As online sales and temperatures soared this summer, a Tucson company rolled out a system designed to keep delivery drivers cool while lugging our new gadgets, outfits or groceries to our doors.
Tucson-based Tempronics, a microclimate technology company, has partnered with a logistics company to conduct a trial of climate seating products for drivers.
“Our last-mile operators and drivers have been performing an essential role during the past six months as we navigate the challenges of COVID-19,” said Don Dutton, president and CEO of Tempronics. “Traditional vehicle HVAC systems are ineffective, especially given that they are essentially being operated in an open-air environment.”
The company’s patented Climate Ribbon is embedded in the seats to produce cooling or warmth directly on the driver.
The technology was initially developed as a luxury device for vehicles — think seat warmers.
The lag time for a widespread delivery of the technology prompted Tempronics officials to seek out another use.
“We were looking for markets that challenged our technology,” Dutton said. “One of those was the last-mile delivery market.”
Because many delivery trucks don’t have doors, a typical air conditioner doesn’t function well.
“Most work trucks don’t have AC because it doesn’t work in that environment,” said Brett Richardson, president of American Spirit Logistics, which conducted the trial of the cooling seats. “It would be like using your air conditioner at home and leaving all of your windows and doors open.”
He said focusing on the driver instead of the vehicle makes more sense.
“When your team is up and out of the seat 130 times a day, having cooling directly on the driver is much more efficient,” Richardson said.
His company has been using the cooling seat for about a month with different drivers trying it out and giving feedback.
“It gives the driver a better day and you can do more for longer,” Richardson said. “They don’t want to go back to their trucks.”
American Spirit Logistics has 15 trucks in its fleet and is looking at installing the new seats before next summer, in anticipation of another record-breaking hot streak.
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE FUTURE
Founded in Tucson in 2010, Tempronics has 13 employees locally at 425 N. Tucson Blvd. The company also has about 40 employees at its manufacturing plant in Agua Prieta, Sonora, across the border from Douglas.
Dutton said the Climate Ribbon has other applications such as wearables, bedding and medical therapeutic recliners.
He envisions the seats being utilized by UPS, FedEx and post office drivers in the future.
“We’re in the early stages,” Dutton said. “This summer presented us the opportunity to engage with American Spirit to do validation.”
Although it was not developed as a result of the pandemic, the rollout this summer helped drivers in one of the busiest delivery seasons in recent years.
Online orders have soared as a result of people working and schooling from home with national retailers reporting year-over-year increases in online sales of more than 100%.