hi Foods’ president, Tony Taddonio. “The driving factor was when fuel got up to $4 a gallon,” he said. “It made us rethink a lot of what we were doing. As we considered how we could save energy, we saw the sustainability benefits, too. This was perfect. It fit everything we wanted to do.”

Mile Hi Foods calculates it is saving 1,800 gallons of fuel a month by using electric standby, which over the course of a year reduces its fuel expenditure by more than $85,000, enough to pay for the infrastructure investment.

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Carrier dealer CT Power of Commerce City, Colo., supplies Mile Hi Foods’ refrigeration units, the latest of which are Vector 6600MT units. Mile Hi Foods’ eight-state trucking and backhaul operation taps the units’ full range of heating and cooling. The Vector 6600MT provides the highest refrigeration capacity of any multi- temperature unit on the market and delivers up to 20 percent greater fuel-efficiency than its predecessor. Its electric heating capability reduces the refrigerant charge by 43 percent, relative to conventional multi-temp systems.

Based on its success with the Vector units, Mile Hi Foods recently acquired 13 Vector 6500 single-temperature units for its specialty foods operation. Like its multi-temp sibling, the Vector 6500 is a diesel-electric hybrid with electric standby capability.

Vector technology eliminates the need for routine maintenance items, such as belts, shaft seals and alternators found in conventional systems, resulting in a maintenance-savings benefit for Mile Hi Foods. As engine and compressor usage is reduced with the Vector units, Taddonio plans to get two trailer lives out of each Vector unit, rather than replacing them on the company’s normal six-year cycle.