Thermo King

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Thermo King Smart Reefer
mobile refrigerator unit

Thermo King Corporation is an American manufacturer of transport temperature control systems for trucks, trailers, shipboard containers and railway cars; HVAC systems for bus, shuttle and passenger rail applications; and "TriPac" hybrid auxiliary idle reduction and temperature management system for truck cabs. Headquartered in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington, Minnesota;[1][2] Thermo King is a subsidiary of Trane Technologies.


Entrepreneur Joseph A. "Joe" Numero sold his Cinema Supplies Inc. movie sound equipment business to RCA in 1938 and formed a new entity, the U.S. Thermo Control Company (later the Thermo King Corporation), in partnership with his engineer, inventor Frederick McKinley Jones. Jones designed a portable air-cooling unit for trucks carrying perishable food,[3] for which they had obtained a patent on July 12, 1940,[4] subsequent to a challenge to invent a refrigerated truck over a golf game by associates of Numero's, Werner Transportation Co. president Harry Werner, and United States Air Conditioning Co. president Al Fineberg,[5][6][3][4] resulting in the "Model A" and the founding of Thermo King.

The landmark invention ushered in the era of frozen foods, large supermarkets, and the modern restaurant industry. Refrigerated transport made the delivery of fresh produce anywhere in the country a possibility, regardless of the season. The concept of continuous cooling of perishables is often referred to as the "Farm to Fork" cold chain. With mobile refrigeration compressors driven by fuel-powered engines and stationary refrigeration compressors driven by grid-sourced electricity, the food is kept cold from the point of production through to the point of distribution to consumers.

Thermo King refrigeration unit on a DAF refrigerated truck

In 1942, Jones developed the first portable refrigeration units for troops stationed overseas in World War II. Thermo King also introduced the first refrigerated boxcars in the 1940s, which reduced shipping costs, making fresh produce more widely available and affordable for the public. By 1949, annual revenues reached $3 million.

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 gasoline-powered units. Thermo King was not limited to transport refrigeration products, however. Some of the additional products the company built and sold included milk coolers, golf carts, school desks and shopping carts.

On March 5, 1966, a group of 75 people associated with the company were among the 113 passengers and 11 crew members who died when BOAC Flight 911 crashed near Mount Fuji, Japan. Company executives and their top dealers were on a 14-day company sponsored tour of Japan and Southeast Asia, organized as a reward for sales performance. A company spokesman, quoted in the press in reaction to the tragedy, said that "this has got to be one of the worst things that a company can experience."[7]

During the 1970s, Thermo King continued to manufacture equipment for the transportation industry. Thermo King's early efforts have evolved into a widely recognized line of products. At the same time, Thermo King was becoming a worldwide business. Thermo King Europe opened in Galway, Ireland, and began producing refrigeration units sold throughout Europe, Africa, Middle East, Australia and Asia. The global expansion continues to this day.

In 1991, the National Medal of Technology was awarded to Joseph A. Numero and Frederick M. Jones. President George Bush presented the awards posthumously to their widows at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. Jones was the first African American to receive the award (see Frederick McKinley Jones).

In 1997, Ingersoll Rand acquired Thermo King from Westinghouse for $2.56 billion in cash, 13 times earnings[8] and added it to its Climate Control Technologies (later Climate Solutions) businesses, alongside Trane and Hussmann. At the time Thermo King controlled close to half the global market for refrigeration equipment.[8]

Most recently, in addition to continued technology improvements in transport temperature control, Thermo King has launched the TriPac hybrid auxiliary idle reduction and temperature management system, which eliminates the need for a truck engine to idle to provide heating and air conditioning to the truck cab.

TriPac APU on truck


  1. ^ Thermoking "Contact Us" Archived 2011-05-17 at the Wayback Machine. Thermo King Corporation. Retrieved on January 18, 2011. "Thermo King Corporate Headquarters 314 West 90th Street Minneapolis, Minnesota 55420 "
  2. ^ "Bloomington city, Minnesota Archived 2006-09-24 at the Wayback Machine." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on January 18, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Frederick McKinley Jones". Minnesota Science and Technology Hall of Fame. Minnesota High Tech Association / Science Museum of Minnesota. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Smith, Jessie Carney (2012). Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events. Visible Ink Press. p. 613. ISBN 978-1-57859-424-5.
  5. ^ Eight Black American Inventors by Robert C. Hayden Addison-Wesley, 1972; pp. 46- 50.
  6. ^ "The First Refrigerated Trailer", Refrigeration Research; October 4, 2017.
  7. ^ "Most of Firm's Top Dealers on 'Award Tour,' Killed". Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA). 1966-03-05. p. A-3.
  8. ^ a b Deutsch, Claudia H. (September 16, 1997). "Ingersoll-Rand to Buy Westinghouse's Thermo King Unit". Business Day - The New York Times. Retrieved January 2, 2018.

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