On a hot summer day, Joe Numero, a manufacturer of sound equipment for movie theaters, along with three of his close friends, just completed an afternoon of golf. One of the men in the group received word that a truck he owned had broken down en route from South St. Paul to Chicago, and the entire load of fresh chickens had spoiled.
Another of the men suggested Numero build a mechanical refrigeration unit to replace blocks of ice currently used to cool semi-trailers. Numero, who liked challenges, responded on impulse by saying, “We can build a unit for you in 30 days.” This remark ultimately propelled Numero into becoming the founder and first president of U.S. Thermo Control, now known as Thermo King.
Thermo King’s first transport refrigeration unit
Joseph Numero and Frederick Jones patent the first transport refrigeration unit, the “Model A,” in 1938. This landmark invention ushered in the era of frozen foods, large supermarkets and the restaurant industry, as we know it today. Refrigerated transport also made the delivery of fresh produce anywhere in the country a possibility, no matter what the season.
Mounted underneath the trailer, the Thermo King Model A was the first workable, mechanical transport refrigeration system.
Thermo King introduces the first “Atmosphere Control” refrigerated boxcars
These refrigerated boxcars, which kept produce fresh by saturating the air with moisture, were a major breakthrough for the refrigerated transport industry. Both shippers and sellers of produce could now realize the efficiencies of shipping large quantities of produce over long distances by rail, which was a more cost-effective method of shipping than by truck. Because it cost less to ship, fresh produce became even more widely available and affordable to the public.
Thermo King develops portable refrigeration unit
Frederick Jones of Thermo King developed the first portable refrigeration units in 1942 for troops stationed overseas in World War II. With their portability, these units made a significant difference in the field, as they enabled the soldiers to enjoy fresh foods and cold drinks while on the front lines. The units were also widely used in field hospitals to store temperature-sensitive drugs and blood plasma.
Introduction of diesel engines in refrigeration units
The introduction of diesel engines in refrigerated units in 1958 by Thermo King was a big step for many reasons, with the main benefit being extended engine life as compared to gas-powered units. Where a gas-powered engine had an expected life of 5,000 hours, a diesel-powered engine could run up to 25,000 hours, allowing great savings in engine maintenance and replacement. This development also fed the rapidly growing long-haul trucking industry, where the long trips with high run hours no longer necessitated the frequent replacement of engines.
Gadgets and gizmos
During the 1970’s Thermo King continued to provide innovative products to the transportation industry. This included massaging seat cushions for cars and trucks, aftermarket electronic ignition systems and the first attempt at computerized control systems for transport refrigeration units. Some of these innovations didn’t always work well, but Thermo King kept on working on products that were important to its transport refrigeration core market. In the case of microprocessor controllers, Thermo King’s early efforts have evolved into the most advanced products in the marketplace.
Efficiency gains continued to drive innovation in the 80’s
Trucking companies were looking for ways to cut their operating costs. Leveraged buy-outs and bankruptcies forced trucking companies to become more efficient. Fuel efficiency continued to be a major customer demand. At the same time, trailers were getting larger. This required transport refrigeration units with greater capacity. The environment also became an issue for transport refrigeration. There was growing awareness that refrigerants contributed to ozone depletion. Work began on alternative refrigerants.
United States’ National Medal of Technology Awarded
The National Medal of Technology is awarded to Joseph A. Numero and Frederick M. Jones. The awards are presented posthumously on September 16, 1991, to their widows by President George Bush at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. Mr. Jones is the first African American to receive the award.
First microprocessor controller for refrigerated units introduced
In 1992, Thermo King launched the first successful microprocessor controller, called the ThermoGard MP-IV. This allowed the driver to more precisely manage the temperature of valuable loads with an easy-to-use interface. It also signaled the beginning of the current technology using data reporting, alarms and telematics to monitor and track individual loads for an entire trip and to verify temperature history upon delivery to customers.
Thermo King acquired Ingersoll Rand
Ingersoll Rand, looking to enter the Climate Control marketplace, acquired Thermo King in 1997. Along with other Climate Control businesses like Hussmann, Thermo King plays an important part in the “Farm to Fork” cold chain where food quality and safety are maintained from harvest/production through distribution to consumers.
Thermo King introduces the new SLX range
Thermo King has launched its new SLX trailer refrigeration range in what is being dubbed as the most important event in the company’s history. Following on from the market-leading SL range, the SLX directly responds to customer needs for maximum performance, minimal environmental impact and low cost of ownership.
To ensure that the SLX was the most dependable unit in the market place Thermo King designed a rigorous testing program including years of non-stop endurance runs, customer field trials and customer field trials and accelerated life testing. In the furthest corners of the globe, the units were run at temperatures ranging from 50°C to -35°C, and were exposed to dust, salt, shock and vibration.
The development and testing of the unit took four years, and Thermo King is so confident in its reliability that it is providing a full 24 month factory warranty with each unit.
Thermo King introduces first -35 degree C Reefer unit for containers
In 2003 Thermo King introduced the MAGNUM reefer unit, the only reefer unit on the market that maintains a -35 degrees C (-31 degrees F) set point. The MAGNUM guarantees that deep-frozen cargo will stay frozen even in 50 degree C ambient conditions. This development is particularly important for high-value loads like seafood, where a constant -35 degree temperature is necessary to ensure that the quality of the load is maintained for customers.
Thermo King launches Precedent™
Without sacrificing fuel efficiency, Thermo King launches Precedent™, a completely new platform that is fully compliant with new Environment Protection Agency Tier IV emissions standards. This game-changing technology delivers optimum efficiencies, temperature control and double digit fuel savings in real world applications.
Thermo King celebrates the manufacturing of the 100,000th TriPac™ APU unit in its Hastings, Nebraska manufacturing plant.
Thermo King launches the new generation Trailer unit in EMEIA, the SLXe, providing even greater energy and operational efficiency, driver comfort, and minimised operating costs. The unit also includes innovative features that ease installation, ensure reliable performance, and optimise efficient cargo flow and data management.